The accountant dropped his eyes to the papers in front of him, then started shuffling themaround.Courtney's agitation rose. She wasn't in the mood for any further procrastination.'Just give it to me straight, Bill,' she began bluntly, and his eyes lifted, bis expressionfaintly disapproving. He'd never liked her calling him Bill. But that was rather irrelevantat the moment 'No bulldust now. No waffle. I'm my mother's daughter. I can take it.'William shook his head at the young woman sitting before him. Yes, she was indeed her mother's daughter, he thought wearily. Not in looks. Lord, no. Hilary Cross had been as plain as a pikestaff. Her daughter hadclearly taken after her father, that unknown, unspoken-of male who had miraculouslyimpregnated the forty-five-year-old spinster owner of Crosswinds over a quarter of acentury ago, then disappeared off the face of the earth.Gossip claimed he'd been a gypsy and Courtney's looks seemed to confirm that, with her long black curly hair, dark brown eyes and rich olive skin. A striking-looking girl, inWilliam's opinion.Her personality and ways, however, were pure Hilary. Just look at the way she wassitting, for heaven's sake, with her right ankle hooked up over her left knee. That washow men sat, not young ladies. And then there was the matter of her dress, 'dress' beingthe pertinent word. Because she never wore one! William had never seen her in anything but blue jeans and a checked shirt. Yet she had a very good figure.As for that glorious hair of hers. It was always bundled up into a rough pony-tail, thenshoved under a dusty brown: stockman's hat. Lipstick never graced her deli-ciously fullmouth. And the only scent he ever smelt on her was leather and horses!But it was her manner that rankled William the most. Not quite as aggressive andopinionated as her mother, she was still far too tactless with people. And bold in her attitude all round. Bold as brass!Of course, it wasn't her fault. Hilary had raised Courtney as though she were a boy,letting her run wild from the time she was a tiny tot. He could still remember the day he'ddriven out to Crosswinds, when Courtney had been about eleven or twelve. She'd methim at the gate, riding a big black colt with a crazed look in its eye and wide, snortingnostrils. Far too much horse for a man, let alone a wisp of a girl.'Race you up to the house, she'd shouted from where the horse had been dancing aroundin circles, obviously eager to get going. 'Last one there is a rotten egg!' And, nudging thehuge beast in the flanks with her heels, she'd taken off at a gallop, hooping and holleringlike some bush jockey on picnic day.Though appalled at her unladylike iantics, he'd still gunned the engine and had chasedafter the minx, certain in the knowledge that any car could easily outrun even the fastestracehorse in the long curving uphill driveway.And what had she done? Jumped the darned fence and gone straight across the paddocks,scattering mares and foals as she'd leapt fence after fence like the mad daredevil she was.She'd been there waiting for him when he'd finally rounded the circular gravel drivewayin front of the house, her dark eyes sparkling at him.