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Jill Shalvis

Smart And Sexy

The first book in the Sky High Air series, 2007

Chapter 1

Noah Fisher needed a double-diamond ski slope, a hot ski-bunny babe, and a beer, and not necessarily in that order.

Mammoth Mountain, here he came.

He studied the gauges in front of him, then stroked the dash of his favorite Piper. “Don’t worry, baby. The weather’s going to hold for us.”

Hopefully.

He put on his headset, then took a moment to lean back and draw in a deep breath. His first flight in six months. Man, he was ready to get into the sky, heading for that desperately needed R &R.

R &R, and hopefully that ski bunny…

With that in mind, he okayed his takeoff and began to taxi down the runway, the scent of the burrito Maddie had left for him on the copilot’s seat making his mouth water. Within five minutes, he was ten thousand feet and counting as he headed toward his utter freedom.

God, he loved, loved, being up here. Here there were no distractions, no memories, nothing but a spattering of cotton-ball clouds and azure sky as far as he could see.

Just what the doctor had ordered.

He checked the instruments and then the horizon. Ah, yeah, conditions were good. The Piper was doing her thing, as always. She was a classic, though not necessarily a beauty, which meant that most of their customers wouldn’t have given her a second look.

Their loss.

She flew like a dream. He could fix her up real pretty, he knew, and then everyone would be clamoring for her, but he didn’t feel the need to share her.

As he leveled out, he grabbed a stowed-away chocolate bar to munch on before the burrito. He’d always eaten his dessert first, because hell, once upon a time, he hadn’t known when and where his next meal would come from. Chewing, he began to picture the weekend ahead: the slopes, the wind in his face, powdery snow up to his knees as he plowed straight down the mountain, his hair blown back by his own speed…

Then he pictured the sexy ski bunnies waiting in the warm lodge afterward, and one of those rare but genuine smiles tugged at his mouth.

Yeah, a sexy ski bunny-or two-was key to this whole event. She’d be an expert in erotic massage, of course, and ready, willing, and able to do…well, pretty much whatever came to mind.

And plenty did.

At the thought, he actually smiled again.

Yes sirree, his muscles were getting quite the workout today, after six long months of neglect. Thanks to his crash, it’d been a long time since he’d fantasized about women, or even craved sex at all-

A rustle sounded from behind Noah, startling the shit out of him, but before he could react, something jammed into his shoulder, something that unbelievably felt an awful lot like a-

Gun?

“Keep flying,” said a ragged voice. “Just keep flying.”

Holy shit. Noah craned his neck. The soft, fuzzy blanket he kept on the backseat was on the floor now. She’d been hiding beneath it, and yeah, the person behind him was most definitely a she. Once upon a time, he’d been considered an expert on the species, and despite her gruff, uneven tones, her voice shimmered with nerves.

Female nerves.

Unbelievably, he’d just been hijacked by a nervous woman with a gun. He tried to get a good look at her, but the gun shifted to his jaw, shoving his head forward before he could take in more than a big, bulky sweater with a hood down low over her face-

“Don’t turn around,” she demanded. “Just keep us in the air.”

He could. He’d been a pilot ever since the day he’d been old enough, flying on a daily basis, either for a job or on a whim, into a storm or with one on his ass, without much thought.

He was giving it plenty of thought now. “Hell, no.” His fingers tightened on the yoke. Goddamnit. “What the fuck is this?”

“You’re flying me to Mammoth Mountain.”

“Hell, no, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You have no choice.” Then she let out a disparaging, desperate sound and softened her voice. “Look, just get us there, okay? Get us there and everything will be all right.”

Yeah, except that she didn’t sound as if she believed that line of crap, and he sure as hell didn’t believe it either. Worse, he suddenly had a nasty flashback to another of his flights that had gone bad, six months ago. Only in that one, there’d been no gun, just a hell of a storm in Baja Mexico, where he’d hit a surprise thunderstorm, one with a vicious kick. That time he’d ended up on a side of a mountain in a fiery crash, holding his passenger as she died in his arms…

So really, in comparison, this flight, with a measly gun at his back, should be a piece of cake. Just a day in the life.

Knowing it, he swiped a forearm over his forehead and concentrated on breathing. Maybe she was all talk, no show. Maybe she didn’t really know how to use the weapon. Maybe he could talk her out of the insanity that had become his life today. “How did you get in here?”

The gun remained against his shoulder, but not as hard, as if maybe she didn’t want to hurt him. “No questions, or I’ll-”

“What? Shoot?”

She didn’t answer.

Yeah, all talk, no show, he decided, and reached over to switch his radio on, then went very still at the feel of the muzzle just beneath his jaw now.

“Don’t,” she said, sounding more desperate, if that was even possible. “Don’t tell anyone I’m here.”

Hell if he’d suffer this quietly, and he braced himself for action, but then she added a low, softly uttered, “Please.”

Jesus, he felt like such a fool. Who the hell was she? She’d been careful to stay just behind him, just out of range of his peripheral. He could smell her, though, some complicated mixture of exotic flowers and woman, which under very different circumstances he’d find sexy as hell.

But not today, the day that was quickly turning into a living nightmare. He couldn’t believe this was happening. Not when he was getting back on the horse. Wasn’t that what Shayne and Brody had told him to do, get back on the horse.

And he had.

Was.

Hence the ski/fuck-his-brains-out weekend.

What the hell was in Mammoth that was worth hijacking someone? And why was she so desperate to get there? Instinct had him checking the gauges, looking for a place to land.

“No.” The gun was an emphasis, back to pressing hard between his shoulder blades. “We’re going to Mammoth. Just like you planned.”

“I didn’t plan for this.”

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