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Jill Shalvis

Strong And Sexy

The second book in the Sky High Air series, 2007

Prologue

She rushed into Shayne Mahoney’s party as if there was a firecracker on her ass, wobbling on heels she clearly wasn’t comfortable in, wearing a little black dress that revealed pale, porcelain curves most people found unfashionable these days.

Not Shayne. Nope, he loved curves.

The woman’s dark hair was piled haphazardly on top of her head, held there by two yellow pencils. Interesting choice for a formal cocktail party. So was the way she moved into the large reception lobby, her gait a little awkward, her smile broadcasting her nerves.

Very interesting.

She wasn’t his type. Not because she wasn’t tall, stacked, and model-ready, but because she pretty much screamed fish out of water.

All of the women he’d dated lately-hell, ever-had been confident. Bold. Overtly sexy.

And, as Brody and Noah would tell him, none of the women he’d dated had managed to hold his interest.

There was a message there, he knew, but he didn’t care. He shifted to move away, but then something had him turning back, just as the woman tripped over her own feet. As he started toward her, she managed to catch herself, then furtively glanced around the crowd to see if anyone had noticed, a self-conscious gesture that made him smile.

Definitely not confident, bold, or overtly sexy.

And yet something about her seemed incredibly appealing, and not just because in a sea of pedigreed roses she stood out as the lone wildflower, but because she seemed familiar.

He hadn’t slept with her, he knew that much. He hadn’t flown her in one of his planes, or for Sky High Air, and he hadn’t worked with her.

So who was she?

A server passed her, and she took a flute of champagne, flashing the guy a quick smile that could break a heart at fifty paces because it was real. It made her more than just pretty, but someone he couldn’t take his eyes off.

And yet the server didn’t smile back, which pissed Shayne off. Granted, she wasn’t fake tanned or gym toned like the other women here, and no, she wasn’t especially graceful and clearly felt out of her element, but she was a guest, and as such, deserved the same respect the others received.

Shayne would talk to the server, that was for damn sure, though it would do little good. The people here tonight were shallow, all of them. Hell, Shayne himself had been hit on no less than three times before the party had even gotten started, including once by Michelle, a woman he’d stopped seeing when she’d gotten a little too possessive after two dates.

But this woman wasn’t hitting on anyone, she was trying to be invisible. Interest definitely piqued for the first time in days, he kept his eye on her. She was attempting to tuck some of her wayward hair back into its constraints, not being successful in any way as the strands immediately slipped free again, brushing over her throat, her shoulders.

Yeah, she was a complete wreck.

An adorable, sexy, complete wreck.

Who was she, and how did she fit in with the elegant, sophisticated crowd that was here tonight? Since he was the one throwing this party for one of Sky High’s wealthiest clients, he’d held the guest list in his hands, a list that was a virtual Who’s Who of Los Angeles because Sandra Peterson loved nothing more than a good party in her honor.

And if anyone thought it odd that Sandra had Sky High host her engagement party and not her family, Shayne understood. Sky High Air’s flexibility, dedication, and ability to meet any client’s demand had put them on the map. He’d seen to it himself. Sky High provided service at the highest level, a fact a client like Sandra appreciated since her own family couldn’t have put together a party of this size and caliber. Or wouldn’t. Her stepkids were too spoiled, and her daughter? It was rumored that she was a little off her rocker.

Not a surprise, given how rich Sandra was. Her trust fund made even Shayne’s seem like a tween’s weekly allowance. Such an embarrassment of riches often had some pretty serious effects on people.

He should know. His own family was a pack of paranoid snobs, and the women he’d dated had had many a gold-digger in the bunch. Luckily he rarely dated anyone more than once or twice. Mostly that had been his choice, but lately, not so much. He’d gone out with three women after Michelle, all of whom had turned him down for a second date.

It was entirely possible he was losing his touch, not a pleasant thought for a guy who’d relied on his touch all his life.

Adorable Sexy Complete Wreck Woman moved farther into the elegant lobby, her dark eyes darting left and right, still looking as if she’d rather disappear than be seen.

Given that people had been trying to get into this high-society event for days and days, willing to do just about anything to be seen here tonight, her attitude fascinated him.

Craning her neck, she checked behind her, apparently not taking into account the speed with which she was moving, because just as she looked forward again she nearly plowed into a potted tree. She managed to catch herself before she hit, but one of her heels snapped right off, and she uttered a four-letter word that made Shayne grin.

Nope, she didn’t belong here. But he was damn glad she’d come, whoever she was.

Chapter 1

She’d promised herself she’d do this. No running, no avoiding, just face it head-on and get it done. But as Dani Peterson bent for her broken-off heel, she felt her resolve slip.

Running like hell would have been so much easier.

Damn it.

All she’d asked of herself was to get through this with a shred of dignity, but that would be a little tough now, wouldn’t it, while minus a heel.

Ah, well. Her family already believed her a little off, why not just go ahead and prove it by looking the part.

But then came the voice.

The low, husky male voice asking, “Are you okay?”

She sighed as she eyed her offending heel. “That depends.”

“On?”

On whether or not she could find room in her budget to replace the shoes. “Nothing. I’m fine. Thanks.” Blowing a strand of hair from her mouth, she glanced over just as he crouched at her side.

And felt the most ridiculous schoolgirl urge to blush and stammer. Because wow.

Seriously wow.

He smiled at her. And although everything about him-his confidence, his clothes, his ease-all projected old

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