he wasn’t just a winner in the courtroom. Rumor had it he broke at least two female hearts a week.

The nerves in her stomach instantly abandoned their baseball game and began flying in a “man-alert” formation which warned her that caffeine overload was not all that far away. Perfect, she thought, because staying calm in a meeting was so overrated.

“Ms. Marcelli?” the man said, his voice low and sultry enough to make him a fortune in radio. “I’m Zach Stryker.”

“Mr. Stryker. A pleasure.”

She managed to cross the carpet without twisting her ankle. As he came around his pool-size desk, she transferred her briefcase from her right hand to her left, then shook with him.

Oh, great, sparks, she thought as sexual heat arced from her fingers to her chest and beyond. Wildly attractive, tall, dark, and blue-eyed. How L.A. How her luck. Wasn’t she only supposed to care about the job?

A good question, she thought as she took the seat he offered in front of his desk.

Instead of circling back to his “I’m the man” leather chair, he settled next to her, then angled toward her and gave her the kind of engaging smile that could send an angry, gray-haired nun into cardiac arrest. Katie told herself she was made of sterner stuff.

“I guess we’re going to throw a party together,” he said.

Right. A party. The reason she was here. “Absolutely.”

She opened her briefcase and pulled out a light blue folder. “Your assistant filled me in on the basics. Your law firm hosts an annual fund-raiser, with the proceeds going to several local family charities.”

“Right. The event is generally coordinated by one of the partner’s wives. John’s wife volunteered, but then she discovered she was pregnant with twins. Her doctor didn’t want her stressing herself with all the planning, so I stepped in and said I’d take care of things.” He rested one ankle on his opposite knee. “Not having a wife, I needed to call in a professional. That’s where you come in.”

“I see.” Which she did. Sort of. Yes, she’d planned parties before, but never one of this magnitude. It was black-tie, A-list, and exclusive. She would never personally have been invited, although she’d read about the fun and good times in In Style magazine.

No doubt he couldn’t ask one of his women to do it. That would require him keeping her around for more than fifteen minutes. A circumstance that would no doubt cramp his style.

He pushed a stack of folders toward her. “Everything you need to know about the previous two parties, including the guest list. John’s wife got as far as picking the hotel, so you’re going to be starting from there.”

Which meant practically starting from scratch. Easy enough. If she had six months and hired three or four more staff members, she could-

“The party’s in May.”

“Not a problem,” she said, holding in a shriek. May? As in less than four months from now? As in ohmygod, now what?

He gave her the exact date, and she wrote it down on her pad.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” he said.

“As you said, Mr. Stryker, I’m a professional. This is what I do.”

“I’m sure you do it very well.”

The intensity of his gaze unnerved her. Or maybe it was the heat he generated. She felt as if she were sitting too close to a furnace. Or maybe it was the drop in his voice, as if they were having an intimate conversation.

She glanced around at the impressive office, then studied his tailor-made suit, expensive shoes, and casually elegant good looks. Uh-huh. She knew the type. Zach Stryker was the kind of man used to getting what he wanted in business, and in life. Women lined up by the dozens just to throw themselves at his feet.

She might be experiencing a little attraction, but there was no way she would become one of a crowd. So she would keep her thoughts and her reactions to herself. Besides, this was business.

“If you’re the kind of woman who enjoys a challenge, this is going to be exactly what you were looking for,” he said.

“I do like a challenge,” she admitted. “I’m not afraid to take risks or work hard. That’s why I’m successful.”

“I’m sure it is.” He shrugged, and gave her another dazzling smile. “I’m a typical guy about party planning, so I’m not sure I’m going to be much help to you. Still, I’ll do what I can.” He shifted so that both feet were flat on the floor, then leaned toward her. “We’ll have to work closely together.”

She had the feeling they were talking about more than the party, but she wasn’t going to let on.

“I appreciate your willingness to cooperate, but the bottom line is, Mr. Stryker, you’re hiring me to make the party happen with a minimum of disruption to your already busy schedule.”

“Call me Zach.”

Call me anytime.

Fortunately she only thought the words, rather than saying them aloud. When she got home she was going to give her hormones a stern talking to. Over the years they’d quivered over any number of inappropriate men, but never one this far out of her league. Men like Zach chewed up and spit out women like her with their morning coffee.

She mentally winced at the awkward metaphor, then turned her attention back to business.

“I’ll look over the plans from the previous fund-raisers,” she said as she gathered the files. “I’ll review the location and come up with three or four possible themes. I should be back in touch with you by the middle of next week.”

“That sounds good. I’ve notified my assistant to get you in to see me as quickly as possible.”

Talk about an invitation. “Great.”

Katie snapped her briefcase closed and they both rose. Which meant they were standing close together. Too close.

Despite her potentially crippling high heels, she found herself several inches shorter than Zach. He smelled good-clean, sexy, powerful. His cobalt blue eyes crinkled slightly at the corners. She couldn’t decide if they were his best feature or if she liked his mouth better.

The job, she reminded herself. His ability to pay her was by far his most appealing characteristic.

“This event is very important to my law firm, Katie,” he told her. “I’m looking for a win.”

Hardly a news flash. He wasn’t the kind of man who looked for anything else. Still, she could reassure him.

“I don’t believe in second place, either. You’ll have your win.”

He smiled. She felt her insides shift slightly. The sensation was nearly as disconcerting as the heat washing over her. If the man ever got tired of the law, he could make a fortune simply smiling at women.

She doubted any of his attentions were even personally directed at her. No doubt he knew he was God’s gift to women and couldn’t help sharing the bounty. She was smart enough not to take any of it personally.

“Thank you for your time,” he said as he led the way to the door.

Katie followed, then paused when he opened it.

“I haven’t done any work for your firm before,” she said, because in addition to being efficient, she was wildly curious. The combination occasionally got her in trouble. “How did you find my company?”

“A recommendation.” He held up his hand before she could speak. “I don’t remember from whom. I have it somewhere. I’ll get back to you.”

“I’d appreciate that. Most of my business comes through referrals. I’d like to pass on a thank-you.”

“Sure.” He took a step back, then paused. “Make sure Dora has your number.”

“Of course. Good-bye.”

She nodded once and headed down the long corridor toward the bank of elevators by the reception desk. Dora must be his assistant. As she’d already given the woman her card, she knew Zach had her number. If he needed it. Not that he would. There was nothing more to say until she’d gotten up to speed on the fund-raiser.

Unless he wanted to call for some other reason. Seduction? The thought made her chuckle. Right. So likely to happen.

As the elevator doors opened, she stepped inside and pressed the button for the parking garage.

What very few people knew and what she took great pains to disguise was that under her expensive business suit beat the heart of a romantic. Men like Zach Stryker would never appreciate that. They wanted the new, the

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