Dixie Covington is a redheaded spitfire with a sultry southern drawl. She loves her family, her small piece of the world and her art. But what Dixie desires more than anything is the freedom to fall in love with a man of her own choosing. So when her parents announce her engagement to a man she’s not even dating, Dixie and her closest friends pack their bags and head to The Big Easy for summer of fun and who knows what else.
Taz Nicorescu is another born and bred in New Orleans artist. With his exotic good looks and skills with a tattoo gun, he has no trouble finding female companionship when he wants it. Taz loves his life just the way it is, living with his best friend and running his well known Ink by Taz tattoo shop. He couldn’t have known a simple neighborly request would change everything he thought he knew about love and attraction.
What starts out as summer romance just might be true love!
“I’m spendin’ the summer in New Orleans.” Dixie sat at one of her delicate wooden chairs with the yellow, pink and green striped cushions and smiled at her one of her best friends and cousin Pepper.
“What? You can’t go away for the summer, Mama’s countin’ on you,” Pepper pouted. She was a beautiful woman, with dark brown skin and eyes so light brown they were almost golden. Her mama had married one of Dixie’s uncles and ran the only art gallery in Rock Hill.
Dixie waved a dismissive hand at Pepper. “I’ve already talked to Aunt Sarah about it and she urged me to go. Her only condition was that I send her one painting each week to make sure I’m still focused.” She smiled and lifted her bare shoulders in a shrug. “So, who wants to go with me?”
Marilyn chose that moment to breeze through the front door, arms full with two cloth sacks and her giant designer handbag. “Alright, I’ve got bourbon and mint, water, ice and tequila.” She kicked the door shut with one killer red stiletto and rushed to set the bags down. “I also brought butter pecan ice cream, shortbread cookies and a rib dinner from Dante’s.”
“Jeez girl, did you leave anything for the rest of Rock Hill?” Pepper teased her and plucked the tequila bottle from the bag. “But I approve and that’s why you’re my favorite cousin.”
Marilyn ignored Pepper’s phony smile and dropped into the seat in front of her. “You’re full of it, Pepper but I’ll take it. I could use it.”
Dixie sat on her cousin’s lap and wrapped her arms around Marilyn’s shoulders. “What’s wrong sugar?”
“I’m just tired and frustrated.” It was more than that but she didn’t want to get into it.
Dixie’s blue eyes widened and she stood, walking around the table until she faced her best friends. “I’ve got it! You should come with me to New Orleans, both of you! We can have a fun summer away from our stuffy, controlling parents, no offense Pepper, and enjoy being ourselves!” Before either woman could answer, Dixie turned and took advantage of the open floor plan, grabbing her cocktail shaker, muddler and ice. She didn’t notice the wide eyed stares until she began to muddle the mint and sugar. “What?”
“Are you out of your mind, Dixie Mae Covington?” Marilyn removed her blond locks from the loose bun at the base of her neck. “I can’t just pick up and leave for three months.”
Her auburn brows crinkled in confusion. “Why not? You can write anywhere there’s a power outlet and Wi-Fi.”
“Well I’m in,” Pepper said, grabbing the cocktail shaker and adding a few glugs of tequila. “Texas style,” she grinned and filled three tall glasses.
“Not that I’m not happy you’re comin’ sugar, but why?”
She shrugged and took a long, satisfying sip. “Duvall is a lying, cheating, no good son of a bitch?” Her harsh words were contradicted by her casual tone.
Dixie wrapped an arm around Pepper, “I always thought you were too good for him, doll. Good riddance.”
Marilyn glared, green eyes glittering outrage. “And what about your plans to find a job?”
“I’ve decided I’m going to do it. I’m going to design my own video game.”
Both women squealed and swallowed her up in a heap of enthusiastic hugs and kisses. “That’s so fantastic, Pepper! I’m so happy for you.”
Two pleading gazes turn on Marilyn. “Dang, don’t put it all on me.” They said nothing, just looked at her with stares that grew more pitiful by the second. “Oh fine, looks like we’re all going to the Big Easy this summer.”
“Come on ladies, move your booties!” Dixie was up at the crack of dawn to pack up her giant SUV and had to wait for Marilyn and Pepper to get their acts together. She felt at ease now that she had a few suitcases worth of clothes, her paints, canvases and easel packed. She was determined that this summer would be transformative for her. She would sleep late if she felt like it, paint all day and maybe even try to sell a few while she was at it. Maybe after a few weeks she would look for a job.
Dixie punched her horn several times to motivate her cousins. When Pepper finally emerged from her family home, she signed. “Finally! Did you pack up your worldly possessions or what?” She watched her cousins lug several suitcases, computers and all manner of must-haves to the car.
Pepper frowned and blew a stray curl out of her face. “It’s a good thing Uncle Clive bought you this gas guzzler or one of us would have to ride on the roof.” She struggled to shove her high powered gaming computer in place.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, girl! Move aside.” Dixie climbed into the back and let the seat down. “There we go, now hand it all in.” Fifteen minutes later Pepper was all packed and slumped in the passenger seat, not bothering with the sweat on her brow. Dixie laughed at her cousin. “How are you tired when I did all the hard work?”
“You’ve got strong arms from hours of painting. I only have strong hands,” she held up her slender brown hands with pink nails. “Thank you for helping Dixie.”
“No problem, sugar. Now tell me about this game of yours.”
Pepper sighed. “I’m not ready to talk about it yet. Ask me again in a month.” She pasted on a smile that Dixie saw right through.
“I’ll let that go for now Pepper, but we’re responsible for each other this summer. You make sure I’m painting and I’ll make sure you are developing or whatever.”
“Deal. Now let’s get going because you know it’ll be like pulling teeth to get Marilyn away from her parents.”
“Don’t worry. We’re going either way. She’s either coming or she’s not, we’re not debating with Aunt Sula about this.” Marilyn’s parents were entirely too protective and they were insistent that she marry Kyle Swanson even though they’d broken up last year. “I’m thinkin’ of doing a series of paintings on each of us and our journey this summer.” She’d spent all night thinking about it. “I’m seeing lots of intense reds and oranges for Marilyn so that has to mean something.” They pulled into the grand old mansion Marilyn’s daddy bought her mama for their wedding.
Dixie laid on the horn. “I refuse to get out of this car and get sucked into their drama. By dinner we’ll be eating gumbo at some restaurant in the French Quarter.”
“That sounds divine! We have to go to that place famous for the beignets!” Pepper squealed and a smile lit up her beautiful face.
“Oh, most definitely! I swear I had powdered sugar on my lips when I woke up this morning!” They began talking over each other about all the food they would try in New Orleans. “Here comes Mar.”
She pulled two large suitcases behind her, a laptop bag draped across her body and a bright red purse hooked through her elbow. She yanked open the door behind Pepper. “Help out ladies so we can get the hell outta here!”