“Phone sex. You mean like—” Dixie dropped her voice an octave “—‘Hello, this is Mistress Leather’ phone-sex?”
“Correct, Ms. Davis. Phone sex.The act of engaging in verbal fornication.”
Dixie took a moment to process the entirety of the phrases “phone sex” and “verbal fornication” and what that entailed, but it was proving difficult. After so many sliders, she thought maybe not just her arteries were clogged, but her brain cells, too.
Yet, she tried to let the words of Landon’s attorney sink in as casually as if he’d told her she was now the proud owner of one of Landon’s classic cars.
So Landon Wells, the man Dixie was sure she knew everything about, right down to his preferred brand of underwear, owned, among various other assorted businesses, a phone-sex company he’d won on a bet in a high-stakes poker game in Uzbekistan back in 2002.
Dixie tore her eyes from Landon’s lawyer, Hank Cotton, Sr., and cocked her head in Em’s direction, her eyes full of accusation while purposely avoiding the invasive gaze of Caine Donovan.
He’d remained brooding and silent while Hank read the will, but Dixie knew Caine like she knew herself. He was just waiting for the right moment to pounce on her with his cutting words.
Dixie chose to ignore Caine, turning to Em who’d known the whole time what Landon was up to. This was what her code-speak had been about back at the funeral home, and she’d held her tongue.
Em, from her seat beside Landon’s lawyer where she flipped papers for him to read, folded her hands primly in her lap and made a face at Dixie. “Oh, stop lookin’ at me like I’m Freddy Krueger. Might I mention, I am a legal secretary for heaven’s sake, Dixie. I couldn’t tell you. So I’m callin’ the cloak of—”
“Client confidentiality,” Dixie finished for her, lacing her words with bold strokes of sarcasm. “I know you’re the last person I deserve common decency from, but at the very least, I expected more originality, Emmaline Amos. Something like, all memory of Landon’s recently revised will was snatched from you by aliens, and no way in the world would you have kept this kind of shocking news from me from me as yet another form of payback had those despicable aliens not sucked your brains out through your nose with a pixie stick.”
Em shook her head, her silky dark hair semi-flattened by the sun hat she’d discarded. Her ruby-red lips curved into a wince of an apologetic smile. “Hmm-mm. You know, I almost went with that story, but then there were all the complications that come with the pixie sticks, and I just couldn’t get it to… gel.” She threaded her slim fingers together to articulate her effort to gel, then let them fall back to her lap.
Caine sat in the corner, still silently sexy, his gaze burning a hole in the side of Dixie’s head. Like this was all her fault. If the world came to a screeching halt, just before it did, the last words she’d hear before it all ended would be Caine declaring it was all Dixie Davis’s fault.
Gritting her teeth, Dixie clenched her hands together in her lap to cover the bloat from the Alaskan king crab and sliders they’d consumed and lifted her chin. “I call traitor. You were traitorous in your intent. It isn’t like I don’t deserve as much, but this?” Phone sex wasn’t something you kept from someone—not even Satan.
Em pouted, her heart-shaped face scrunching comically. “That’s mean, Dixie, especially coming from you. And just when I thought you’d taken a turn, too. See why I was so hesitant to believe? I was just doin’ my job. I do have children to feed. And a very large dog.”
“Did you just say Dixie’s taken a turn, Em? A turn for what?” Caine finally inquired with that delicious drawl, his growly voice warranting an unbidden stab of heat in places along her body Dixie had to mentally beg to pipe down. His square jaw shifted, going hard as his lips turned upward into a smug smile. “Satanic worship?”
If there was one person who could make her reconsider sidekicking it with Satan, it was Caine Donovan, making her heart race like a Kentucky Derby horse all while she hated him for still being capable of wreaking havoc on her emotions after ten years apart.
Instead of reacting to him, Dixie turned the other cheek, narrowing her eyes at Em. While it was true Em should have no loyalty to her, she couldn’t help being upset. “Is it your job to taunt me, too? Because that’s exactly what you did back there at the funeral home. You hinted. You bandied, and you took pleasure in it to boot.”
Em slapped her hands on her lap, sending up a cloud of black material from her dress. “Bandied? That’s a fancy Chicago word there, Miss Dixie, and I did not taunt. I was just tryin’ to prepare you in a very roundabout, non-confidentiality-breaking way for—for this…And of course I was dying to tell not just you, but everyone in Plum Orchard. It’s the most scandalous news ever. I can’t wait to see what the senior Mags have to say about this. But in the end, I couldn’t betray our client.”
Hank’s nod from behind his glossy desk was of staunch approval. “That’s true, Ms. Davis. We take our clients’ confidentiality very seriously.”
Em’s head bounced again. “We definitely do. That also means I couldn’t tell you lots of things until the reading of the will. As a for-instance, a small village in some east African town I can’t pronounce will now reap the benefits of books, teachers, and medical care because of Landon.”
“Africa isn’t phone sex, Em,” Dixie reminded.
“Then guess what? Landon owned one of the most successful phone-sex companies in the world, and he left it all to you and Mr. Smexy. You know, with conditions. Surprise!” She smiled and winked at Caine aka Mr. Smexy, who was back to sitting stoically in his corner chair.
He’d surprised Dixie when he’d shown up—surprised her and made her blood pressure pulse in her ears. Em had explained Landon’s request Caine be present for the reading of the will, too. Something she’d also failed to mention while she was bandying and taunting.
Dixie shifted in her chair, still absorbing what she’d just heard. Forcing her lips to form a question, her eyes sought Hank Cotton’s again. “So just to be clear, when you say Landon had a phone-sex company, you don’t really mean, ‘Oh, Daddy, do it to me one more time’ kind of phone sex, do you, Mr. Cotton?” Did he?
No. That couldn’t be what he meant. Yet what other kind of phone sex was there but the kind with ball-gags and chains and furry costumes? The palms of her hands grew clammy.
“Say that again, Dixie—just like that.” Caine antagonized, drawing out his words. “All that honey pouring from your throat, husky and full of rasp is hot. It’s a voice made for sinning. The only thing missing is your accent. Where did that go, Miss Chicago?”
The words he spoke were designed to hurt. Dixie knew he was taking pleasure in seeing the red stain of embarrassment flush her cheeks.
Deeper and deeper Caine shoved the knife of their memories into her chest.
Landon’s lawyer, someone who hadn’t been a resident in Plum Orchard when she’d left, sharply dressed in a dark suit and red tie, winced then straightened in his chair as though he realized control was needed.
He cleared his throat, breaking the awkward silence in his overly warm office. “I’d like to get back to the business at hand. So yes, in fact, I do mean that, Miss Davis. And it’s very successful, lucrative phone sex, I might add. After Landon won the company, he turned a sagging Call Girls into a multimillion-dollar corporation.”
A thought dawned on her just then, making Dixie relax into her hard seat. She nodded her head in sudden understanding. A nervous snort slipped from her throat. “This was Landon’s idea of a joke, right? He told me before he died,” she puffed out her chest in Landon fashion, “Dixie-Cup, don’t you weep and wail long now, ya hear? If you knew Landon, you’d know he’d go to any extreme to cheer me up.”
Even from the afterlife. Where she totally planned to, when time and hiring a psychic to locate him allowed, hunt him down and kill him all over again for mocking her this way.
Hank shook his head with a firm sideways motion, his perfectly groomed, salt-and-pepper hair never moving.
His vehement nod meant a resounding no. Not a joke.
Hank leaned back in his plush leather chair and folded his slender fingers. “This is no joke, Ms. Davis. Landon Wells was very specific and quite detailed in his last wishes. He was the sole owner of Call Girls, and he hoped to pass that on to either you or Mr. Donovan in order to keep it in the family, so to speak. Clearly, his mother Charlotte wasn’t an option. That left the two of you, his closest friends. And I warn you there’s more to this. The will states that if you and Mr. Donovan wish to benefit from the entirety of the proceeds of his very unusual venture, both of you will have to earn it.”
Dixie looked away from Hank for a moment, focusing on an abstract painting on the far wall, full of slashes of color and streaked with gold edges. The tumble of emotions displayed in oil reflected her muddled thoughts. “Earn it? We have to earn a phone-sex company? Meaning?”
“Meaning you’ll both have to work the phones at Call Girls as operators. In essence, you’ll be Call Girls employees for a two-month period with a general manager to train you, and watch your progress. As another stipulation, if you should decide to take on this challenge, you must both reside in Landon’s house while you do—together or the offer becomes null. Landon had phone lines set up for you both at the guesthouse next to the other women he’s employed. They’re to help both you and Mr. Donovan learn the ropes of the industry, so to speak.”
Em’s finger shot upward. Clearly, there was something in this madness Em hadn’t been privy to. “Do you mean to tell me Landon’s plan is to keep the business and those women in his guesthouse here in Plum Orchard for good?” She grabbed a stray file folder and began to furiously fan herself with it. “What will Reverend Watson say? Oh, the ladies of the Magnolias of the Orchard Society will not like this. Not one bit.”
Dixie actually had to fight a giggle at the thought of the Mags, especially Nanette Pruitt’s face, the busiest busybody of them all, when she heard the news that Landon Wells planned to harbor harlots in what everyone in town, as far back as she could remember, lovingly called the “Big House.”
“I’m the only person who knew the complexities of Landon’s will, and the people asked to help him execute it. No one in Plum Orchard knows the extent of it yet. Leastways, I haven’t heard anything through the grapevine,” Hank soothed. “But yes, that was his intent. After finding out he was terminally ill, Landon had his general manager, Catherine Butler, begin the move—they only left their old offices a couple of days ago. Landon wanted the ladies of Call Girls moved from a lush apartment in Atlanta into his guesthouse, where he had Catherine set up operations in order to keep what he called ‘his girls’ closer to home. As Emmaline may have told you, Catherine’s now happily engaged to Emmaline’s cousin, Flynn McGrady.”
Em’s eyes widened, her hand immediately drifting to her cheek. “Cat knew Landon planned to keep Call Girls here?” She turned her gaze to Dixie. “Why, the two of them were just over for Sunday dinner at Mama’s and not a peep about it!”
“Catherine was bound by legalities to remain silent until the will was read,” Hank reminded Em. “I hope you won’t hold it against her.”
Dixie nodded her understanding and gave a tired sigh. “I don’t know about Em, but I don’t blame her. How do you say, ‘I manage a phone-sex company, pass the fried chicken, please’? Especially with your mama in the mix, Em.”
Em’s mother, Clora Mitchell, was a lot like her own mother. Controlling, and angry about something that had no label. Dixie handled her situation by running away from it, and Em handled it by taking exhaustive good girl measures. In her later years, Clora had loosened her stranglehold on Em a bit, but she was still as proper as they came. Clora’d faint dead with the knowledge she was related, even loosely, to someone working for a phone-sex company.
Hank cleared his throat. “We were talking about the guesthouse. That’s where Dixie and Caine, if they choose to accept this challenge, will work during the course of their training. All of the appropriate permits are in place, and there’s a formal letter to Reverend Watson and Mayor Hale available should there be any doubt this is all done within the confines of not just county regulations but state, too.”
Caine, who’d gone back to quietly brooding, cleared his throat and steepled his tanned hands under his chin. Dixie knew that look. It was the one where all the processing of pertinent information was done, and he was ready to play.
In three, two, one…
TALK DIRTY TO ME by Dakota Cassidy
Copyright © 2014 by Dakota Cassidy
Talk Dirty to Me (Plum Orchard Trilogy, Book 1)
- Genres: Fiction
- Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
- ISBN-10: 077831619X
- ISBN-13: 9780778316190