Cover Your Eyes (Morgans of Nashville #1) by Mary Burton
You made me laugh today! Not a snigger or a giggle but a belly-clutching hoot! What a complete shock! I’d expected you to be stuffy and humorless but you had me chuckling all the way home.
You are right about me. When I sing my heart swells and the melodies fill the hollowness lurking deep in the pit of my soul. You are the first person ever to notice. Next time I am on stage, know that the dumb-luck joy in my voice is all for you.
Thank you again for dinner, but I’m not so sure another date is wise. Nashville is a small town and gossips gnaw on whatever morsels they can find. I wish you the best.
Thursday, October 13, 3 AM
Dixie Simmons’s pink cowboy boots, tipped in silver and embossed with glittering stars, clicked against the rain-soaked pavement. A rainstorm had flashed through Music City hours ago and left the air crisp, colder than normal and heavy with moisture. Burrowing deeper into her fringed leather jacket, she shoved chilled hands into her pockets, fingering the roll of wrinkled one-dollar bills from the night’s tip jar. The brisk air snapped at her bare thighs but didn’t slow her on-top-of-the-world gait or spark a bit of remorse for her choice of attire. The black miniskirt wasn’t warm but it showcased her long legs, always a crowd-pleaser at Rudy’s honky-tonk.
Tonight she’d been the last to sing at Rudy’s bar, the centerpiece of Lower Broadway’s four block stretch of honky-tonks and restaurants. The one a.m. time slot was not the best spot on a Thursday but considering Rudy hadn’t been expecting her, she’d appreciated the spot, the chance. Some singers might not give one hundred percent to the late-night crowd, but not Dixie. She’d sung as if her life hung in the balance, or better, that a talent-hungry music producer sat in a darkened corner. She’d been spot-on tonight, quickly forgetting about the gig’s mix-up while singing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” When she’d switched to a Taylor Swift song she’d energized the crowd who soon were hooping and hollering. Applause followed her when she’d left the stage, her black mini swishing around her thighs. The rush of excitement had rivaled great sex.
The club’s owner Rudy Creed had watched her from behind the bar, clearly pleased by the way she’d roped the crowd’s attention. He’d stopped her on the way out and had said there’d been folks asking after her. “They think you’re good. Worth following,” he’d said.
Lordy, but she wanted to be worth following more than the breath she took. She’d been on the music circuit for three years—a long time to be waiting tables, knocking on closed music executive’s doors and sinking every extra dime into publicity stills and demo CDs. One record producer had shown interest months ago, they’d slept together but lately he’d been dodging her. However his no’s, as far as she was concerned, were warm-ups to a yes, so she’d kept after him. She’d finally gotten him on the phone days ago and he’d been pissed by her persistence. “Yeah, you got talent but stay the fuck away from me.”
All she’d heard was you got talent.
The metro buses didn’t run this late so she’d been forced to walk west on Broadway and past the hotels before turning on the tree-lined side street where she’d parked her car. Her cute pink boots cramped her toes and dug a blister on her heel.
Momma would have complained about the walk, the cold, and her feet. Momma understood hard work but she didn’t understand dreams or the cost of fame. Just last night, Momma had begged Dixie to take the secretary job in Knoxville, but Dixie had refused.
Dixie wanted to be a star. Wanted everyone to know her name. Just needed the right break.
Maybe, she’d finally paid enough dues. Maybe soon she’d look back on tonight and recognize the exact moment her life changed.
Her chest puffed with pride as she imagined people wanting her. She liked being wanted.
As she rounded a corner and headed north, a group of men on the opposite side of the street passed going south. They wore jeans, blue jackets, and collared shirts that popped up in a collegiate kind of way. She guessed they were students at Vanderbilt University. The men slowed their pace and a couple stared at her with wolfish gazes.
The flicker of pride grew brighter. She liked male attention almost as much as the stage. She savored the feminine power she brandished, knowing it could derail any man’s train of thought right off the tracks.
Dixie paused and bent forward to adjust a tassel on her boot. One of the boys whistled.
She grinned and waved, her excitement building. She’d have crossed the street, maybe suggested a party, but tonight another man waited.
She tossed the boys a wave, and when they called her over, she pouted and shook her head no before hurrying toward her car parked a half block away. The boots bit into her little toe.
Dixie fished her phone out of her purse, dialed a familiar number and waited. The phone rang once. Twice. Dollar store bracelets rattled on her wrist as she untangled a blond hair extension from a silver feather earring.
The phone kept ringing.
Sugar used to pick up on the first ring. He’d be breathless and excited as if he’d been waiting anxiously for her call. But lately, if he answered, he let the phone ring five or six times and his hello carried less anticipation.
Four. Five. Six. He picked up on the seventh ring. “Dixie.” He’d wrapped her name in a honey-flavored bourbon, his drink of choice.
“Hey. Want some company tonight?”
Hesitation and then, “Not tonight, Dixie. I’ve an early morning.”
Jealousy scratched as she imagined another blond lying beside him in his bed singing sweet songs in his ear. He liked blondes that could sing. The sound of a woman’s voice crooning in his ear made him hot. The first song she’d sung to him had been “You’re Still the One.”
“I thought you wanted me to come by tonight.” No missing the pout underscoring the words.
He yawned. “I know, but I’m tired. It was a long day.”
In the early days, he’d never been tired when she called. She’d been his tonic. His muse.
His rejection amplified her craving for attention. She nestled closer to the phone imagining she could touch him. “Sugar, I can wake you up. That’s a promise and a guarantee.”
“Not tonight, Dixie. In a day or two.” The soft edges hardened.
Rebuff coupled with cold and sore feet stripped her of patience. “Why’re you doing this to me? I thought I was special.”
He sighed into the phone. “You’re special. But enough is enough. We need to take a break. People are watching.”
Ducking her head, her long hair curtained off her face. “Who?”
“People. And that’s all you need to know.”
“You have names. I want them.”
Cover Your Eyes (Morgans of Nashville #1)
Cover Your Eyes (Morgans of Nashville #1) by Mary Burton