The Dixon Brothers Series Book 1: Courting Calla


CALLA VAUGHN has spent the last three years desperately trying to get her life in order so that she can go back to culinary school. No matter how hard she works, though, she feels like she is just treading water and can't see any way out of the hole dug for her by a con artist who stole her identity. When flowers she sends to her best friend with a dinner invitation accidentally get delivered to IAN JONES, she decides to cook him the best meal he's ever had. By the time she admits that the flowers were never for him, he is as convinced as she is that God orchestrated the mistake in the first place. All that's left is to tell him the dark secret about her father's widow. She waits a little too long, though, and is carted off to jail for questioning on felony charges before she gets a chance. Will Ian understand her situation, or will the deception surrounding Calla destroy any trust he has in her?

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Olivia Kimbrell Press
EBook ISBN: 978-1-68190-111-4

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The Back Cover:

Can Ian and Calla find love together, or will the secret she is keeping rip them apart?

CALLA VAUGHN has spent the last three years desperately trying to get her life in order so that she can go back to culinary school. No matter how hard she works, though, she feels like she is just treading water and can’t see any way out of the hole dug for her by a con artist who stole her identity.

When flowers she sends to her best friend with a dinner invitation accidentally get delivered to IAN JONES, she decides to cook him the best meal he’s ever had. By the time she admits that the flowers were never for him, he is as convinced as she is that God orchestrated the mistake in the first place.

All that’s left is to tell him the dark secret about her father’s widow. She waits a little too long, though, and is carted off to jail for questioning on felony charges before she gets a chance.

Will Ian understand her situation, or will the deception surrounding Calla destroy any trust he has in her?

EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK:

Calla Vaughn felt the telltale shudder of the car through her seat just as she started to pull through the gate. “No, no, no,” she said out loud, as if the machine might actually hear and decide not to die in the middle of the post-lunch rush to the parking deck. Despite the feeble attempt to stop it, with a lurch and a cough and a cloud of black exhaust, her car sputtered to a stop.

Resigned, Calla slipped her glasses off and lay her forehead on the steering wheel, closing her eyes, the smell of burning oil stinging her nose. If this week would just end, if she could just get through this afternoon, then tomorrow, and make it to the weekend, everything would turn out fine. It had to. Surely, the domino effect of her life would still and cease if she could just shut the door to her little apartment and hide from the rest of the world until Monday.

The tapping on her window startled her, and she hastily sat up, slipping her black-framed glasses back on. She knew with her black hair and dark brown eyes the thick black frames made her face stand out. She’d resisted buying them, but Sami, her best friend and confidante, had insisted, claiming they gave her a striking appearance. She said the glasses made her look like she just needed a nearby phone booth to transform into a courageous and strong heroine in primary colors. Calla knew nothing could help her not ugly but certainly not beautiful features, but she kind of wanted to see if the new frames would change her life in any way. They hadn’t, of course. They were just glasses. So much for wanting to look like a superhero in disguise.

As she rolled down her window, her face flooded with uncomfortable heat. Of course, the car behind her would belong to Ian Jones, one of the mechanical engineers in the Dixon Contracting firm where she worked as a file clerk. She saw his signature a dozen times a day in her job but hadn’t ever spoken to him beyond an uncomfortable hello whenever they passed in the halls. He had bushy brown hair, light hazel eyes that shifted from gold to brown to green, and a face better suited to some rakish Duke in one of her favorite Regency romance novels. She’d carried a crush for him since her second day on the job three years ago, though he barely glanced at her whenever their paths happened to cross.
Trying to keep from actually crying out of embarrassment, something that would make this whole horrible moment a thousand times worse, she simply drawled out, “Hi there.”
His right eyebrow rose and his lips twitched up into a half grin. He had a dimple. “Need some help?”

If he only knew. The fish and chips lunch she had just wolfed down started to feel like bad sushi. She smiled weakly and asked, “Do you have a tow truck handy?”

He looked at her little Geo Storm that had rolled off the assembly line the year she was born and tapped the sun faded yellow roof. “Put her in neutral. We’ll just move it out of the way of the gate.” He gestured with his head, and she looked in the rearview mirror to see the growing line of cars behind them. She watched him wave an arm, and another man got out of a car three cars back.

With a sinking, burning feeling in her chest, she recognized him as one of the Dixon sons. She suddenly started wishing she believed in portals that would open up and suck someone into another dimension. Mr. Dixon, owner of the massive Dixon Contracting construction and architectural firm, had three identical sons. Triplets. No one could really tell them apart, so they were all simply “Mr. Dixon.” She guessed this was Jon from his pickup truck but honestly had no idea whether maybe one of his brothers, Brad or Ken, had borrowed Jon’s truck this morning.

The little Storm shifted when Calla felt Mr. Dixon’s hands grip the sooty back bumper. Following Ian’s directions from the driver’s window, she put her car in neutral and glanced out the window in time to see Ian’s biceps bulge and bunch beneath his shirt as he maneuvered the car while Mr. Dixon pushed. “Let’s get it to that spot there,” he said, and she turned the steering wheel as they propelled her into the senior Mr. Dixon’s space.
As soon as she set the parking brake, she hopped out of the car. “I can’t park here. Mr. Dixon—”

“Is nowhere near Atlanta today. He’s inspecting the New Orleans job for at least another three days. You’re fine. Don’t worry about a thing,” the young Dixon said. He smiled, clearly trying to put her at ease. Turning to the man next to him, he said, “Hey, Ian? You’re next, bro.”

As the two of them rushed back to their cars that still sat blocking the entrance through the gate, she lifted a hand at their retreating backs. “Thanks.” It sounded weak even to her own ears.

Sighing, cheeks burning with embarrassed heat, she pulled her phone out of her purse intending to call a garage. Her hands shook slightly from chagrin and, as the phone cleared the purse, it slipped from her fingers and crashed to the concrete parking deck floor. A flood of tears blurred her vision, making the cracks that appeared on the screen all blur together.

“Calla!” She looked up with tear-stained cheeks as Sami’s zippy little convertible pulled up next to her and her best friend put her head out of her open window. Sami’s eyes went from Calla’s face to the ground next to her feet, then she put her car in park, and hopped out. “Oh, Calla, honey, let me help.” She bent and picked up the broken phone, slipping it into her own pocket. She had on a brightly flowered shirt, mustard yellow leggings, and red boots. Somehow, with her blue fedora sitting on top of perfectly curled black hair, it worked. “I’ll call my uncle. He has a garage in Decatur.”

“Don’t bother. I couldn’t pay to fix it, anyway. I’ll just get it towed to a junk-yard. It’s where it belongs.”

Sami raised an eyebrow. “And then what?”

Realizing she had started to grit her teeth, she intentionally relaxed as she closed her eyes and took a deep breath and held it. In with the good, out with the bad. Letting out a long, slow sigh, she said, “Then I ride the Metro until I can get out of the hole my stepmother has so graciously dug for me.” She reached into the pocket of Sami’s shirt and snatched her phone. “I’ll be fine.”

“You’ll get out of that hole faster once you press charges,” Sami said. When Calla opened her mouth to protest, Sami held up her hand. “I know. I won’t say it again. That’s between you and God and the local police.” She looked at her watch. “Get back to work. No reason to add trouble at work to your load. I’ll take care of this. I have personal time saved, and you don’t.”

Calla hugged her, tightly, knowing God had blessed her with a true friend. She retrieved her bag from the back seat, made sure she didn’t have anything in the glove box she didn’t need, and rushed to the elevator just as Ian Jones reached it. Feeling the clumsy awkwardness that he always invoked overtake her, she smiled an uncomfortable smile and pressed the button for the second floor. “Thank you. Sorry to block your way.”

He turned to look directly at her. “Glad you had a small enough car that it was easy to move. What brings you to Dixon this morning Ms…?”

She stammered a reply, “Vaughn. Calla. Calla Vaughn.” Realizing Ian didn’t even know her name made it even worse. Did he think she was married? “It’s, uh, Miss. Not Mrs.” Had she really just said that? “Not Miss, either. Don’t call me Miss Vaughn. It’s just that I hate that Ms. nonsense and I’m not married. So I’m not Mrs. Vaughn. But don’t call me Miss Vaughn. I mean…” She closed her eyes one heartbeat after she shut her mouth. She took a breath, exhaled through her nose, raised her head, smiled, and said, “Call me Calla. And I, uh, file.”

The dimple had reappeared. Throughout her entire babbling introduction, he hadn’t so much as moved. He cleared his throat and nodded. “You file?”

“Here. I file here. At Dixon. I, uh, work in the file room.”

“Ah.” He nodded as the elevator stopped on her floor. When she just stood there, he held the elevator door open with his left hand and gestured with his right hand. “I believe the files are that-a-way.”

She glanced through the open doors and saw the oversized glass doorway that provided access to the rows and rows of filing cabinets surrounding the cluster of cubicles. “Right,” she said, stepping off the elevator. “Thanks. Uh, thanks for everything.”

He extended his right hand toward her and said, “My name is…” but when she placed her fingers lightly into his right palm he stopped speaking.

“I know who you are, sir,” Calla whispered, trying not to think about how nice his fingers felt beneath hers, though staring at his dimple didn’t distract her from that thought very much. She jerked her hand back and stepped further out of the way of the elevator doors. “I see your name all the time.”

“Right.” He acknowledged. “Well, you’re welcome. No problem at all.” He gave her a single wave goodbye just as the doors slid shut.

After the doors slid closed, Calla took a final deep breath. In with the good and out with the bad. After she slowly released it, she reluctantly headed to her little cubicle and put her purse in the bottom drawer of her desk. Next to her desk, a large cart from the architectural division sat, piled with papers, plans, and files. Knowing that would take up the rest of the afternoon, she slipped earbuds into her ears, maneuvered through the broken screen on her phone to access her favorite radio station’s app, and started sorting files.

 

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