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Sweet Attractions

Sweet Attractions

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She lives in her mother’s shadow. He’s a bad boy who’s beaten the odds. Can they put aside their pasts to save the town and ignite their passion? 

If you like adorable chemistry, shunning social labels, and small-town sagas, then you’ll adore Susan Warner’s tender tale.



Main Tropes

  • Small Town Romance
  • Fake Relationship
  • Second Chance Romance

Synopsis

She lives in her mother’s shadow. He’s a bad boy who’s beaten the odds. Can they put aside their pasts to save the
town and ignite their passion?

 Attorney Lydia Mason yearns to be known as more than the mayor’s daughter. So when her tiny municipality falls on
tough times, she vows to step up and come to the rescue. And serendipity strikes when the money arrives in the form of a former classmate turned millionaire.

 

Ethan Young wasn’t born into wealth; he had to earn it. But despite leaving his judgmental community behind and
becoming a real estate mogul, one glimpse of his old flame floods him with his only pleasant memories of high school. And now that he’s back with all the
riches he’ll ever need, he’s torn between helping the stunning woman and facing the familiar barrage of spiteful rejection of his blue-collar roots.

Taken in by his good looks and can-do attitude, Lydia knows she has an uphill battle convincing the resistant townsfolk to accept his cash. But Ethan has a genius plan to win their approval: have her legitimize his involvement by agreeing to pretend they’re an
item.

 Will their ploy to fake a relationship and revitalize their home lead to the real thing

Intro into Chapter One

Prologue
– Seventeen years earlier

 

 

“If
you want to be with them so bad, go to them and see if they take you in! You’ll
be back before the sun comes up!”

Seventeen-year-old
Ethan Young shielded his head as two pairs of jeans were thrown at him, along
with his shirts. He didn’t answer this taunt his father hurled at him from the
front door. No matter what his father, Barrick Young, said to him, Ethan always
held his tongue. It was hard sometimes, but his father had taught him well.
Barrick had said on more than one occasion, “When you feel as though you know
more than me, you’re free to pack up your belongings and prove it. Outside of
my house.”

His
father seemed to be making good on that promise tonight. Ethan didn’t flinch
when the door slammed, leaving him in the dark on the front porch. The dark
didn’t matter to him though, and he thought it was fitting that a cool breeze
was coming through this night.

He
had grown up in Sweet Blooms, Florida, but if anyone in town was asked, they
would say Ethan lived on the outskirts. The outskirts were the unattractive
pieces of land that were barely farmable and usually bordered on at least two
sides by swamp. He knew how close he was from gator space, and he was always aware
of and looking for the glassy reflection of eyes. Without his shotgun though,
seeing that telltale sign might be too late. Good thing he had no intentions of
sleeping out in front of the house.

Instead,
he felt for his pants and shirts. He tossed them over his shoulder and
proceeded to do just what his father had taught him. He was going to prove that
he knew what he was doing.

The
people in town always looked down their noses when he and his father came around,
and in truth, Ethan couldn’t blame them. His father never wanted to go into
town until after they had done their fishing or farming on the small plot of
land they had. When they’d go, they were smelly from the day's work and had
more dirt on them than anything else.  His
father always told him the townspeople shouldn’t be ashamed of people who work.

Ethan
loved his dad. He didn’t know all the details, but he knew that his dad had
taken care of him the best he could when his mother went away. He knew Barrick
wasn’t the smartest man, but he had a good heart and he worked hard. With very
few exceptions, Barrick didn’t talk to anyone, so he had no griefs with anyone.

Ethan
was grateful for all his dad had given to him and given up for him.  But tonight, they had turned a corner neither
one of them could un-turn. Ethan Young was in love. He didn’t expect his dad to
understand because the girl he loved was Lydia Mason. Barrick had told him more
than once; Lydia Mason was the mayor’s daughter. Lydia Mason was going places
and her mother would never approve of Ethan. He told him if Lydia had to choose
Ethan would be alone.

Ethan
hadn’t told Lydia about his feelings, and they hadn’t been going out or
anything. At the end of the day, he had nothing to offer her.

Lydia
was pretty. She had hair like corn silk, and she was incredibly smart. When he
went to school, he had seen her tutor others in math, and she made it all make
sense. She didn’t get offended by his worn clothing or his not-so-fresh smell.
His father had told him to look for a person’s character, and it would shine
through. Ethan saw Lydia’s character, and she was a beacon for all to see.

Ethan
had received an acceptance letter to a nearby school. He hadn’t told his father
because every time he brought up college, his dad said it was a waste.

He
would toss out things like, “You don’t need no paper to farm.” Or, “Getting a
piece of paper won’t change what you are in Sweet Blooms. Once from the
outskirts, always from the outskirts.”

Ethan
dreamed of someplace other than Sweet Blooms. He was tired of rolling hills,
uniformly planted farms, and a town that looked like it hadn’t been touched by
time. People still made milkshakes by hand. The bakery was run by three women,
named after flowers, who never seemed to age. Everyone knew everyone in town. He
couldn’t introduce himself to anyone, they all knew him and had an expectation.

He
was Barrick’s son. He would always live on the outskirts. He would do exactly
what his dad had done before him.

Tonight,
Ethan gathered his clothes and made his way to his truck, which he’d completely
rebuilt from parts. He was making a change. As he got in his truck and turned
the key, the truck stalled. He laid his head on the steering wheel and took a
couple of deep breaths.

He
turned the key again.

Again,
it stalled.

The
door to the house opened, and Ethan could see his father’s silhouette in the
door. Ethan turned the key again. He just needed it to start. Here he was
making his great exit, and his truck wouldn’t start. His body tensed as he saw
his dad step out of the house and walk toward him.

Would
he tell him I told you so?  Would he listen to the truck and tell him it
was a sign from above that he was being silly? Ethan didn’t know, but the burn
of unshed tears of frustration threatened to fall.

His
father was standing in front of the truck in the headlights. Barrick was a big,
burly man with wide shoulders. He knew when others looked at him that all they
saw was brawn and no brains.

When
Ethan looked at him, he saw the man who carried him on his shoulders and told
him to try and catch a star. Ethan saw the man who took him to a diner when a
girl stood him up because she wouldn’t be seen with a boy from the outskirts.
He saw a man who taught him that hard work was something to be proud of.

Tonight,
he was trying to leave him and be his own person.

His
dad hit the top of the truck twice. Ethan reacted on habit and opened the hood.
His dad was under the hood for maybe three minutes. Then Barrick closed the
hood and gave him a nod. Ethan reached for the key with a trembling hand. He
turned the key, and the engine started.

Barrick
walked up to Ethan on the driver side. Ethan didn’t have to worry about
lowering the window—there wasn’t one.

“You
leaving?” Barrick asked.

“Yes,
pop. I need –”

“I
don’t have what you need, Ethan. That’s a heck of a realization for a father to
come to.”

Ethan
was speechless.

“Pop,
it’s not you, it’s just that I want –”

“More?”

Ethan
sighed and nodded yes.

Barrick
ran his hand through his hair. Then he looked into the darkness behind the
truck before turning back to Ethan. Ethan could see his pop’s expression had
changed. If there had been any softening in his feelings or thoughts a few
moments ago, it would have been part of Ethan’s imagination. Now his father had
the look of a man who was ready to go to battle.

“Go
then. I didn’t have enough to keep your mother, and it looks like I’m not
enough to keep you either.”

Those
were the final words Barrick Young said to his son, and he turned and went back
into the house. Ethan stayed in the same place until the door was slammed shut
behind his dad and he was sitting in the darkness. Again. It took him a moment
to realize there were tears running down his face.  When he did, Ethan wiped them away and drove
off.

He’d
come home one day. He wouldn’t be Barrick Young’s son. He’d be Ethan Young.
He’d be someone his dad would be proud of, and hopefully someone he would be
able to forgive.

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 “Really? It’s the age of computers, who needs
all of these binders?”

Lydia
Mason tried to climb up the courthouse steps. It was a beautiful day. That
wasn’t really saying anything, though. It was always relatively beautiful in
Sweet Blooms. Today Lydia had her hair in a bun, and she wore a black suit that
could be business appropriate but was also funeral appropriate, if need be. She
followed up her ensemble with a pair of non-matching navy-blue three-inch
heels. All of which didn’t matter because Sweet Blooms’ most recent law
graduate was tottering up the stairs carrying green bar paper binders to her
mother, who just happened to be the mayor of Sweet Blooms.

As
she struggled to keep the stacked books in her arms, she took little breaths.
“Don’t even think about falling, you pile of repurposed firewood,” Lydia
mumbled, slowly going up the steps. If her count was right, she had five more
steps to go.

Then
it happened like the last scene in a tragic story as if her fate had been
choreographed while she slept, when she lifted her foot to put it on the next
step, her heel got caught, and she wobbled.

“You
will not be outdoing the leader of the gymnastics team, you pile of confetti,”
Lydia said, then she realigned her body and prayed no one was behind her to see
her make that adjustment. Just when she was sure she had her footing; she heard
a voice from behind her.

“I’ll
be right there, hold on,” a man called. “Don’t move.”

Lydia
leaned her head on the pile in her arms. “White knights,” she muttered. “Why do
they always think I need help?”

Lydia
turned her head to the side and tried to yell over her shoulder. “I’m good,
don’t bother.”

“You’re
not—the books are sliding to the right,” the man insisted.

“Of
course, they are, because my head turned to the right to call over my shoulder.
I’m correcting it now.”

Lydia
turned her head back to the front and once again started her ascent. She made
sure her foot was squarely on the next step before she moved. It was obviously
too quick because the books wobbled in her arms.

“Come
on, Lydia, you’ve got four more steps to go.”

“I’m
right here to help you,” the guy stated.

Lydia
jumped when she heard how close he was. If she thought she could do it, she’d
give him a mule kick for startling her. On second thought, she wouldn’t.  She’d just glued that heel back on two days
ago; testing it against a grown man was not the way to go.

“Back
away,” she said. “I’m almost at the top. Don’t mess up my balance.”

“I’m
here to help your balance.”

The
comment was so ludicrous, she turned her head too quickly to address it. The
move was just enough to push the books to the side, tilting her as well. She
planted her feet to try and correct herself. It was then she felt the shift in
her glued-on heel and was completely thrown off balance.

Lydia
heard the billowing pages as they fell to the ground. She put her hands out to
catch herself. Instead of falling onto the steps as she had anticipated, she
slammed into the unknown guy.

Safely
in his arms, she looked at the books on the ground. Some were open, some were
closed, and a couple of the papers looked like they hadn’t fared too badly. All
of this would have never happened if it weren’t for the solid guy who was
holding her. She pushed away from him and then pulled her jacket down to make
herself presentable. Lydia then turned to do battle with the one who wouldn’t
listen.

“Listen
Mr. –” Lydia stopped midsentence. This wasn’t someone trying to do something
nice for the Mayor’s daughter. He also wasn’t someone who needed her to be
lenient in a court case.  Mister Tall Dark
and Handsome—city style—was a hotshot realtor from New York who wouldn’t leave
her alone. He had to be hiding behind those glasses. Did anyone even wear
glasses anymore?  He also had a fashionable
beard that was well kept.

Ethan
Young, realtor extraordinaire. His smiling face was on tons of magazine ads and
billboards that advertised the best places and the most anticipated new
communities. All of his pictures had been headshots, but she could now attest
that his body was just as trim and well put together as his headshots made him
look. He was looking at her with concern on his face, and it made him more
endearing than his smile. When this man focused on a woman, she was surely
envied by many.

She
recalled that he’d called her a few times, wanting to talk about the future of
Sweet Blooms. He’d been persistent in suggesting that Sweet Blooms could use
some additional income, and he wanted to discuss it with her. She had ended those
calls as quickly as she politely could. She hadn’t wanted to talk about it with
him, but she also hadn’t wanted to be rude.

In
truth, she had to admit that his calls had made her look into the town books
and even talk to her mother. Both inquiries supported Mr. Young’s claims. Sweet
Blooms needed money. The cost had grown, but the average income of Sweet Blooms
hadn’t, and it was becoming harder and harder to provide upgrades and services
that were becoming mandatory.

“Hello,
Ms. Mason,” he said with a smile.  “I’m
glad to be here to save you.”

Lydia
looked at him incredulously. “What are you talking about? I hope your real
estate deals are more thought-out than that statement you just made.”

One
side of his mouth tilted up. “So, it would be too much to think you were about
to say thank you to me?”

Lydia
took a step away from him, wiggling the foot with the glued heel to make sure
it was still secured. Then she crossed her arms and looked at the mess on the
steps. “I’ve heard about your positive thinking, but you’re taking it to new
levels.”

Ethan
laughed. “I think that is the politest way I’ve ever heard someone tell me that
I might not get what I’m looking for. Do you want me to help you gather the
books or should I wait until you give a signal?” His laugh turned into a grin. If
his current actions were anything to go by this man wouldn’t be easy to deal with.
she could see herself falling for that smile.

“Are
you okay, Ms. Mason?” Said Sweet Bloom’s oldest security guard as he walked
unsteadily towards them.

“I’m
good, Charles,” Lydia said. Could this situation get any worse? Sweet Blooms
was a small town, and that meant news traveled faster than electricity through
walls.  The news would probably beat her
home that she had literally run into Ethan. From there she could expect a love
child any week. Charles Lyndman had been the security guard at the courthouse
since she had left to go to law school. The town knew he was too old to find
anything else, so he kept the job of guarding the one place where there was
nothing of value. She knew as soon as he went inside, he’d call four of his
friends about the excitement on the steps.

“I
saw you coming up the steps, but you looked like you had it,” he mumbled.

“At
least someone had clear sight,” Lydia said, staring at Ethan.

Tapping
his glasses, he smiled. “I’ve had my sight checked, and I’m sure it’s good.”

“Keep
it up, and I’ll have the security guard arrest you.”

Ethan’s
grin got wider. He looked over her shoulder at the rotund elderly guard. “If he
did, it looks like it would be a first for any of that equipment. I’m not here
to cause a problem I just wanted to speak with you. Let me try to make this
right.”

“Make
it right?” Lydia parroted.

Ethan
bent and began to gather the books, handing one or two over to the security
guard before sending him on his way to the table inside the doors. “After all,
I’d feel bad if I didn’t finish helping you.”

Just
as she was going to refute that he had even helped at all, a gust of wind came
by and blew several papers down the steps. Lydia flew down two steps and leaped
onto the fleeing paper to stop it. She heard him clapping behind her, and Lydia
closed her eyes. She just needed to gather her papers and send him on his way.

Lydia
Mason was who she was, and she wasn’t going to get her head turned around by an
attractive man. She was the Mayor’s daughter who had to be beyond reproach all
the time. She was a lawyer, and hopefully the town would recognize her as being
one instead of just Mayor Mason’s kid who happened to get a law degree.  She had proven she was self-sufficient when
she paid for law school on her own. Well, not completely because she had school
loan debt, but anything loans didn’t cover, she did.

“Ms.
Mason?”

“Yes?”
she said sharply.

Ethan
was kneeling down before her with his hand on the small batch of papers she had
stopped with her foot. Lydia had to admit there was something thrilling about having
Ethan kneeling in front of her. It was almost romantic in a Cinderella kind of
way. “Ms. Mason, did you want me to put the papers back in order? If you do,
you’ll have to move your foot.”

While
she was in la-la land, he was waiting for an answer. She picked up her foot and
nodded.

“That’s
what I like to see, us working together,” Ethan said with a grin. She looked
around, trying to collect herself. Then she heard his voice again seeping into
her thoughts. “How about dinner tonight?”

Dinner? She
thought. Great, it sounded like he was
staying in town.
She needed to nip this in the bud.

“Sure,
where?”

“I’ll
come get you. It’ll be a surprise.”

Lydia
hated surprises. She didn’t get a chance to respond because Ethan had already
walked away. She was so concentrated on him; she didn’t even notice the security
guard had come out several times to finish moving the books.

“That
was mighty nice of him to help you out,” Mr. Lyndman said.

A
nice smile and an easy demeanor were slow to slip past the defenses, she
thought. Harmlessness wrapped up with a pair of glasses. Ethan Young was a lot
of things, but she wouldn’t have attributed harmlessness to him. When she’d
been in his arms for a moment, she’d forgotten that he wanted something from
her. For a moment, she’d had an experience that might have been something more.

She
couldn’t say it was intimate, but she could say it was something she hadn’t
experienced lately. In Sweet Blooms, she had to think about people who
approached her. She was never sure if they were saying hello to Lydia Mason or
the Mayor’s daughter.

If
nothing else, she was sure that Ethan was definitely not interested in Lydia
Mason.

* * *

Ethan
Young knew a lot of things. In fact, knowing things was his business. The new
bit of information he had just acquired was that he was definitely interested
in Lydia Mason. He had to get his head in the game of real estate and off of
the beautiful blonde on the courthouse steps.

Ethan
had arranged a meeting with his business associate, Adam Cade. He’d worked for
many days doing the research he thought would be needed to get Cade’s support.
He knew Cade wasn’t a man who invested based on sentimentality, yet he was
still going to try to invoke some of that in this presentation.

It
was funny to him that he was in a spare room in the courthouse, waiting for
Cade. There weren’t any places to rent office space and if you wanted to have a
business meeting in Sweet Blooms, but didn’t have your own building, the only
option was to rent a room from the courthouse. Ethan thought the room looked
suspiciously like a holding cell, or an interrogation room, but beggars
couldn’t be choosy.

The
gray walls didn’t do anything to inspire him, nor did the single window that
looked like a last-minute placement. 
However, Ethan thought he should probably be grateful the rectangular
table was at least clean, and while the two chairs in the room were hard, they
were relatively new.

Funny
how time changed things. Ethan was back. He had never lost track of his
hometown. It was because he was watching it that he was able to spot an answer
to the town’s potential problem. Sweet Blooms would collapse under the debt it
was starting to accumulate. He had seen other towns go down this road. They
hadn’t been able to collect the taxes, and it started a vicious cycle of people
leaving the town. Ethan didn’t like Sweet Blooms all of the time, but it was
still home.

Ethan
thought he would be able to leave Sweet Blooms behind. When he thought about
the last time he had been in Sweet Blooms, though, he reconsidered. When he
thought about all of the returned envelopes he received from his father, he
considered abandoning Sweet Blooms. The only thing that had made him give the
town a second chance was when he thought about all of the good times he had
with his dad.

How
many times had they gone fishing? How his dad taught him to know when a storm
was coming, or how his dad had taught him to smell the coming rain. Some other
child would never know that or have those experiences if Sweet Blooms went
away. It was after remembering those things that he swallowed any protests he
might have had and came up with a solution.

Ethan
had done his research and discovered that Adam Cade was also from Sweet Blooms.
As soon as he had identified the millionaire woodworker as a Sweet Blooms
native, he started formulating a plan to save Sweet Blooms. Whether they wanted
him or not, Ethan was going to save Sweet Blooms.

Ethan
had set up the room with a projector, two paper printouts of the Power Point
presentation, and a laptop. Ethan heard a knock, and then Adam Cade walked in.
They shook hands, and Adam took the seat that gave him the best view of the
screen. Ethan smiled and sat in the other chair to begin.

“Make
yourself at home,” Ethan said. “It’s odd that we’re both back here, but I think
after the presentation, it will be clear to you why I asked you.”

Adam
nodded, and Ethan began the presentation.

“Sweet
Blooms is in trouble. Over the past ten years, while all of Florida has
experienced an insurgence and growth due to retirees and snowbirds, Sweet
Blooms hasn’t fared as well. In fact, it’s like the town that time forgot. With
the birthrate being low and no new income from new people, it becomes almost
impossible for Sweet Blooms to maintain much less thrive.

“After
reviewing Sweet Blooms’ assets, I’ve found it only has two things: nostalgic
stores and land. If we can convert the land into more stores owned by locals,
and expand, we can bring people here to visit. 
 

“All
of this is possible in time, but Sweet Blooms doesn’t have a lot of that.
That’s why I called you. You own Cade Designs, and you’re a Sweet Blooms
native. If you could do an ad campaign or put a store here with your designs,
it would give Sweet Blooms time and a boost all at once. If you don’t, you
should know that several real estate companies have been looking at Sweet
Blooms to find the best way to take over the land with minimal effort.”

Adam
tapped the table rhythmically. “I did some checking before I came. Almost all
of the land in Sweet Blooms is owned by a real estate holding called Outskirts,
Inc.”

“It
is.”

Ethan
continued with several other slides, showing the potential growth of Sweet Blooms
and what kind of businesses could be fostered. He outlined a couple of ideas he
had and looked at Adam the whole time. When he was outlining the earning
potential and how Cade Designs could recoup its money, he turned off the
computer.

Adam
gave him a long look.  “You’re Barrack’s
son?”

Ethan
stiffened and then nodded, forcing himself to relax.

Adam
nodded towards the screen. “You did a great job with the presentation. Are you
representing an agency?”

“No,
the idea is mine.”

            Adam gave him a second look.

Ethan
gave him a smile.  “I know what you’re
thinking. Why would a person from the outskirts care to do this?”

Adam
shook his head. “No, I didn't think that at all,” he said with a smile.

Ethan
stopped talking and waited.

“I
know there have always been people who have issues with those who live on the
outskirts.  I’m not one of them. I asked
if the idea was yours or not because you don’t live in Sweet Blooms. Are you
coming back? Will you be keeping the real estate yourself?”

Ethan
was taken aback by the question. He shouldn’t have been. For the last ten
years, he’d been making money from making deals. He was sure that Adam knew of
him even though they had never worked together.

Adam
didn’t wait for an answer. “I think you’ve done a lot of research and you make
a compelling argument. I’m currently trying to figure out some things that may
fall in line with this. I want to tell you that you’ve done well by the people
in Sweet Blooms today, Ethan Young. Send me some paperwork so I can go over it
with my marketing team and lawyers.”

Ethan
nodded. “Of course.”  Ethan didn’t say
anything when Adam got up to leave the room. The door opened, and Adam cleared
his throat.

“By
the way, Ethan, I asked to let my lawyers see it not because of who you are but
because this is about Sweet Blooms. Business is business.”

Adam
left, and Ethan smiled. Until Adam said it out loud, he had wondered. If Cade
could get past him being from the outskirts, he could too.

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