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Autumn Fallout Signed Paperback

Autumn Fallout Signed Paperback

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  • Great Gifts
  • Author Signed
  • Paperback
Author-signed copy of Autumn Fallout, Book 2 in Seasons of Sugar Creek

Main Tropes

  • one bed
  • childhood crush
  • she's all grown up
  • secret crush
  • she's too good for him
  • prank war


Charlotte is all grown up and back in town to battle Eric, her childhood crush over who gets to keep their family home. 

After breaking up with her lawyer boyfriend, Charlotte Laurent takes a much-needed gap-year before law school to re-evaluate her life in Sugar Creek. When the town proposes to annex Laurent Mansion, she’s on the committee to make it happen–in direct opposition to her neighbor and childhood crush, Eric Benton. If she this proposition doesn't pass, she and will have to leave the only family home she's ever known.

Dairy farmer Eric hadn’t seen well-born Charlotte since they played hide-and-go-seek together at age ten. But now she’s all grown up and back in town, stirring hope that he's fit enough to kiss more than her boots, but she's causing trouble for his struggling dairy in desperate need of repairs. If the proposition passes, his family will close the dairy and leave Sugar Creek.

Only one can save their family legacy.

Widow and Sugar Mama Laura Benton wearies of carrying the burden of managing a family and dairy farm on her own. She’s timidly sets foot in the dating scene and meets Carl, the leader of a men’s choir group. He’s great at making her heart sing, but can he handle all her problems?

This Rom-com romp will have a haunted mansion, a treasure hunt, a fall festival, prank wars, and a barbershop quartet.

Click now to read enemies to lovers, one-bed, all grown up, and secret crush tropes.

Intro to Chapter 1

Charlotte Laurent sniffed back tears threatening to blur her vision. Which would be bad since she was driving along hilly, back country roads in Vermont with limited sight distance, vibrant trees close to the road, and zero cell reception. All day, she’d been driving from Toronto—taking a few stops to cry.

How dare he? 
She couldn’t get her boyfriend’s—her ex-boyfriend’s—face out of her mind. Or their last conversation. 
With the canopy down on her convertible BMW, under the tree-lined roads dotted with red barns and livestock, she drove, barely aware of her surroundings, still consumed with her last-minute change of direction. She needed a gap year to re-think, re-plan, and re-focus her life before law school. 
With a lance of hot words, Westley Dirk had torn a hole straight through her heart and her well-laid plans for her future.
She passed through the small red brick and clapboard stores of downtown in Sugar Creek, complete with a colorful display of tree tunnels on either side. The leaves were showing off this year. Almost florescent hues of orange, red, and yellow vied for attention. Thankfully, she headed to the one place where she would feel at home: wherever Preston, her brother, was. And right now, that place was Laurent mansion.

A sign just after Sugar Creek caught her attention.

Happiness $5

Happiness for just five bucks? After what Westley said, she needed a little cheering up right now. A sign proclaiming happiness could be bought for a mere five dollars intrigued her. Could it deliver on its promise?

Turning her steering wheel, she maneuvered onto a dirt road leading to a small food truck. Cornstalks decorated each crossbeam of the fenceposts around the white truck. A red flatbed wagon near the road sold orange and yellow mums for a charity. 
Parked off the road was a green pickup truck with a bumper sticker in the back window that read Vermont: Keep it Simple.

Cutting the engine, Charlotte wiped her eyes free of tears and took in the scenery. Signs for Sweet Milk Dairy framed the dirt road, lined with green open pastures. Jersey cows grazed across the hills, their heads down, walking slowly over the grass. She mentally refrained from snapping a photo on her phone. 
Several customers queued in front of the small window.

She stepped from the car, inhaling the sweet smell of grass and a faint whiff of cattle. The smell of that alone, with a tinge of smoke from a nearby stack, almost healed her broken heart. As she breathed in cool air and took in the quiet of the countryside, the tension in the base of her neck relaxed. Such a change from Toronto! The city bustled with excitement, promise, and disappointment.

When it was her turn, she stepped up to a window. A handsome man in a Sweet Milk Dairy cap with his long-sleeved flannel rolled up, accentuating his forearms, greeted her. He scratched his close shaven beard of about a month’s growth. Touching his hat, he grinned. “Afternoon. Ready to try some world-famous apple cider donuts? Made right here.” He pointed behind him where a young woman stood beside a pot, dipping in a spider catch and turning donuts. Beside her were colorful caramel apples. “We buy our cider from our neighbor. Tara Leigh grows apples in the Twelve Oaks Orchard just right down the road.” He pointed with his chin. “Angie is taking the donuts out of the oil right now.”
Charlotte tried to keep her heartache out of her voice. “You can’t get any fresher than that! Can I get one cider donut and two caramel apples?”

“Two?” The guy winked, opening a brown paper bag. “You got a sweet tooth or sweetheart?”

Not anymore. Her heart squeezed at the thought. “It’s for my brother.”

If it were possible, his smile grew bigger. “That’s good. No complaining about that. Even if you wanted to eat both, we wouldn’t judge.” He pointed to Angie, who looked to be graduated from high school. As it was after Labor Day, most school-aged kids were occupied during the day. “My sister could eat a whole bushel of caramel apples.” 
Angie, still keeping her spider catch in the oil, kicked out a leg, trying to get her brother. “Thanks, Eric.”

Eric? His name rang a bell.

Taking a quick step to maneuver away from Angie’s mock aggression, Eric wrapped a donut and two caramel apples in pastry paper and slipped them into a bag with Sweet Milk Dairy stamped on it, laughing all the while.

Eric faced Charlotte again, and grinned. “Not that I would blame her. These apples are the best in the county. The only place I trust other than our own farm.” He set the bag in front of Charlotte.
“You own this dairy?” She glanced around the rolling hills that abutted the Laurent Mansion up the hill a ways. She could see the tree-line fence from here.

He gave a short nod. “My mom does now. We run one of the last family-owned dairy farms in these parts.”

“We’re neighbors.” Before taking the white sack, Charlotte dug into her purse to grab her wallet.

“Oh?” He raised his eyebrows, his dark eyes dancing with amusement.

“My brother and I live just down the road.” She pointed toward the hill where the tops of the gray slate roof of the Laurent Mansion poked out of the tops of the trees.

“Pleased to meet you, neighbor.” He stuck out his hand. “Eric Benton.”

She took it with a grin, her bad mood dissipating. His grin, his eyes—everything clicked into place. “Wait, I know you. We played hide-and-go seek when we were children.”

“You can’t be.” Blinking, he studied her, his eyes growing wide. “Little Charlie?” His shock melted into another smile. “You were just eight when you lived here. You back in town?”

At her childhood nickname, she felt a flush creep up her neck. He used to tease her and pull her hair.

His amused smile reached his eyes. Leaning closer, he rubbed a hand across his beard. “I remember you running around these hills in overalls, your hair in pigtails.”

“That was more than fifteen years ago.” She remembered chasing after him and Preston. When Preston shouted no girls allowed, Eric always insisted they make an exception for her. Preston rolled his eyes and sighed and let her come. Even as a kid, Eric had the warmest smile. He’d improved with age.

She held out bills.
He shook his head, pushing the cash back. “It’s on the house. The least I can do for my neighbor and former rival in childhood games."

The summer between South America and moving to Jordan her mother brought them back here to live while her father was on an unaccompanied tour to the Congo. She thought at ten, Eric was big and strong, and he always carried a handy pocketknife. He still had the same boyish grin, a baseball cap with his family’s dairy logo, and a generous heart. Moving closer, Eric leaned on his elbows, speaking out the window. “What are you up to now?”

“I was accepted to law school, but my—” How could she tell him how Westley broke her heart? Just the mere thought of their breakup sent her stomach in a whirling—and not in a good way. Her eyes and heart ached with pain. “My plans changed. For the time being. I’ll be here for the next year.”

Eric flexed his sexy forearms. “I heard the Laurents moved back. I’m surprised Preston took the large house. It’s a lot to keep up with just one man.”

The property was extensive. Indoor and outdoor swimming pools, outdoor tennis courts, a lake, miles of walking trails, plus the grounds. “It’s a lot to take on. We’re hoping to open it as a venue and offer historical tours.”

“Hey!” Angie called from the fryer. “You’ve got a line clear to the road.”
Charlotte turned to see a trail of people stamping their feet and looking impatient. “I should go.”

She held up the bag. “Thank you so much.”
Eric continued to hold eye contact. “Come by anytime for more. We have plenty where they came from.”

Angie coughed loudly.

Charlotte knew the cue. “Thank you, again.” She turned and walked along the long line. When she reached her car, she heard footsteps behind her.

Eric came up behind her, shirt flapping, and handed her a flyer. “I forgot to give you this. It’s an invite to the fall events here in Sugar Creek. We have hayrides, a fall festival with corn mazes, and a tractor pull contest. Hayrides every night at the tree lot by the pond. We’ll be there tonight, selling donuts and creemees—the last of the season.” He pointed to the calendar. “My favorite is the pumpkin contest. Old Don Hardwell wins every year. He has this patch. I don’t know what he feeds it. Giant food or something, because he always grows these monstrous pumpkins…”

He held out his arms to show how big the pumpkins were.

All Charlotte saw were his hulking biceps. She stared stupidly, trying not to be too obvious she was checking him out. And she completely missed what he said next.

He dropped his arms. “Well, I hope you can come. Our dairy sponsors it.”

“Sounds like fun.” It was the first time in a week that her heart didn’t squeeze at the thought of social interaction. “I’ll bring Preston.”

“Oh.” He glanced away.

Something was wrong. “What?”

He kicked the ground with his work boots. “Preston and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms.”

“Why not?”

He lifted off his hat and set it on his head again, focusing on the horizon behind her. His white Sweet Milk Dairy shirt hugged his slim waist all the way to his snug jeans. Why wouldn’t he be talking to Preston?
He lowered his brows and stuffed his hands into his back jean pockets. “We don’t exactly see eye to eye on a certain issue. You’ll find out soon enough.” With a slight smile, he walked backwards and then turned. “See you ’round, neighbor,” he said over his shoulder.

Puzzled, Charlotte started the car and pulled onto the main road again. After turning off to the driveway, she pulled up to the front of the Laurent mansion. She hadn’t been here since last Christmas when the whole family gathered for Papa Laurent’s seventieth birthday, almost a year ago. The wreaths and the lights on the windows were replaced with scads of pumpkins and mums crowding the brick steps up to the double doorway with a paladin window.

Seeing Preston on the front porch returned all the earlier emotions about Westley. She burst into tears. At last she was home, and she had someone to help carry her broken heart.

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