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Love Redesigned: Chapter 10

Dahlia

I try my best to ignore my phone pinging, but after the eighth time, I give up. The Lopez-Muñoz family group chat continues to go off before I have a chance to read the first message.

I scroll to the start of the new messages.

JOSEFINA

Why am I finding out from someone who isn’t my son that he and Dahlia are renovating a house together?

MAMI

What? OUR Julian and Dahlia?

Not difficult to conclude, seeing as we’re the only two people in town with those names—for now at least. Lake Wisteria’s census last year reported record-breaking numbers, given our lakeside beach, massive sand dunes, and the rising demand for Julian’s services and his frequent media exposure.

No wonder he wants to maximize opportunities and rezone properties to account for more houses, seeing as he turned our town into his own Monopoly game.

JOSEFINA

Yes. Everyone in town is talking about how they’re buying a house together.

I send a mental thumbs-up emoji.

RAFA

Was Julian held at gunpoint?

LILY

Or was it blackmail?

SECOND BEST

Julian’s name on my phone has my lips curling.

JOSEFINA

To think I spent twenty-seven hours in labor for this kind of disrespect.

RAFA

This is why I’m the favorite son.

Rafa dropping a joke? Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket today.

LILY

Debatable since Julian bought your mom a house.

RAFA

Only because he beat me to it after saying we could split the cost.

LILY

You’re telling me Julian was caught being shady as shit again? Consider me shocked.

MAMI

LILIANA!

All of us grew up without much money, so to go from struggling to pay the mortgage some months to paying it off with a single check has me reeling.

It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that Rafa and Julian are billionaires. While I have enough money to buy whatever my family and I want without feeling guilty, I’ll never achieve their level of success.

I pick up my phone and think of a reply.

ME

Josefina is right. Julian and I are teaming up.

JOSEFINA

Yay!

MAMI

Power couple!

I let my mom’s last text slide because I don’t think she understands the label. She said the same thing about my sister and me when we redecorated her flower shop together a few years ago.

LILY

Am I the only one who’s scared at the idea of those two putting down the sharp objects and working together?

RAFA

Nope.

My phone vibrates with a private text from Julian.

SECOND BEST

The house is ours if you want it.

My mouth drops open. It hasn’t even been two weeks since we agreed to the plan.

ME

For how much?

SECOND BEST

1.2 million

SECOND BEST

We need to decide now because there’s another offer.

ME

Who?

SECOND BEST

Some asshole from Chicago. He is willing to pay more, but I have a good relationship with the seller.

ME

Exploiting others for personal gain? Nice.

SECOND BEST

ME

Just curious. Do I know the other buyer?

SECOND BEST

Declan Kane.

My fingers fly across the screen.

ME

WHAT?

SECOND BEST

You know him?

ME

I know OF him. His family is the biggest name in the entertainment industry.

SECOND BEST

Well, the only thing he is entertaining tonight is a bruised ego.

My cheeks hurt from how long I’ve been smiling.

Snap out of it. This is Julian!

I throw my phone to the opposite side of the bed.

Reserved Julian I can handle. Even competitive Julian can be frustratingly funny at times, although I wouldn’t tell him that solely because his ego doesn’t need any more boosting.

But a joking Julian? I’m not sure I would stand a chance against this kind of behavior. Last thing I need is to stir up old feelings just because he makes me genuinely smile for the first time in months with a few quips.

God help you if your standards for men have fallen that low.

My phone vibrates with another text from Julian. Because I suffer from an inquisitive mind and a lack of self-restraint, I reach for it and read his latest message.

SECOND BEST

Do we have a deal?

ME

Yes.

My heart races as the three dots appear and disappear four different times before the next text comes through.

SECOND BEST

House is ours. I’ll text you the details about scheduling a walk-through once I deal with all the paperwork.

ME

Shouldn’t I be there for that?

SECOND BEST

Do you have a lawyer on retainer who can review all the contracts before tomorrow?

We both know the obvious answer.

ME

On second thought, I’ll sit this one out.

SECOND BEST

I’ll have Sam send you a standard company agreement that will honor your percentage after we sell the house.

I press my phone against my chest and stare at my childhood dream board. Although my design style has changed over the years and I no longer have an obsession with floral prints, my passion for historic homes has never wavered.

Lots of properties in Lake Wisteria have caught my attention, but the Founders’ houses stole my heart the first day my dad drove me past them. There is something about the stunning views, isolated properties, and view of the lake and nearby Historic District that calls to me.

It feels like I’ve spent years waiting for an opportunity like this, and I plan on taking advantage of everything Julian and his company have to offer once I sign on the dotted line.


My sister barrels into my room an hour later wearing a pink cowboy hat and a dress with far too many sparkles. “Grab your comfiest heels and your favorite tube of lipstick because the Muñoz sisters are going out.”

I pause my TV show and sit up in bed. “What? Since when?”

“There’s a costume party at Last Call, and our attendance is required.”

“I don’t know…” While my mood has been improving thanks to my antidepressants and therapy sessions, I don’t want to push myself too hard since there is a fine line between stepping out of my comfort zone and getting sucked into a black hole of panic.

“It’ll be good for you to go out, even if it’s for a little bit.” My sister rummages through my luggage, throwing expensive designer clothes everywhere in the process. Where I am organized to a fault, Lily is the human equivalent of an F5 tornado, wrecking my system of packing cubes and colorcoded outfits within a few seconds.

Honestly, it’s impressive given how long it took me to pack everything.

Lily peeks over her shoulder. “What are you doing sitting there? Get out of bed and go work on your hair and makeup.” She claps her hands together and yells, “Chop chop!”

I wrap a throw blanket around my shoulders. “I don’t want to see people from town yet.”

She frowns. “Why not?”

I stay quiet.

She rolls her eyes. “You care way too much about what other people think of you.”

“No, I don’t.” My tone comes off annoyingly defensive.

“Then why else would you have spent the last week holed up in here, finding every excuse to avoid going into town?”

I scratch my nose with my middle finger.

Lily chuckles as she tosses a jacket on my bed. “It’s okay. Little sister is here to save the day.”

“How?”

She holds up a sparkly dress in the air, scrunches her nose, and tosses it on top of the growing pile beside her. “Consider tonight your first lesson in the subtle art of not giving a fuck.”

“But—”

Lily holds up her hand. “Give me thirty minutes. If you hate it, then you can come home.”

“What’s the second option?”

She cracks her knuckles. “I will change the Wi-Fi and streaming passwords, hide your collection of Silver Vixen DVDs, and steal your entire overpriced skincare routine.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Are you willing to bet your Dyson Airwrap on it?”

“And people think big sisters are the bullies in the relationship.” I stick out my tongue.

She tugs on the blanket until it slips from my hold and lands on the floor. “Come on. Tonight will be fun, I swear. Plus, ladies drink for free.”

I fidget with one of my rings. “I shouldn’t really be drinking with my medication.”

“I won’t tell anyone you’re sipping mocktails if you don’t.” She winks.

As much as I want to say no, my sister’s excitement won’t allow me to. “Okay. Fine. But only for one drink.”

“Sure. Yeah. Whatever.” She pulls out a red dress from the bottom of my luggage. “Yes! This is perfect.”

“And what am I supposed to be?”

She pulls a triangular piece of paper from her jacket pocket and pins it to the strap of the dress. “I’d rather you be surprised by whoever guesses it right.” She throws the dress at me.

“Lily!”

She rushes out of my room, yelling, “You’ve got fifteen minutes to get ready, so get to it!”


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