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Love Redesigned: Chapter 18


After one lengthy game of Monopoly that ended before a winner could be crowned, Rafa and Nico say goodbye. Josefina and Julian follow their lead five minutes later, so I decide to head out with them and ask Josefina to drop me off at the library.

“Where are you going?” my mom asks as I’m struggling to put on my sneakers.

“I want to stop by the library before they close.”

Mom fidgets with her gold cross necklace. “Do you need to go now? It’s going to get dark soon.”

“It’s five p.m.,” I grunt as I attempt to slide on my sneaker and fail. Julian, in the ultimate fake display of gentlemanly behavior, gets down on one knee to help me.

Mom aws while Josefina has the biggest set of heart eyes. Neither of them can see the way he obnoxiously smirks at me.

Julian has been pulling these stunts since we were teens, with both of our moms doting on him like a prince carrying a glass slipper.

The only princely thing about him is that he is a royal pain in my ass.

He carefully helps me into my sneaker before tying the laces. The slightest graze of his fingers over my ankle sends goose bumps scattering across my skin, earning a deep frown from me.

“Thanks.” The word comes out rushed as he rises to his feet.

I ignore my racing pulse and turn toward Josefina. “Do you mind dropping me off at the library on your way home?”

She frowns. “I would love to, but I have to drive out to the Smiths’ farm to check on a few things for the festival.”

“No worries.”

Her whole face lights up. “But Julian can drive you into town instead.”

“Thanks, but I think I’d rather walk. It’ll be nice to get some fresh air after spending the day inside.” I pull Josefina in for a one-armed hug.

Josefina waves me away. “Nonsense. The library is on Julian’s way home.”

“Hell is already a long enough drive as it is. No need to add another stop along the way.”

Julian chuffs while my mom’s eyes narrow.

“Dahlia,” she chides in that hair-raising voice of hers.

“I’m trying to be polite.”

“I’m not sure you know the meaning of the word,” Julian grumbles under his breath for only me to hear.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that.” I lay it on thick, going as far as batting my lashes.

He frowns.

“Julian doesn’t mind doing me that little favor. Right, mijo?” Josefina reaches out to give his bicep a squeeze.

“Anything for you, Ma.” Julian kisses the top of his mother’s head and my mom’s cheek before looking over at me. “I’ll be in the truck.”

Mom waits until Julian shuts the door to speak. “Will you two ever get along?”

“Rosa,” Josefina warns.

“What? I thought they would grow out of this…”

“Animosity?” I throw it out there.

Immaturity,” my mom finishes.

Ouch. “We can be mature.”

Both her and Josefina’s eyebrows rise.

“When we want to be,” I tack on.

They share a look.

“Whatever. He’s the one who usually starts it.”

Josefina’s eyes lighten. “Nico uses the same logic.”

Being described as immature is one thing, but to be compared to an eight-year-old kid?

My nose twitches in distaste. “I get your point.”

Being around Julian after nearly a decade apart brings out the worst in me. Things between him and me have always been strained, and it only got worse once we went to college and were introduced to a different kind of issue.

Sexual tension.

Mom tucks my hair behind my ears and straightens my necklace. “I hate to see you two bickering.”

Sometimes I do too. There are brief moments when I wish we could go back to the time right before everything changed.

Before our kiss.

Before he destroyed my heart and any hope for us.

Before he dropped out of Stanford and cut himself out of my life, leaving me to grapple with not only losing Luis Senior but his son too.

My chest tightens.

I never told Julian how much it hurt to be kicked to the curb like I didn’t matter.

And you never will.

The car ride to the Historic District is short, with Julian’s playlist filling the silence. It’s not until he pulls up in front of the library that he finally speaks.

“What’s going on?”

I unbuckle my seat belt. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Impossible wherever you’re concerned.”

My stomach flutters again.

“What are you up to?” he asks after a beat of silence.

“I’m going to go find out more about the Founder’s house. Maybe I can learn about Gerald and Francesca and why the place is haunted.”

His jaw clenches. “There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“Didn’t you sleep with a night-light until you were twelve?”

“Only because I had to get up a lot during the night to use the bathroom.” His heated glare has the opposite effect on me.

“Right! I forgot you used to wet the bed too!”

With a frustrated grunt, Julian continues down the road.

“Where are you going?” The library grows smaller in my sideview mirror.

He turns down the next road. “I’m going to park in the lot behind the library.”


“Because I don’t want anyone to witness your murder.”

“You’ll be changing your opinion on ghosts real quick if you kill me today.”

His face remains blank as he makes a right turn and pulls into a parking space.

I hop out of the truck before he has a chance to say something and head inside the library. The faint smell of old books and recently brewed coffee lingers in the air as I make my way over to Beth, the librarian, who sits behind the help desk.

I’m so focused on my mission to get the special key to access old newspapers that I don’t have a chance to become anxious about seeing her.

Look at that progress.

“Hi, Beth.” I lean against the counter with a hesitant smile. Beth has been working here since I was a kid, with hair the size of Texas and a wardrobe straight out of the 1950s.

“Dahlia! I heard you were back!” She drops a stack of books before running around the desk with her arms wide open.

I hold up my cast to stop her from pulling me into a hug.

She frowns. “What happened?”

“Fell off a ladder. How are you?”

She holds me at arm’s length and assesses. “Better now that you stopped by to visit. It’s been a good while since I last saw you.”

“I know.” Staying away was easy compared to the alternative.

Facing the fractured person I have become.

“If I had known you were stopping by, I would have brought my copy of your design book.”

“You bought one?”

She beams. “Of course!”

Something in my chest swells.

“I’ve kept up with all the latest and greatest things you’ve been up to. Team Dahlia forever, am I right?” She holds her hand out for me to slap.

“Right.” I barely manage to hide my flinch as I high-five her.

“Do you plan on sticking around forever now that you and that Olive broke up?”

Beth is the first person in town to address my ex—albeit incorrectly—yet instead of panic, I’m hit with a burst of laughter.

“I’m not sure about that. I doubt Julian and I can last more than a few months in the same place without killing each other, so I’ll be heading back to San Francisco by the new year.”

Beth looks over my head with a raised brow. “Julian Lopez? What are you doing here?”

My muscles go rigid as I turn to find Julian glaring at me.

“I’m with her.”

“Why?” I blurt out.

The vein in his cheek flexes as he ignores my question.

“Do I need to remind you two about the rules?” She nods toward the plaque behind the desk. A majority of the library rules were added after a few incidents between Julian and me over the years with lighters, air horns, and Nerf guns.

“No, ma’am,” we both say at the same time.

“Well, what can I help you with?” Beth returns to her post behind the counter.

“I’m looking to check out some old newspaper clippings.”

Beth opens up a drawer and pulls out a set of keys. “Anything in particular you’re searching for?”

“Anything on the blue Founder’s house.”


“You’ve heard about it?”

“You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t.” She holds out the key ring for me. “Clippings should be organized in chronological order based on year, and the projector is located in the room beside the bathroom if you need it.”

“Thank you!” I snatch the keys.

“Library closes in an hour,” she adds.

“You got it!” I head toward the filing cabinets at the back.

Julian remains quiet as I sift through the first drawer of Wisteria Weekly newspapers dating back to when the town was founded in the late 1890s. I scan the headlines, searching for any information that might be helpful.

My eyes blur after the first fifty clippings. At this painstakingly slow rate, I’m only going to make it through four years of Wisteria Weeklies before the library closes.

The incessant tapping of Julian’s fingers against the screen of his phone doesn’t help matters, and I find myself scowling at him.

“I know it’s a hard ask, but will you at least try to make yourself useful?”

“You didn’t ask.”

Who is he to talk? I’m pretty sure if Julian were on fire, he would do everything possible to put himself out before asking anyone for help because he is that stubborn.

Doesn’t mean you have to be. “Will you please help me?”

“I love it when you say please.” His deep baritone voice does things to my lower half that should be deemed illegal.

I shut the drawer hard enough to make the cabinet shake. “Asshole.”

Sweetheart.” He throws the old nickname in my face. Once upon a time, back when I won a beauty pageant after he bet I couldn’t place in the top three, sweetheart was Julian’s favorite nickname for me.

He hasn’t called me that since college, right after he kissed me senseless.

A kiss he regretted instantly.

Screw him.

I tug open the first drawer within grabbing distance and point at the file in front. “Scan the pages for anything related to the house, Gerald Baker, or someone named Francesca.”

“I think I found something.” Julian’s eyes flick over the clipping in his hand.

“What?” After thirty minutes of scanning newspapers, I can’t contain the excitement in my voice.

“Follow me.” Julian leads us toward a nearby table.

He pulls my chair out and waits. I slide in, and the tips of his fingers brush across my shoulder blades as he pushes me closer to the table. Thankfully, my harsh inhale isn’t heard over the scraping of the chair legs against the floor.

Julian’s arm brushes up against mine as he points to the headline. My body leans into his touch before I snap out of whatever spell he has me under.

“Gerald died before the house was fully completed.”

I blink. “No!”

“Look.” He shoves the article toward me before scooting his chair away.

I read the article with a frown. According to the reporter, Gerald died from a bacterial infection and was survived by his two dogs. Town sources close to Gerald mentioned how he refused to go to the hospital because he wanted to die in the comfort of his half-finished home.

My eyes itch. “That’s so freaking sad.”

“Stories like this make me glad I was born after penicillin was invented.”

I check out the grainy image of Gerald holding a shovel in front of a plot of land. “He never lived long enough to see his house get completed.”

“It appears not.”

“Or marry his true love.”

“Not many do.” There is a slight edge to his voice.

“She must have been heartbroken when she got the news about his death.”


I rear back. “What do you mean why? Because they were in love.”

“If she truly loved him, she would have stuck by his side from the beginning.”

“He was the one who told her not to come until the town was finished.”

“Then it was her mistake to listen to him.”

I can’t help feeling defensive over Francesca and her choices, especially when I see a bit of her in myself. “She waited for him, wrote him letters, and held on to a dream that one day they would get married despite the odds stacked against them. That’s what people do when they’re in love.”

“So you say.”

The audacity of this man. “For someone who has never been in love, you sure have a lot of opinions on the matter.”

The vein in his neck pulses with each erratic beat of his heart.

I continue, “What if he was the one who didn’t want to take the risk on her? What if she begged to join him, but he shut her down time and time again? He could have asked her to marry him at any time, and perhaps her father would have agreed because he wanted what was best for his daughter.”

“That’s a lot of assumptions.”

“You’re the one jumping to conclusions here by judging her for not being brave enough to join him, when maybe he was the one too afraid of the risks. Maybe he should have built a life with her rather than erecting a wall to keep her out.”

Shit. Shit. Shit!

His fist clenches and unclenches against the table. “Dahlia—”

My gaze dips back to the newspaper in the worst attempt to hide my flushed face. “Anyway, Gerald is probably the ghost, so the case is solved.”

“I never judged you.” Despite his whispering, he might as well have shouted the words.

“I was talking about Francesca.” I stand.

He does the same. “Funny, because for a moment, it felt like you were talking about us.”

My throat feels like he wrapped both hands around it and squeezed. “That’s quite the narcissistic assumption of you.”

No mames. Háblame.”

I drag my eyes away from his balled-up fists. “You’re about ten years too late for that conversation, don’t you think?”

“Clearly this is a big mistake.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time you said that.”

He opens his mouth, only to slam it shut.

Truth is, I can give Julian a hundred different chances to explain his choice to push me away, but it won’t change the truth he made painfully obvious.

He didn’t want me.

A bitter laugh claws its way up my throat. “It’s fine.”

“I never meant to hurt you.” He exposes my insecurities with a single sentence.

Háblame: Talk to me.

“You didn’t,” I lie.

“What I did…” He loses his voice, along with whatever nerve he had found in the first place.

Good. I prefer it that way.

“Things happen the way they’re meant to,” I say.

He folds and unfolds the newspaper, only to refold it again. “I never expected you to go into design too.”

He would have if he had given me a chance to explain my hopes and fears instead of assuming he knew what was best for me by pushing me to stay at Stanford to finish a political science degree I never wanted.

I was always interested in design—that much became obvious when my parents were remodeling our house and relied on me to choose most of the finishes and furniture—but I never vocalized it since they were set on me getting some kind of professional degree.

“I took a class or two before you left.” Plus, I joined a club and got a mentor from the interior design program because I wanted to learn more without switching majors.

His brows rise. “I had no idea.”

“Nobody did.” I spent the better part of my life swearing I would become a badass lawyer, in part because my parents wanted me to have a stable, well-paying job, so the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint them by blowing a full ride to Stanford on a career that wasn’t guaranteed to be successful.

Fans think my political science major–turned–interior designer story is endearing, but it really represents my lifetime struggle with the fear of failing.

He stays quiet while he seems to work through the mental puzzle of our memories. “When you made the offer to come and work with me at the company…”

“No need to dredge up the past. It’s not like we can go back and change anything.”

“Sometimes, I wish I could.”

Breathing becomes a laborious task with how much my lungs ache.

He breaks eye contact. “I always regretted how I went about things with us. I didn’t—” His reply is cut off by Beth popping out from behind a bookcase.

“Library is closing, kids! You’ll have to wrap this up and come back tomorrow because I’ve got a date with a pint of ice cream that can’t be postponed.”

“Thanks, Beth.” I ignore Julian’s pinched expression as I hand her the keys and head back to the filing cabinet with the newspaper.

Julian doesn’t say anything else. Not when we climb into his truck. Not during the drive back to my house, and certainly not before I escape inside with a small shred of dignity intact.

I slipped up earlier. Being around Julian again after all this time is like opening up an old wound, and instead of remaining level-headed, I let my emotions get the best of me.

Despite my efforts to forget the conversation we had, I’m stuck replaying the whole exchange after I crawl into bed for the night.

What was he about to say before Beth interrupted us?

Did he mean what he said about not judging me? Because it seems impossible after I ended up dating his roommate, whom he once considered a friend.

And what would have happened if I had confessed that he isn’t the only one who regrets his actions, because I do too?


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