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Love Redesigned: Chapter 23

Julian

When I got my mom’s 911 text ten minutes ago during one of my last meetings of the day, I assumed a tent might be on fire or a cat stuck in a tree, but a quick walk through the park shows nothing amiss outside of the usual Thursday preparations for the weekend.

Come tomorrow, this place will be packed with volunteers since Fridays before the Harvest Festival are considered a town holiday, with everyone taking off from work to help prepare for a full Saturday and Sunday of events.

“You’re here! Thank God.” Mom makes a big show of throwing her arms around me and pulls me into a hug, turning my ears pink as the volunteers stare at us.

It takes an insane amount of strength to pry her off me. “So, what’s the emergency?”

Her shoulders slump. “You’re going to kill me.”

“Only if you don’t get to the point fast enough.”

She pops her hands on her hips. “Luis Julian Lopez Junior. Don’t you dare talk to your mother like that.”

I swipe a frustrated hand down my face, erasing my scowl. “Sorry, Ma. I’m exhausted from the week.” After a day full of meetings while avoiding Dahlia in my own office building, I’m spent.

“Make it up to me by saying you’ll go to Detroit. Tonight.”

“Whatever you need.”

She wipes her damp forehead. “I knew I could count on you.”

“What’s the issue?”

“I screwed up the dates for the festival with the rental company, so now I’m short on chairs and tables. The original one I chose for the event is booked solid, so I found another in Detroit that has enough.”

“Why can’t they come here?”

“They don’t deliver this far.”

There goes my date with a bottle of Merlot and a premade meal. “Do they know I’m coming?”

“Yes, but you’ll need to borrow Fred’s moving truck.”

“Fred Davis?”

She grimaces. “Yeah.”

“He hates me.” The owner of the only moving company in town has loathed me since I accidentally plowed over his award-winning flower bed while learning how to drive with my dad.

“I know he does, which is exactly why you’ll have Dahlia there to soften him up.”

Where Fred’s hatred for me has never wavered, his appreciation for Dahlia only blossomed after she singlehandedly saved the flower bed I nearly destroyed.

“I don’t need Dahlia’s help,” I say with a scowl.

“We both know you do, which is why I already sent her over to Fred’s with a basket of Alana’s baked goods and a fifty-dollar Holy Smokes BBQ voucher.”

Dammit.


“Look at these roses.” Dahlia flashes Fred a beautiful smile that makes the stunning flowers around her fade into the background. The usual tightness in my chest returns at the sight of her, making breathing a chore.

Will you ever get used to her being around?

Based on the uneven thump of my heart, the answer will remain a resounding no.

A twig snaps beneath my shoes, and her eyes flick over to me.

Fred turns on his heels, making his white-haired toupee flap from the sudden movement. “You.

“Hey, Fred,” I say with a half-assed wave.

“If you know what’s good for ya, you’ll get lost before I go searchin’ for my granddaddy’s rifle.”

Dahlia muffles her laugh with the palm of her hand.

Glad one of us is amused.

I take a stab at being mature. “I want to be here as much as you want me here.”

“Then feel free to see yourself off my property.” He turns toward Dahlia.

“Mr. Davis,” Dahlia says in that sweet-as-sin voice of hers. “The town could use your help.” She uses those damn puppy eyes again—all big eyes and batted lashes—turning poor Mr. Davis into her latest victim. I’ve seen her use the same kind of tactic repeatedly throughout our lives. When we were teens, I hated it because there wasn’t a situation Dahlia couldn’t charm her way out of.

No one stands a chance against her when she does that thing with her bottom lip.

Fred lasts three whole seconds before breaking down. “Fine. But only if Dahlia stays with the truck the whole time.”

“Of course!” She claps her hands together.

Fred disappears into the house.

Dahlia turns toward me with a wicked grin. “And that’s how it’s done.”


“So how long will the trip take?” Dahlia asks as I turn onto the main road leading into town.

The brakes squeal as the twenty-six-foot truck jerks to a stop. “What?”

She checks her phone. “The highway is congested because of construction, so we probably won’t get there until after the sun goes down.”

“You’re not coming with me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m dropping you off at your house.”

“Not if you plan on borrowing Fred’s truck.”

I angle my head in her direction. “Are you threatening me?”

“More like exploiting the situation for my benefit.”

My fingers turn white from clenching the steering wheel. “What do you need to do in Detroit?”

“I wanted to pick up a few supplies since I left most of mine back in San Francisco.”

“Like what?”

“Things that can’t be found at the general market on Main. Tracing paper, drafting tape, alcohol markers, etcetera.”

“Give me a list, and I’ll grab them.”

She peeks over at me through the corner of her eye. “The idea of being in a car with me for a few hours bothers you that much?”

While I’m tempted to agree, I don’t want to give her the satisfaction of being right. So, instead, I say something incredibly stupid. “I was trying to be nice and save you the trip.”

She laughs to herself. “Sure you were.”

My hands clench around the steering wheel as I pass Town Square and head toward the one-way road out of town with the one woman I was trying to stay away from.


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