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Love Redesigned: Chapter 27

Dahlia

It’s easy to spend the rest of the morning in our own little bubble while picking up the party supplies and driving back to Lake Wisteria. With Julian playing our favorite songs from high school while I belt out the lyrics at the top of my lungs, time flies as we drive back to town.

I’m hit with a weird feeling when Julian removes his hand from my thigh, and I mourn the loss as we drive toward the park where the Harvest Festival is being set up.

We both stick to opposite ends of the park while we help his mom with anything she needs for tomorrow’s event. Julian holds true to his promise of not touching me in public, although I do catch him staring at me a few times with a strange expression on his face.

I wake up Saturday pleasantly surprised by the way I’m buzzing with excitement rather than feeling heavy with dread. It’s a positive sign I plan on sharing with my therapist during our next session, and one I plan on taking full advantage of today as I head to the Harvest Festival for my morning shift.

Not many people are interested in buñuelos at this time of day, so I entertain myself by watching Julian struggle his way through running the champurrado booth.

“All good?” I ask when he curses at himself in Spanish.

He wipes his face with the back of his hand. “Perfect.”

“Hey, mister. Hurry up! I’m losing my patience here,” a ten-year-old hollers from the back of the line.

I laugh as a few others start a chant.

“Thank God I’m never having children,” he mutters under his breath.

“No?” I’m surprised I can manage the word with how tight my throat feels.

“Don’t tell me you want them after listening to these guys all morning.”

I take a huge bite out of a buñuelo despite my stomach rolling while Julian makes his way through the line of children at a snail’s pace. A few of the kids find their way over to my booth after they pay him, and I set them each up with a mini buñuelo and a suggestion to dip it into the drink Julian made.

“That’s disgusting.” Julian’s nose twitches.

“You haven’t tried it.”

A kid follows my advice, and his eyes light up. “This is awesome!” He holds up his hand.

I high-five him before turning to Julian. “Told you so.”

“No one likes a know-it-all.”

“I wanna try!” The blonde girl I saw with Alana pops out from behind a group of kids and passes me a hundred-dollar bill.

“Umm…one second.” I open the cash register and attempt to gather enough bills together to give her change.

“Don’t worry about that.” A deep male voice has me turning to find the blond guy I’d seen with her before.

What was his name again? Al?

I hold the crisp bill in the air for him to see. “She gave me a hundred-dollar bill.”

“Save it for college.” The little girl winks.

While I’m flattered she thinks I look young enough to attend college, I’m mildly concerned that she hands out hundreds like singles.

“Are you Alana’s kid?” I throw some batter into the fryer.

“Yup! I’m Cami.”

“You know my fiancée?” the man—possibly Al—asks.

“Yup. The three of us went to high school together.” I point my thumb back at Julian, who scowls at the man across from me.

“You didn’t tell me that, Julian,” Al says.

“You didn’t ask,” Julian replies with a bored tone.

Hm. “You two know each other?”

“I remodeled his house last year,” Julian states.

“Of course you did.”

Alana’s fiancé offers me his hand. “Callahan Kane.”

Callahan freaking Kane?

I’ve been in the presence of American royalty and I had no idea. While Declan Kane, the eldest grandson of the Kane Company’s founder, is instantly recognizable given the number of articles published about him becoming CEO, Callahan Kane has been under the radar and out of the press spotlight for years.

If I were an heir to the biggest media conglomerate and Dreamland theme park empire, I would want to stay out of the public eye too. Those reporters are vicious, and I can’t think of a better target than three handsome billionaires.

“I had no idea you went to high school with my fiancée,” Callahan says.

I regain control of myself. “Julian and I weren’t exactly part of the cool crowd.”

“No?”

“We were a bit busy making honor roll and whatnot.”

“Ahh. Got it.” His head tilts and his eyes squint in a way I know all too well. “Wait. Are you that interior designer who has a show on TV?”

My cheeks heat. “Yup.”

“I knew it! My sister-in-law is a huge fan of your show.”

“Really?” I manage to squeak out.

“Oh, yeah. She binged all your episodes before renovating her house.”

“That’s nice.” My nerves take over because a freaking Kane watches my show.

His smile is nothing but warm. “I didn’t realize you were from around here.”

“Born and raised.” I throw a thumbs-up like a complete loser.

“Do you plan on sticking around town for a while between filming seasons?”

“Um…sure.”

Julian tenses.

Callahan claps his hands together. “That’s great news because my brother and his wife want to buy a property around here, so I’m sure they’ll need a local interior designer. I know Iris will flip out if you’re free.”

Me? Designing a house belonging to the Kane family? I’m afraid I might pass out at the mere idea.

Julian’s glare could increase the world’s temperature by a few degrees. “She’s not available.”

She can speak for herself.” I turn toward Alana’s fiancé with a small smile. “I might be filming by the time that happens, but even if I am, I’d still love to help your family.”

“Dahlia!” Alana rushes over. “I should have guessed you would be working the buñuelos booth this year.” She pulls me into a hug before grabbing Cami’s hand and tugging her away from the booth. “I told you no more sweets until after lunch.”

“But Cal said it was okay.”

Alana shoots him a look. “Did he now?”

He lifts his hands in the air. “You try saying no to her when she does that thing.”

As if on command, the girl pops out her bottom lip and wobbles it, making me laugh.

Alana spares me a halfhearted glare. “Don’t encourage her.”

“He’s right. I wouldn’t stand a chance at saying no to that kid.”

“When you have a kid, you’ll understand.”

My smile slips as a cold feeling of dread takes over. “I’m sure I will,” I manage to say despite the invisible rope wrapped around my throat.

Alana’s expression quickly morphs into one I recognize all too well. “Is everything okay?”

Julian’s head snaps in my direction.

I plaster on the same fake smile I wore while filming the entire last season of my show. “Yup. All good.”


My phone vibrates in my back pocket. I pull it out and read the name before facing Julian. “Hey. Do you mind watching the booth for a second?”

Julian’s brows scrunch together. “Everything fine?”

That’s the third time he’s asked me the same question in the last hour, and while my answer hasn’t changed, his concern has.

“Hope so. Be right back.” I throw him one last wave over my shoulder before taking off down a row of booths.

I don’t answer Jamie’s call until I’m out of sight and earshot of any festival attendees or volunteers.

“Hey!” Though Jamie and I haven’t worked together long, whenever she hits that high pitch, I know something is up.

“Hi.”

“So…” she says. “I swear I wouldn’t have called you unless I thought this was important.”

“Oh? Is everything all right?”

She pauses for the longest three seconds of my life. “No.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Oliver was caught outside of a club in Vegas by paparazzi last night.”

“Okay.” Acid climbs up my throat.

“I think the whole thing was staged.”

“What was?”

“I don’t know how to say this.”

I feel like I swallowed a rock. “What’s going on?”

“He eloped.”

“I’m sorry. Who eloped?”

“Oliver.”

I squeeze my eyes shut as I’m hit with a dizzy spell.

“I’m sorry, Dahlia. I wish I didn’t have to be the one to break the news to you, but I thought you deserved to hear it from someone in your corner.”

My breaths come out in short bursts. The tingling in my left arm has me debating whether I’m going into cardiac arrest or suffering from another panic attack.

Jamie shuffles some papers on the other side of the phone. “According to the article in the Golden Gate Gazette, he was reunited with his high school sweetheart during a family trip to the Swiss Alps a couple of weeks ago.”

“Olivia Carmichael?” I’m surprised I can manage a single word.

“Yes, but—”

I stop hearing her. It’s an impossible task anyway with the way my ears ring.

Oliver’s mother wouldn’t shut up about how Olivia was the one who got away. With the way the Creswells spoke of the Carmichaels’ daughter’s perfect pedigree, one would assume the family was breeding horses rather than people.

I bet she can give him the perfect kids he and his mother want.

Rage quickly replaces the shock. My emotions rise to the surface, more chaotic and dangerous than a riptide.

Surprisingly, I’m not upset with Oliver.

I’m angry at myself.

“Thanks for the update, Jamie,” I say despite the tightness in my throat.

“I’ve already got my people on the phone managing PR. There are many fans rallying behind you on social media.”

“That’s good.”

Her long pause reminds me of a death knell. “But because of everything going on in the media…”

The pounding in my ears can’t drown out her next sentence.

“The network is pulling out. They don’t want to get involved in all this drama.”

“But…” My voice cracks.

“I’m so sorry. I tried my hardest to save the deal, but they thought it was best for you to pursue other options.”

“Of course. I totally understand.” I try to keep my tone light.

“Give me time to find the perfect home for your show.”

Right.”

“I mean it, Dahlia. You’re talented, and once the dust settles, people will be begging to work with you.”

I appreciate her vote of confidence, but the catastrophizer in me is questioning if anyone in the industry will touch me with a ten-foot mic pole after all this drama.

This is your anxiety talking. I try to reason with myself.

Is it, or am I being realistic after losing the deal because of Oliver?

“I’ve got to go.” I hang up the call and walk away from the festival. Almost all the businesses in town are closed except for one.

Last Call.

Making a choice between crying my eyes out or heading to the bar is a no-brainer, although I’m sure I’ll regret my decision later.

You’re not supposed to numb your depression with alcohol.

Tomorrow, I plan on confronting my feelings, but today, I need a break. Plus, a few drinks won’t send me into a downward spiral.

Or so I hope.

The smell of stale beer makes my nose twitch, but I ignore it as I drop onto a stool across from the bar owner. “Hey, Henry.”

“Dahlia? What are you doing here?”

“Getting a drink.”

His brows scrunch together. “Are you okay?”

“I will be once you pour me a shot of tequila.” I reach for my purse, only to remember I left it back at the booth. “Shit. I forgot my purse.”

“I got you.” A guy from across the bar lifts his glass of brown liquor in my direction.

I frown. “And who are you?”

“Depends on who is asking.”

I look around the empty dive bar.

His lips twitch. “Lorenzo. You?”

“Someone who isn’t interested in talking.”

Henry snorts as he grabs an empty shot glass and fills it up to the top with tequila. “It’s on the house.”

“I’ll come back and pay you tomorrow.”

“I know you’re good for it.”

I reach for the glass and knock it back. The alcohol blazes a burning trail down my throat, helping with the anger.

My phone vibrates throughout the next hour from incoming texts from Julian.

SECOND BEST

Where did you go?

SECOND BEST

Is everything okay?

SECOND BEST

Stop screwing around and answer me.

His last text makes my entire chest ache.

SECOND BEST

Tell me what’s wrong and I’ll fix it.

I’m afraid not even Julian, the ultimate fixer, can repair the damage that’s been done to my career, self-esteem, and confidence.

But look at all the progress you’ve made.

Sure, I’ve improved somewhat thanks to therapy, meds, and taking on a new project with Julian, but the darkness is creeping back in, threatening to destroy all my hard work.

Having one bad day doesn’t discount ten good ones.

Then why do I feel like a failure for running away from my fears and drowning my sadness with alcohol?

Maybe because you are a failure, the toxic thought strikes out like a venomous cobra.

I hold my glass out for Henry. “Another one, please.”


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