Love Redesigned: Chapter 33

Dahlia

After spending the last five minutes questioning my sanity, I grab Julian and bring him into the house.

“What are we—”

“Shh!” I whisper.

Julian wipes his forehead with the bottom of his T-shirt, giving me a glimpse of his abs.

A low rumble akin to furniture being dragged across the floor has the hairs on my arms rising. “That! Did you hear it?”

“It’s probably Ryder upstairs drilling something.”

My eyes widen. “That’s not possible. Ryder and the rest of the team left an hour ago.”

Usually, I would also have headed out, but I didn’t want to ditch Julian, so I stuck around and took advantage of my newly healed left arm. Without the cast, I’m able to work throughout the house on little projects, like paint swatches, testing wallpaper samples, and obsessing over whether or not I should picture-frame mold half the house.

Another scraping noise has me stepping closer to Julian. “I know you heard that one.”

“Are you sure Ryder left?” he asks.

I nod. “Positive.”

Julian shrugs. “It could be materials rubbing—”

“Together as the house cools down. Yeah, no. I’m not buying it, Mr. I Don’t Believe In…” I let the statement hang.

“Ghosts?”

I press my index finger against my lips. “Shh! Don’t say the word!”

His eyes roll as the chandelier above our heads flickers.

“Ah!” I shriek and clasp Julian’s hand in a death grip.

He attempts to pry my fingers off, but to no avail. “Can you relax?”

I scowl. “You know what happens when you tell an anxious person to relax?”

“What?”

I squeeze his hand harder. “The complete freaking opposite!”

His heavy sigh comes off as condescending. “The electrical crew was here today working on that same chandelier.”

A sudden cold draft blasts through the air vents, sending the hairs on my arms rising. “Want to explain that?”

“Explain what?”

“Forget it.” My voice drops low enough for only Julian to hear. “I think he’s here.”

“Who is here?”

“G.B.,” I squeak.

“G.B.?” He pauses for a few seconds. “Oh. Gerald Baker?”

“Are you for real right now?” I pinch him between the ribs.

He rubs the sore spot. “Ow. What was that for?”

“Don’t say his name aloud.”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.”

I frown. “I swear, it’s like you have never seen a scary movie before.”

“Why?”

“Because you wouldn’t be saying that if you had.”

“What happens to the person who says that?” he asks with a neutral tone, although his eyes glimmer with hidden amusement.

“They end up like G.B.” I drag my middle finger across my throat and make a slashing noise.

“You’re so—” His voice cuts out, along with the electricity.

“Julian!” I wrap my arms around his waist.

He pulls out his cell phone and turns on the flashlight, nearly blinding me. I’m too afraid to extract myself, so I hold on like a baby monkey as he walks toward the stairs.

I dig my feet into the floor in a wasted attempt to stop him. “Where are you going?”

“To go find the breaker panel.” He attempts to break my hold.

“No!”

A chilling sound echoes through the house.

Julian’s eyes widen.

My voice drops. “What the hell was that?”

His Adam’s apple bobs. “I don’t know.”

“Did that sound like Ryder to you?”

“Maybe a wounded animal got into the attic?”

“Yeah, and what? Bit the electrical cables and caused a power outage?”

He makes a face. “Plausible. It happened once with a lizard that fell into a power box at one of our sites.”

I rub my throbbing temple. “Will you stop being so damn logical for once?”

“Would you prefer for me to break out into hysterics like you?”

“I am not breaking out into hysterics.”

Another hair-raising sound echoes through the corridor above, followed by the ominous sound of a hacking cough.

Julian only makes it up one step before my fingernails are embedded into his arm.

“You can’t go up there.”

He pats my hand like one would a scared child. “Don’t worry. I’ll be back.”

“No! You can’t say shit like that!”

“You’re something else.” He shakes his head and laughs before darting up the stairs with his phone in hand.

I turn my phone’s flashlight on and stay frozen in place as he disappears up the stairs and around the corner in the direction of the east wing.

“Julian!” I whisper-shout a minute later, only to have my call go unanswered.

“Seriously. Quit fooling around and come back here. We can fix the power tomorrow, once it’s daytime.” I speak louder this time.

Something crashes above, sending my heart into overdrive. “Julian?”

I last four whole minutes without power or proof of life before I walk up the steps myself.

“If he’s not dead by the time I get up there, then I’m going to kill him myself.” My own voice can barely be heard over the hard pounding of my heart.

“Julian? Where are you?” I call out as I reach the landing.

I call his phone again, but it goes directly to voicemail.

Shit.

A noise similar to heavy furniture being moved around sounds from above.

“Not the attic,” I moan to myself.

My neck tingles, and a sensation of being watched makes the hairs on my arms rise.

I don’t turn around despite wanting to check if someone or something is behind me. “Hey, Gerald. We come in peace. Please don’t kill me or my naïve friend who doubted your existence. I swear he didn’t mean it when he said ghosts aren’t real.”

The feeling of being observed never goes away as I walk toward the stairs leading up to the attic.

I pause at the bottom step. “Julian? Are you up there?”

The door to the attic is shut, and a soft light that matches Julian’s flashlight pours through the bottom crack.

I press a hand against my chest, right over my racing heart.

You’re Dahlia Muñoz. You’re not afraid of anything.

Says the woman diagnosed with anxiety when she was a teen.

Despite my stomach churning, I climb the stairs before stopping in front of the attic door. After a second of hesitation, I roll my shoulders back and turn the knob.

The door opens with a creak, and I take a cautious step inside. Another blast of cold air hits me from behind, and the door slams shut, causing me to jump in place.

“Hello?” I’m afraid I might burst into tears if anything else happens.

Soft scampering has me turning my flashlight in the direction of the noise.

“Oh, fuck!” My phone drops as I let out a bloodcurdling scream.

A massive, fuzzy spider with beaming red eyes, incisors the size of my fist, and legs the width of my thighs stares back at me.

It moves, and I lose my shit.

“Julian!” I scream.

Light floods the attic, and it takes me a few seconds to process the laughs of the two walking dead men hiding behind the support beams.

“I’m going to kill you!”

Their laughs cut out as they show themselves. I completely ignore Rafa as I launch myself at Julian. He catches me, locking my arms behind my back before I have a chance to wrap them around his throat.

“Gotcha.”

“I hate you!” I lift my foot, only to smash it against the wood floor as Julian avoids my stomp.

He tugs me closer to his chest. “That’s not nice.”

“Neither was setting me up to believe you died!”

Rafa chuckles at his phone screen before the sound of me crying out Julian’s name fills the room.

“I can’t believe you helped him with this.” I jab a finger at him.

Rafa shrugs. “Julian was right. This was fun.”

“Fun? I’m traumatized, you jerk.”

The sound of my screams echoes off the walls as Rafa replays my video again while he walks toward the stairs. “Can’t wait to send this to the family group chat.”

“Rafa! Get back here!” I fight Julian’s hold. My phone pings on the floor. “You sent it already?”

Rafa tips his chin in Julian’s direction. “Thanks for the invite.”

“I’ll be sure to extend one for Julian’s funeral,” I call out.

He turns away and heads down the stairs. “See you on Sunday, Dahlia,” he says from a safe distance.

I lash out against Julian’s hold, only to pause as I rub against something that shouldn’t be hard.

“You’re turned on?”

“With the way you’ve been squirming against me for the last minute, it’s impossible not to be.”

I fight harder, earning a hiss from him.

Good. Serves him right.

“Cut it out, and I’ll let you go,” he says while tightening his grip.

I still in his arms. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“Consider it payback for my office.” He pulls away.

I throw my hands in the air. “What I did was cute! This is…disturbing!”

“Were you scared?”

“Terrified.”

His head tilts. “Yet you still came to my rescue despite being afraid.”

“A temporary lapse in judgment.”

“Were you afraid I got hurt?”

I frown. “More like I was scared you got possessed by a demon, but then I should have remembered that’s been the case since you were born.”

His smile expands, easing some of my annoyance. “You called my name when you were afraid.”

“I shouldn’t be held responsible for what I said when my life flashed before my eyes.”

He traces my bottom lip with his thumb. “What did you see?”

I slowly brush my hands across his chest, earning the sweetest inhale from him. “You.”

He cups my cheek. “How?”

“You held me like this.” I drag his hands toward my hips.

“And?” His fingers press into my skin.

“And I choked you like this.” I latch my hands around his neck and squeeze hard enough to make his eyes widen for a second.

He places his hands over mine, pressing them deeper into his neck. “If you wanted to act out one of your fantasies, all you had to do was ask.”

I trace a finger down the center of his chest. “It’s not like you would have followed through until my arm was cleared.”

“Speaking of…” He brushes his hand across my left arm.

I shiver as he pushes his hips forward.

“It was a sacrifice I plan on making up for tonight.”

“Why wait until later?” My fingers tremble with anticipation as I reach for his belt and work on undoing it.

“What are you doing?” He attempts to step back, but I hold him in place by the buckle.

“Use context clues.” I pull the undone belt through the loops before tossing it aside.

“I had other plans for you.” His deep voice makes my stomach flutter.

“Save them for later.”

“Dahlia…”

The slide of his zipper sends a shiver skating down my spine. His abs clench as I kneel and pull his pants down far enough to reveal his straining erection pressing against his briefs.

“Did scaring me turn you on?” I swipe my finger across the damp material covering his tip.

“More than it should have.”

“That’s sick.” I tease his length with a featherlight touch.

“I’m aware.”

I kneel before gripping the band of his boxers and sliding them down his thighs to free his dick.

He grips my chin hard. “Maybe I should scare you some more if this is the reward I get.”

I tilt my head back so I can glare properly. “I prefer you when you’re quiet.”

“What—”

I run my tongue up the length of his cock before tracing the tip. His groan has my toes curling within my sneakers, and I repeat the same motion on the other side.

His fingers slide through my hair and hold me in place. “Let me take you out to dinner first.”

“We never agreed to a date.” I flick my tongue across his tip, collecting a drop of his arousal in the process.

My comment earns me the hottest scowl.

“Open.” He practically snarls the word.

My lips part out of surprise rather than submission. Julian doesn’t seem to notice or care about the difference as he slams inside. I gag, digging my fingers into his thighs as I try to find purchase.

It takes me a moment to adjust to his size, and he patiently waits until my eyes are no longer cloudy from my tears.

“Turns out I like you better when you’re quiet too.” He flashes me the most unhinged grin as he repeats the same move, although I’m better prepared to take him this time.

My attempt at controlling the situation slips away as Julian finds his tempo, fucking my mouth in the most deliciously depraved way. I should hate the lack of control—should despise everything about Julian using me like this—but I’m too turned on by it all to care.

I press my thighs together as his gaze burns a hole straight through my heart.

He chants my name in a hoarse voice that makes my stomach muscles tighten. I alternate between flattening my tongue and sucking hard enough to make him hiss.

He curses as he nearly rips my hair out by the roots gripping the back of my head, and I return the bite of pain by digging my nails into the back of his ass hard enough to leave half-moon indentations.

“Do that again and I’ll find a better way to keep your hands occupied.”

Fuck him. I’ll show him.

I lift the hem of my skirt, exposing my soaked underwear.

His gaze follows my every move as I push my underwear to the side and trace my slit. I’m careful to avoid my clit, wanting to drag this process out.

His muscles bulge as he pauses mid-thrust. “Let me see.”

I lift my glistening middle finger into the air.

“Fuck.”

My body lights up like the sky on the Fourth of July.

“Show me how you like to be touched.”

His demand feels like a test in a way, and I’d like nothing more than to pass with flying colors. He pulls back, giving me a moment to collect myself before restarting his ownership of my mouth.

God. This is so wrong.

I spread my thighs wider and match his thrusts with my own. Every pump of my fingers sends a fresh wave of sparks down my spine, and after a minute, my muscles are trembling.

I play with my clit and shudder at the building pressure in my lower belly.

“That’s it, sweetheart.” His maddening pace quickens.

The butterflies in my stomach rage and riot at his nickname, threatening to burst free. My eyes roll into the back of my head as I tease myself to the sounds of his groans.

“Dahlia,” he chants as I wrap my lips around his cock and suck hard enough to make him shake.

“Fuck, sweetheart. You are too fucking good at that.”

Julian cursing twice in one breath? A girl could get used to that.

“Screw this.” He pulls out of my mouth, yanks me to my feet, and drags me by the hand toward the wall with the window facing the lake.

“What are you—” My question gets cut off as he drops to his knees, throws my leg over his shoulder, and yanks my underwear to the side.

He gazes at my pussy like one does a work of art—with utter fascination and devotion. My legs tremble, which seems to snap him out of his trance.

He glides his tongue over my slit, sending sparks down my spine.

“Oh, fuck.” My head knocks back against the wall.

Whatever self-control Julian had snaps as he alternates between long strokes and deep thrusts of his tongue. He studies my reactions like I’m his favorite subject, his attention never straying from my face, and I have to break eye contact multiple times because what reflects in his eyes excites me way more than it should.

I detonate with a single thrust of his finger and a rough tug of my clit with his mouth. My leg locks around his neck as I trap him against my pussy, forcing him to keep going while I ride out my orgasm.

I’m so lost in my lust that I don’t notice Julian’s jerky movements until he is groaning against me. I glance down at the mess he made of the floor.

Holy shit.

Julian came to the sound and taste of me. I’ve never felt more powerful in my life than with him on his knees, still trembling from the aftershocks of his orgasm while he stares up at me with an expression I’m too afraid to dissect.

He got my hopes up once before, and I refuse to fall for it again.

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