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Love Redesigned: Chapter 34

Julian

After cleaning the floor and fixing our clothes, I take advantage of Dahlia’s post-orgasm bliss before she has a chance to come to her senses.

“Have dinner with me?” The words rush out of my mouth as I grab her hand and tug her away from the attic door.

Her eyes widen. “You were serious about that?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“My place.”

She glares. “I should say no after the prank you pulled.”

“But you won’t.” I kiss her knuckles.

Her brow rises in a silent taunt. “You sure about that?”

“Don’t make me beg.”

“I’d love nothing more.” She pushes on my shoulder with a single finger. “Ask me again. On your knees.”

Dahlia is the only woman I would enthusiastically get down on my knees for, and I prove it to her as I follow her order.

I tease her hip with the pad of my thumb. “Put me out of my misery and say yes.”

“That’s possible?” Her eyes gleam.

“Hilarious.”

“Fine. I’ll join you, but only because you’re doing that sad puppy dog look again.”

I had no idea I had one, but I’m glad to have the weapon in my arsenal as far as she is concerned.

“Let’s go before I change my mind.” Dahlia interlocks our fingers and pulls me through the house and out the front door. We stop in front of her car, right beside the driver’s side.

“What are you thinking about having for dinner?” she asks as she digs through her purse for her keys.

I cage her against the door and steal one last kiss. “Takeout.”

“So much for being a good dirty talker.”

“You asked me what I wanted for dinner. Not dessert.”

Her skin turns the prettiest shade of pink. “Oh.”

I trace the curve of her cheek with my thumb. “Is there anything you’re in the mood for in particular?”

“Some sushi from Aomi sounds amazing.”

It takes me a moment to process her request. “That fancy place in New York?”

“Yeah.” She laughs. “But anyway, joke aside, I’m up for whatever. Surprise me.”

“That I can do.” I kiss her forehead before grabbing my key ring and detaching the one to the house. “Here.”

She gapes at the key. “Moving a little fast, aren’t you?”

“Shut up and take it before I revoke your chance to snoop around without me being there.”

Her face lights up. “¿Neta?” The slight raised pitch in her tone makes the possible blackmail worth it.

I’m positive Dahlia’s love for investigating began when she borrowed her first Nancy Drew book from the library, and it’s never stopped.

I dangle the key in front of her, keeping my grip tight to stop her from noticing my twitching muscles. “Stay downstairs.”

She cocks a brow. “What are you hiding up there?”

My heart thumps wildly in my chest. “You’ll have to wait and see.”


Dahlia takes off toward my house while I drive to town. While I can’t get her sushi from Aomi at the last minute, I place an order with Lake Wisteria’s best—and only—sushi spot before they close their doors for the night.

Although I planned on taking the long way back home to give her time to conduct a thorough investigation of my place, I decide differently. I’m afraid she might end up going upstairs and checking out my bedroom solely to satiate her curiosity.

Unlike the usual oppressive loneliness that hits me whenever I turn into my driveway, my body buzzes with anticipation as I park my car in the garage and walk inside the brightly lit house.

Neta: Really?

I’m welcomed by the sound of Dahlia messing around on the piano in the distance. Unlike Nico, she lacks the proper skill and training to do anything but massacre her way through “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

My spine tingles as I walk through the long hall leading to the formal sitting room. Never have I felt this excited at the end of a workday, and I pause to process why.

No painful silence. No dreadful loneliness. Nothing but a strong sense of contentedness as I think of the person waiting for me.

You’re getting attached, the cautionary voice speaks up.

I’m pretty sure it’s far more serious than that.

It’s love.

Something is shifting inside me—that much was made clear when I returned to carpentry after almost a decade avoiding it—and it has everything to do with Dahlia.

When she hits the last note, I enter the room.

“Dinner’s here.”

She startles, banging her fingers against the keys. “You scared me.”

“Did you have fun looking around?”

“Tons. Check out what I found next to your prized The Little Prince collection.” She stands and reveals the Second Best trophy she gave me.

Damn. I was so focused on keeping Dahlia away from my bedroom that I forgot about the incriminating trophy.

“I’m flattered you kept it after all this time.” She rubs at an invisible stain.

“It’s a reminder of what failure feels like.” The words come out at lightning speed.

“So you keep it beside your most prized possessions? Interesting location choice given how big your house is.”

I blink slowly.

She smirks. “I know you bombed our physics final on purpose.”

“You have no proof.”

“Physics was your strongest subject and my weakest. There was no way I could have beat you any other way.”

I exercise my right to remain silent.

“Why did you do it?” she asks.

The hum of the heater starting up echoes around the house.

Her brows scrunch. “Did you do it because you felt bad for me?”

“No,” I blurt out.

“Then, why?”

“Because I liked you.”

Her eyes widen. “Since when?”

“I’m not sure when it started,” I lie.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Risk-averse, remember?”

She gives her head a good shake, although it doesn’t wipe the disbelief from her face. “If I hadn’t kissed you during that Stanford Halloween party, would you have made a move?”

“I had no idea what I wanted back then.”

Her brows crinkle with confusion. “But you liked me.”

“Yes.”

“Then why did you push me away when your dad died?”

“A few misguided reasons, but mainly because I was too proud to deal with my grief in the way I should have.”

Her mouth drops open.

“I took on way too much all at once, thinking if I fixed the struggling business or helped my mom through her depression, my own pain would go away.”

Her bottom lip trembles. “And you couldn’t do that if I was distracting you.”

“I should have never called you that.”

She reaches for my hand and gives it a squeeze. “I’m sorry for not seeing your actions for what they were.”

I rapidly blink. “What?”

I’m the one who hurt her.

I’m the one who drove her into the arms of another man, who ended up breaking her heart.

And I’m the one who took ten years to apologize, solely because I was a coward who didn’t want to face my fears, instead choosing to let my insecurities about my worth dictate my actions.

“Despite being hurt by all the things you said, I should have put my feelings aside and stepped up to be the bigger person. Because even though you pushed me away, I was the one who made a conscious choice to let it stay that way.”

My lungs ache. “None of this was your fault.”

“The same can be said about you.”

“Let’s agree to put the past behind us?”

“Deal.”

I wrap my arm around her before steering us toward the kitchen. She sits in my usual corner seat on the island while I fill two glasses with water.

“What did you get?” She reaches for the nondescript paper bag.

“Sushi.”

“Yes!” She grabs the top container, only for me to swap it for the other one.

“What?”

“That one is mine.”

Her brows furrow.

“It has cream cheese.”

The cute way her nose scrunches has me smiling to myself.

She rips the lid off the container. “Shrimp tempura?”

“Here.” I pass her a large container filled with spicy mayo.

“You’re annoyingly perfect at predicting my every move.”

I toss her a pair of chopsticks, and she rips them apart before plucking her first sushi roll off the tray.

I don’t dig into my food right away, which earns me another speculative glance.

“Are you going to eat?” She points at my tray.

“Yeah.”

“Well, get to it.” She clicks her chopsticks together a few times.

“What’s the rush?”

“Someone promised me dessert.”

My heart pauses for a second before returning to its normal pace.

“I’m enjoying the moment,” I confess.

Dahlia processes my words with a slow blink. “It’s only dinner.”

I pop the lid off my takeout container to give myself something to do. “I know.”

“We can do this again tomorrow if you want.” A faint pink blush creeps up the collar of her shirt.

“Would you want that?”

“Depends on how tonight goes.” She winks.

I know her words are meant as a tease, but they seem to widen the gap in my chest until the ache becomes unbearable.

Her forehead creases from her frown. “What’s that look for?”

“Huh?”

Whatever expression she copies makes me feel ten times more pathetic.

“Nothing.” I pop a sushi roll into my mouth to stop myself from revealing anything else.

“You seem sad.”

“I’m…”

“Lonely?” she offers.

I nearly break one of the wooden chopsticks because of how hard my fist clenches.

The worst kind of expression flashes across her face.

Pity.

“For how long?” she asks.

Too long.

“Not going to lie, I expected you to be married with a kid by now.”

“Married, yes. A kid? Not so much.”

“You don’t want children? For real?” Her throat visibly tightens from how hard she swallows.

“Not really.”

She only frowns harder. “Since when?”

“Since my mom returned from the hospital without my baby sister.”

She wraps her hand around my bicep and gives it a comforting squeeze. “I’m sorry.”

I halfheartedly shrug. “It’s in the past.”

She spares me a look. “We’re quite the pair, you and I.”

“Tell me about it.”

Her hand drops. “You know, a wise man once told me there are plenty of ways to have a child.”

“Is that right?”

“Yup.”

“I think I’ll start with finding a wife first and see where life takes me.”

“Right.” Her grip on the chopsticks tightens.

Cute.

Warmth spreads through my body. “Maybe when you head back to San Francisco, I’ll reconsider my mom’s matchmaking services.”

“I sucked your dick less than an hour ago, and you’re already talking about going on dates with other women?”

“Does that bother you?”

Her nose scrunches. “Ugh. You’re such an asshole.”

“And you’re jealous.”

“No, I’m not.”

“It’s nice to be on the receiving end of it for a change.” I uncurl her fingers, releasing the chopsticks from her punishing hold.

Her gaze narrows. “You said all that on purpose.”

“I did.”

“Next time you go down on me, I plan on suffocating you to death.”

I drag her hand to my lips and kiss it. “I can’t think of a better way to go.”


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