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Love Redesigned: Chapter 36

Dahlia

“So, about my room…” Julian hesitates outside his bedroom door.

“What about it could possibly make you this nervous?” I reach for the knob, only to be blocked by his wide body as he steps in front of it.

He rubs the back of his neck. “Well…”

“Is it your bobblehead collection?”

His head shakes. “No. I got rid of that years ago.”

“Thank God, because they creeped me out.”

He shoots me a look.

“Do you have porn magazines or posters or something?” I ask.

“Seeing as I’m not a teenager who was born before the internet existed, no.”

“Maybe a pocket pussy in your nightstand drawer?”

His entire face turns red. “A pocket—you know what? Screw this.” He throws the door open and steps out of the way. “Go ahead.”

My feet remain firmly planted against the floor as I take in his bedroom from the doorway. I blink a few times to be sure.

“You… This…”

Julian’s eyes shut. “I can explain. It’s…” His voice drifts off, along with his confidence.

Everything.

I take a few steps inside and stop in front of the hand-knotted wool rug I designed with Curated Living. It took me a whole month to nail my vision, and I went through hundreds of sketches and samples before everything clicked.

The same can be said for most of the furniture and custom décor scattered around Julian’s bedroom. Each piece holds a memory of my career, and I find myself getting choked up as I catalog at least one item from each of my collection drops.

He didn’t buy everything, because that would have been excessive, but he purchased enough to prove that he followed each launch and chose a favorite.

A burst of warmth barrels through my chest, stronger than any solar flare.

He supported your dreams without you knowing it.

I blink away the mistiness in my eyes before turning to him.

“I thought you weren’t a fan.” My voice cracks.

“Of the show? Fuck no.” He scowls.

“Of me.”

His eyes drop to the hardwood floor.

I walk up to his dresser and run my finger across the edge of the ceramic bowl I designed. “Why were you afraid of how I would react to your shrine?”

“That’s not what this is.” He stumbles over the words.

I laugh. “Then what would you call it?”

“An appreciation of someone who deserves it.”

If he keeps talking that way, I might do something incredibly stupid and fall in love with him.

You have rules for a reason. Stick to them.

The tightness in my throat only worsens as I take a tour of his room, freaking out internally over the pieces he chose.

I readjust an already balanced lampshade before turning it on. “You have stuff here from my very first launch.”

“I know.”

“How long have you been following my career?”

“Since you first learned your ABCs and 123s?”

I shake my head with a laugh. “I’m being serious.”

“So am I. I was always invested in your success.”

“Even when you were hell-bent on beating me at everything?”

“Even then.”

“All this time, I thought you hated me…”

He walks up to me and wraps his arms around me. “I never hated you, Dahlia. Not for a single second of a single day.”

“Then why did you avoid me for so long?”

“Because I knew what would happen if I got close to you again.”

“What?”

He ignores my question as he leans in and kisses me. This one is different—he is different—and I can’t help but obsess over every single detail.

The way his hands cradle my face like I’m the most precious thing in this world.

His thumb softly caressing my cheek, stroking back and forth in a way that has me shivering against him.

The tug on my heart as he answers my question without uttering a single word.

I’m terrified of acknowledging the serious feelings growing between us. He already got close to me once and pushed me away, so who’s to say he won’t do the same thing again?

Be present-minded and enjoy the moment. My therapist’s words of wisdom pop up in my head.

With the way he kisses me like I’m already his, I’m having a hard time ignoring the obvious.

You’ll have to admit these feelings eventually, the rational part of my brain adds.

I plan on it…just not tonight.


I half crawl, half hobble out of bed to use the restroom and clean myself up after a second round of sex. When I return and start searching for my clothes, Julian grabs me and throws me back into the center of the mattress.

“Put something on.” He hands me the TV remote after climbing into bed.

“How domestic of us.” I lay the sarcasm on thick, hoping it will shield the trembling in my voice.

“You haven’t seen anything yet.” He grabs a book from his nightstand and a pair of reading glasses from a drawer.

I never realized how much I needed to see a shirtless Julian reading a book with glasses on, but I believe the image may have permanently altered my brain chemistry.

I end up cuddling against his chest and watching a Silver Vixens rerun while he reads from a leatherbound book I don’t recognize.

“What are you reading?” I pause the episode halfway through.

“An unofficial Lake Wisteria history book.”

“What?” I sit upright and knock the book from his hands in the process. Thankfully, he catches it by the worn spine before it falls to the floor.

“Sorry.”

He places the book back on the table. “Trust me. It isn’t as exciting as it sounds. The agricultural talk and detailed accounts of the first few brutal strawberry seasons put me to sleep two nights in a row.”

I chuckle.

“Did you know the Strawberry Festival was first started over a hundred years ago as a way to entice farmers into moving here?”

“That’s great and all, but I want to know if there is anything in there about Gerald and Francesca!”

He makes a face. “After reading Gerald’s backstory and his brothers’ reason for moving to Lake Wisteria, I almost feel bad about tearing down all his houses.”

“See! I told you understanding history is important.”

“I said almost.”

I huff. “What did you find out?”

“His family moved here because his sister was shunned by their old town after she was caught, and I quote, ‘rolling in the hay’ with another man before marriage. So instead of staying within the Upper Peninsula, they moved here after hearing about the beaches.”

“No way.”

He nods. “There were four Baker brothers and their sister, Wisteria, who refused to be called anything but Ria. She’s the scribe who kept a detailed account of everything.”

“They named the town after her?” I squeal. “How come no one talks about this?”

He shrugs. “Probably because she didn’t want people to know her real name. She said the name ‘Wisteria’ was a dainty mouthful that didn’t fit her personality.”

I clutch his arm. “What else did she say?”

“She had a lot of great things to say about her oldest brother, including how much heart and love he poured into every house.”

“Sounds like one of us.”

Julian brushes his fingers over a spot that has me bucking and laughing against him.

Once I calm down, I trace invisible patterns across his chest. “Anything about Francesca?”

“She was from their old town.”

“Oh no.”

“It gets worse. Turns out she was the mayor’s daughter.”

My bottom lip wobbles. “No.”

“It explains why Gerald never got married to her or anyone else.”

“That’s so unfair. Gerald and his family sounded like good people.” My voice shakes with outrage.

“They were, but what can you do? Not everyone was as progressive during that time.”

“It’s a shame you’re tearing down his legacy, one house at a time, especially after learning why he started this town to begin with.”

His scowl makes me shiver. “What else do you expect me to do?”

“Find whatever town shunned his sister and take a wrecking ball to those houses instead.” I smile.

His eyes sweep over me. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course. Lake Wisteria needs to be protected at all costs from people like you.”

“And who will protect you from people like me?” Julian climbs over me, locking my hands above my head as he traps me beneath him.

I lock my legs around his waist and pull him closer. “You’re the one who will need to be protected from someone like me. Mark my words.”

Julian shuts me up by kissing me until I can no longer remember anything about Gerald, the towns, or my own name.


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