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Love Redesigned: Chapter 43

Dahlia

My limbs are useless, so Julian carefully removes me from his lap and places me on the bench seat before taking care of the used condom. The rapid thump of my heart gets stronger as I consider the deputy standing outside the truck. I don’t recognize him as the guy Lily and I met up with to discuss the prank, which only makes the acid churning in my stomach worse.

“What do we do?” I’m not sure how I manage to formulate a full sentence, but I do.

Julian shakes his head. “I don’t know.”

“Awesome.” Panic bubbles inside me, the pressure becoming unbearable with every shallow breath. “Is he going to arrest us?”

Blue and red lights flash over his face. “I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“That’s reassuring.”

“Everything will be fine.”

“Fine?” My pitch rises. “How is any of this fine?” I reach out for the dashboard as a wave of dizziness consumes me. “He’s going to recognize me, and then this is going to make it onto the news, and everyone I know will find out, and I will lose the Archer deal only thirty minutes after receiving it.”

Julian interlocks our fingers and tucks my hand against his chest. “Breathe.” He demonstrates, and I follow along.

“Everything will be fine because you have me, and I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you,” he responds between deep inhales. “This isn’t going to make it onto the news, and Archer isn’t going to find out about a silly misunderstanding.”

Julian’s confidence eases some of my panic, along with his forcing me to take big gulps of air. He helps fix my clothes, which I’m grateful for given how hard my hands are shaking.

“Dahlia.” He lifts my chin up, but I avoid meeting his gaze.

He sighs. “About what you said earlier—”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Not now, and maybe not ever.

I hadn’t meant to confess my feelings when I barely understand them myself, but Julian didn’t give me much of an option.

Now look at the mess you got yourself into.

“Do you plan on acting like you didn’t admit that you’re falling in love with me?”

“Seems on brand for me.”

“Seems like bullshit.”

I flinch. He reaches out for my trembling hand again and gives it a reassuring squeeze I don’t entirely deserve.

Which is exactly why you’re going to pack your bags and go back to San Francisco before either one of you gets hurt.

Except my plan quickly falls apart when my chest aches at pushing Julian away like he did to me all those years ago.

He deserves better than that from you.

I jolt at the deputy knocking on the window with his flashlight. “As entertaining as this show is, wrap it up. It’s cold out here, and I’m losing my patience.”

My nails bite into my thighs. “God. I hate this man, and I don’t even know him.”

“Consider that a blessing.”

I hop out of the truck on shaky legs. The brisk December breeze hits me, making me shiver.

“Dahlia Muñoz?” A deputy I don’t recognize calls my name. “Surprised to see you here.”

“Um, where’s Ben?” I scan the police cruiser parked beside Julian’s truck for the man I planned the prank with.

He shoots me a confused look. “Last I heard, he was answering another call.”

“Oh. Does he plan on coming here to back you up?” Maybe Lily changed the plan at the last minute so I wouldn’t give anything away.

That little shit. I wouldn’t put it past her.

“I think I can handle this civil disturbance on my own.”

My stomach churns. “Civil disturbance?”

“Someone called to report two people having sex in a public parking lot.”

Despite the chilly temperature outside, I break out into a sweat.

Julian walks around the back of the truck and stands beside me without touching me. “Deputy Roberts.”

“Julian,” the deputy sneers. “I thought it was you, but I wasn’t sure with the dark tints.”

Uh-oh.

I can tell based on Julian’s rigid posture and the way Deputy Roberts reaches for his taser that these two have history.

The really, really bad kind.

“What can we do for you?” Julian grazes his pinky against mine.

I’m here, he silently says.

The gesture only seems to make the tightness in my chest worse.

“I received a complaint about inappropriate conduct and public nudity.”

Julian rubs the back of his neck. “Right.”

“You are aware that it’s illegal to have sex in a public location, correct?”

“I am aware, yes.”

“Julian!” I shout. Rule number one of dealing with cops: never admit guilt.

He realizes his mistake too late.

Deputy Roberts reaches for his cuffs. “Turn around, Lopez.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ve been waiting for this moment.”

What?

Julian doesn’t follow the deputy’s instructions. “You’re seriously going to arrest me for this?”

“I was thinking about detaining you, but keep running your mouth, and I’ll be tempted to charge you.”

Julian doesn’t blink. “How much will it cost to make this all go away?”

I drag my hand across my throat in desperation. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! I mouth.

“Add bribing an officer to your list of crimes tonight. Now, turn around and put your hands behind your back.” He motions with the cuffs.

“This is ridiculous,” Julian says.

“Do what he says,” I whisper.

He spins around and locks his hands together.

Deputy Roberts makes quick work of the cuffs before turning to me. “Your turn.”

“Me?” My pitch rises.

“Mr. Lopez wasn’t having sex alone, was he?”

I blush from my head to my toes.

He gestures with his cuffs. “Turn around and put your hands behind your back like Mr. Lopez so kindly demonstrated.”

“Leave her out of this.” Julian’s lethal tone draws a shiver from me.

“And miss out on an opportunity to piss you off? I don’t think so.”

My eyes widen at the deputy. “Why do you hate him so much?”

“Ask him that.” He points the handcuffs in Julian’s direction.

Julian locks eyes on Deputy Roberts. “My mom set me up on a few dates with Roberts’s ex.”

Roberts takes great pleasure in cuffing me, although Julian seems about one second away from having an aneurism.

“I’m sorry,” he says as soon as we are placed in the back of the cruiser.

I remain quiet as I consider where everything went wrong in the last ten minutes. Julian checks in with me multiple times during the car ride, but my anxiety has officially taken over, and I see no end in sight.


Getting thrown in a holding cell because of a personal vendetta against Julian isn’t doing wonders for my mood. Whatever bliss I felt in the truck has long since disappeared, leaving me antsy and irritable as I pace the perimeter.

Roberts didn’t charge us with anything, although the photo he took of us in the holding cell is damning enough. I pray it doesn’t make it on the internet.

I wrap my hands around the metal bars and shout, “This is unconstitutional!”

Julian takes a seat on the most uncomfortable-looking metal bench. “Welcome to Lake Wisteria.”

I grip the bars and attempt to shake them to no avail. “Roberts! What about our right to a phone call or bail?”

No one answers my shout.

Asshole.

I press my forehead against the cold metal. “So, what? He’s going to leave us here to rot because he hates you?”

“Eh. I give him a few hours before he calls our mothers to come pick us up.”

“Our mothers?” I turn on my heels with a screech.

“I overheard him telling one of the other deputies about it while you were busy having a private conversation with yourself.” His shy smile doesn’t ease my anxiety.

My makeup might melt away from how hot my skin gets. “My mom is going to kill me when she finds out why we’re here.”

“Consider yourself lucky. Mine is going to start planning our wedding and invite the whole town.”

God help me get through tonight without ending up disowned or deceased.


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