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Love Redesigned: Chapter 50

Dahlia

The heaviness in my chest that has been present since I left Lake Wisteria gets progressively worse with every hour I spend in San Francisco. I should be happy to be back in my old stomping grounds, but not even a poke bowl from my favorite spot can save me from the oppressive sadness choking me.

I expected the feeling to lessen when I entered the Archer Media building, only to be disappointed when it didn’t.

“So, what did you think?” my agent asks once the elevator doors shut. Her strawberry-blond curls frame her face like a halo, giving her a deceitfully sweet appearance that doesn’t match the woman who spent the last hour playing hardball with the people from Archer Media.

“I’m not sure.” I lean against the support bar as the car begins its descent toward the lobby.

Her brows rise. “About Archer or the show?”

“All of it?”

“I know you had your heart set on filming in Lake Wisteria, but their scouts agree San Francisco would be a great place to film the first season. After that, if the show is renewed for another season, which we both know it will be, then you’ll get dibs on the next location.”

The idea sounds great in theory, but every time I consider moving back to San Francisco, the pit in my stomach deepens, something I never thought would happen after living here for years.

My gut is telling me not to accept Archer Media’s deal, and it’s not only because of the man waiting for me in Lake Wisteria.

You still trust your intuition after everything you’ve been through?

No, but it’s about time I started because I’m tired of doubting myself. I let Oliver and the Creswells’ judgmental thoughts and opinions haunt me for far too long, and for what? To torture myself by doubting every decision I make?

I’m the one who built Designs by Dahlia from the ground up. Sure, Oliver encouraged me to post a photo, but I’m the one who put in the work to turn my name into a brand. And yes, the Creswells helped produce my show, but the fans stuck around for me and my work, not because of the people funding the project.

It’s time to forgive yourself for your past mistakes and move on.

“What should I tell them?” Jamie taps away at her phone.

“I’d like to take some more time to think about it.”

“How long are you thinking?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe a week?”

She whistles. “There might be some pushback about scheduling.”

“I know. If I make up my mind sooner, I’ll let you know, but I want to take my time and think this through.”

Although I feel my decision has already been made.


Returning to my empty townhouse solidifies my growing concern about moving back to San Francisco. I distract myself by falling back into my old routine of cooking dinner, watching a rerun of one of my favorite shows, and showering until my fingers and toes turn wrinkly, but nothing seems to lessen the ache in my chest as I consider my situation.

I climb into bed and hope sleep takes me soon to save me from the nonstop thoughts running through my brain.

What’s the point of moving back here for a show if you’re going to be lonely and miserable?

Sometime in the last three months, Lake Wisteria started feeling more like my true home while San Francisco became more of a distant memory.

My phone pings with a new message. I grab it off the nightstand and check who texted me at this hour.

JULIAN

How did the meeting go?

My chest pinches. Although I changed his contact name recently, I’m still not fully convinced I love it.

I send a quick reply.

ME

Good.

I don’t have a chance to type out a reply before a new message from him appears.

JULIAN

That bad?

ME

It wasn’t bad per se…

My fingers fly across the screen.

ME

They shared their plans, and my agent asked all the right questions.

JULIAN

But…

I can’t think of an appropriate response that won’t automatically get his hopes up, so I don’t answer.

My phone vibrates a minute later from an incoming call. I debate between picking up Julian’s call and letting it go to voicemail before deciding to trust my gut and answering the damn phone. “Hey.”

“Hey.” The hint of surprise in his tone makes me feel shittier than usual.

“How did the meeting go?” he asks.

“Fine.”

“What a glowing review.”

I drop onto my bed with an oomph.

“Want to talk about it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve spent all night thinking about it and have gotten nowhere closer to making a decision about the TV deal.”

“You? Unsure about the future? I don’t believe it.”

I laugh again. “I swear I’m not usually this indecisive.”

“I watched you spend an hour deciding if you wanted to paint a room eggshell white or eggshell off-white, which, by the way, are the same color.”

“Not true. One had a satin finish and the other had a semi-matte finish, thank you very much.”

His deep chuckle pulls at the cord wrapped around my lower half. “You overthink everything lately, which is fine.”

“Aren’t you the guy who hides pro-con lists all over his house?”

“You found those?”

I stare up at the ceiling. “Out of curiosity, did you come to a decision about which toilet paper brand was best?”

“I knew giving you a key was a mistake.”

We both laugh this time.

“Dahlia?”

“Yeah?”

Te amo.”

Te amo: I love you.

Everything stops. My heart. My lungs. My ability to speak.

“I don’t expect you to say it back, but I didn’t want another day to go by without you hearing it.” His confession pulls at every single one of my heartstrings.

His selfless, understated kind of love is the one I spent years searching for but never found—until now.

Julian wasn’t the only one living through a ten-year blackout.

I was too.

I fight a battle against my tear ducts and lose with a sniffle.

“Don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying…” My voice wavers.

“It sounds like it to me.”

“Shut up and say it again.”

“It sounds like—”

“No. The other thing.”

“Don’t cry?”

If he were here, I’d kiss the smile right off his face.

“Forget it,” I huff.

“I love you. Good night,” he repeats before hanging up the phone.

After Julian’s confession, I can’t fall back asleep, so instead, I obsess over our conversation until I’ve gone over it a hundred times.

With every fiber of my being, I know he loves me, and it’s time I showed him I feel the same way, even if it means putting my heart on the line once more. Experiencing Julian’s love for a moment is far better than me spending a lifetime without it, wondering what might have happened had I given him a chance.


My phone pings the next day with a text from my agent asking if I am going to this Saturday’s party.

ME

What party?

She attaches a photo of the Creswells’ fifth annual postproduction party.

JAMIE

I thought that’s why you wanted to meet with Archer this week as opposed to next.

ME

My invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.

JAMIE

Shit. You’re on the RSVP list.

My phone vibrates from an incoming call.

“Hey, Jamie.”

“Fuck them!”

My eyes go wide as saucers.

“You didn’t know about this?”

“I mean, I’ve been to them in the past, but I thought they wouldn’t host one this year after everything.”

“Those assholes.” She seethes through the phone.

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not okay! They did this on purpose to embarrass you.”

“Only if I let them.”

Her heels click against the floor from her pacing. “You’re not thinking of going, are you?”

I stay quiet.

“Dahlia, you can’t be serious. You’ve come so far since the first time we met. No need to threaten all that progress.”

When I first met Jamie, I had a breakdown in her office after telling her the story of how my previous agent dropped me as a client. At the time, I was depressed without knowing it, and my lack of control over my emotions was at its all-time low.

But look at you now.

“I want to show them they didn’t break me.” They might have come close, but I’m still here, fighting for myself and the future I deserve.

“Do you want me to be your plus-one?”

I consider it for a moment before thinking better of it. “Actually, I already have a date.”

“Is he hot?”

“Absolutely,” I say before laughing.

“Smart?”

My nose wrinkles. “Annoyingly so.”

“Please tell me he’s rich.”

“He makes Oliver’s inheritance seem like play money.”

Jamie whistles. “Good for you. He sounds like a keeper.”

I know, and it’s time I told him so.


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