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Love Redesigned: Chapter 52

Dahlia

“Dahlia!” One of the crew members, Reina, calls my name, and I turn to find her, Hannah, and Arthur all waving at me.

“Who are they?” Julian’s tux brushes against my back as he whispers in my ear.

“They’re part of the behind-the-scenes crew.”

“Do we like them?” His emphasis on the word we has my body tingling.

“Yes, we like them a lot.” Although I haven’t been a very good friend to them for the last six months. They tried, but it was easier for me to get a grip on my depression by cutting myself off from the life I had.

I tug on Julian’s hand and lead him toward the old crew, where I’m quickly pulled away from him and into a group hug.

“We’ve missed you!” Hannah, my makeup artist with purple highlights and a tongue ring, squeals before Reina, a real-life Malibu Barbie, pulls me into a second embrace. “You haven’t answered many of our texts.”

I blush. “I was…”

“Listening to country music?” Hannah’s knowing eyes catch mine.

“Exactly.”

“We get it. Boys suck.” Arthur, the show’s hairstylist, assesses my split ends. “You’re due for a trim.”

“I’m heading out tomorrow, or else I’d ask if you have time.”

“We can stay for another few days if you want,” Julian offers.

“And who is this handsome lad?” Arthur checks him out.

I don’t blame him for being starstruck since I had the same reaction earlier when Julian stepped out of my guest bedroom wearing a custom tux.

“I’m her boyfriend, Julian.” He holds out his hand, but Arthur bats it away and wraps his arms around him.

“Did you hear that?” He turns Julian around and shows him off like an auctioneer. “Dahlia has a boyfriend!”

“Would you like a microphone so everyone else at the party can know Dahlia has a boyfriend?” Hannah asks.

“Boyfriend?”

The hairs on my arms rise as I turn on my heels to find Oliver standing slack-jawed with a drink in his hand and a shiny wedding band on his left ring finger. Once upon a time, I thought he was handsome, but now I’m revolted by his presence.

I prefer nausea over heartache, so I’m going to take my reaction as a win.

Olivia, who stands beside my ex wearing a beautiful gossamer gown and a stunning diamond ring similar to the one I had before, remains silently poised, although I catch her tipping her chin in my direction in silent acknowledgment.

Julian hooks his arm around my waist, soothing the discomfort away with a brush of his thumb over my hip bone. Where he seeks to comfort me, Oliver would have never bothered, solely because my ex wouldn’t have noticed my uneasiness in the first place. How could he when his focus was always on impressing everyone else in the room?

To think you once compared Julian to him…

I cover Julian’s hand with my own and give it a squeeze.

Oliver gawks. “Julian?”

“Oliver.”

My ex’s sharp jaw clenches. “I had no clue you two were dating.”

“I would have added him as a plus-one on my RSVP had I actually received an invitation.”

His face loses that golden color. “About that…my mother—”

“Is right here!” Mrs. Creswell arrives with her blond hair perfectly coifed and her smile deceptively sweet, while her husband trails behind her, stuffing his mouth with appetizers while looking everywhere but at his wife.

“Dahlia.” She holds out her arms, which I ignore.

Julian makes a soft noise that sounds an awful lot like a laugh.

Her arms drop to her sides. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“I’m sure you are since you accepted the invitation on my behalf.”

Oliver’s father chokes on a bite of his lamb lollipop.

Mrs. Creswell claps her hands together. “Well, we were so excited to have you here for the final season’s postproduction party.”

“Is that so?”

Her right eye twitches. “Of course. You’re one of the reasons why the show was successful.”

“She was the reason,” Julian snaps.

Mrs. Creswell’s long blink is so unlike her. “And you are?”

“Julian Lopez. My ex-roommate and Dahlia’s new boyfriend.” Oliver manages to keep his sneering to a minimum.

“A new boyfriend already? How fast.”

“I’m sure Oliver can speak from firsthand experience on what it’s like to meet your soulmate, seeing as he got engaged and married all in the same hour.” Julian tucks me closer against him.

Most likely sensing the tension, Mrs. Creswell beckons a cameraman over in the worst attempt to diffuse it. “Oh, great. Let’s take a photo for the papers. Everyone gather around.”

Julian swoops me to the side before the flash goes off, leaving the Creswells gaping and gawking.

“Say the words and we’re out of here.” He cups my chin.

“Did you see the look on his face right now?”

He traces my bottom lip with his thumb. “I did.”

“You’re the best.”

He returns my smile with one of his own. A flash goes off, capturing our intimate moment.

Julian peeks over my shoulder. “Oliver is hating every second of this.”

“On a scale of one to ten?”

“At least a nine.”

“Surely we can do better than that. I want him screaming, crying, and throwing up all at the same time.”

“You’re a vicious little thing, but I love you for it.”

“I’ll show you vicious.” I grab him by his tux lapels and pull him down so I can kiss him.

Julian’s palm finds the small of my back, and he holds me tight as he matches my brutal pace. His kiss is one of passion and possession, making my body tingle and my head spin as our mouths fuse together.

Julian pours everything into every single one of his kisses, making me feel loved, admired, and appreciated.

He is exactly what I want from a partner and more, and I can’t wait to see where this next stage of our life takes us.

“Shit. Where can I find myself someone who kisses me like that?” Arthur asks with a shout, making my cheeks burn.

Julian tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. “I spent ten years searching, so best of luck to you.”

Arthur fans himself. “If you don’t marry Julian, I will.”

“Talk about marrying him again and see what happens.”

Arthur holds his hands up. “Okay, vicious little thing. Put those acrylic claws away before someone gets hurt.”


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