The Love Game. Regina Hart

The Love Game - Regina Hart

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beside her sister Rose’s cobalt-blue BMW. Iris was a few minutes early for their weekly family dinner. But as usual, her older sister was already here.

      Their dinner was a family tradition Iris and her sisters had continued even after their parents had died. Lily, the middle sister, had moved back into the large suburban home.

      Iris grabbed the cake box from the passenger seat. Juggling the box and her purse, she slammed the driver’s-side door shut with a hip and pressed the automatic lock button on her key chain. She hurried up the walkway and stairs, then let herself in through the front door.

      “Something smells wonderful.” Iris followed the scent of seasoned chicken and vegetables down the hallway and into the kitchen.

      Rose and Lily stopped talking when she appeared in the doorway. Paranoid much?

      “You brought dessert.” Lily broke the short silence.

      “Chocolate cake.” Iris sauntered into the kitchen and put the box on the counter beside the stove. She turned to her sisters with her hands on the hips of her powder-blue jeans. “Okay. Let’s have it.”

      “Let’s not.” Lily continued stirring the pot of chicken stew. Her curvy five-foot-three-inch frame was clothed in faded blue jeans and a bright orange sweatshirt featuring the logo of the Cincinnati’s NFL team. Her dark brown hair was a riot of curls that fell past her shoulders.

      “Why not?” Rose crossed her arms over her bloodred sweater. With her sleek dark brown hair swinging above her narrow shoulders and her honey-brown features subtly made up, Iris’s thirty-four-year-old sister looked more like a runway model than an attorney.

      “Because I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to cook this dinner and I don’t want it ruined with an argument.” Lily’s attention remained on her stew.

      Iris arched a brow at Rose. “Does it have to be an argument?”

      Lily answered. “No, it doesn’t. But lately the two of you can’t even agree on the weather.”

      “That’s not a recent development.” Iris’s tone was dry. “Rose and I have never agreed on anything, especially since she thinks she knows everything.”

      “Here we go.” Lily shook her head as she turned off the burner under the stew.

      Rose uncrossed her arms and straightened from the counter. The two-inch heels of her black boots added to her five-foot-eight-inch height. “Maybe if you stopped to consider my advice instead of ignoring it to charge full-speed ahead, you’d realize that sometimes I do know what I’m talking about.”

      “And I know what I’m doing.” Iris dropped her arms. “Why can’t you accept that?”

      “You think you know what you’re doing but I’m not so sure.” Rose’s expression was heavy on the irritation but tempered with concern. “Why did you leave a perfectly good job with a stable company to start a business during a horrible economic climate?”

      Cupboards opened and shut as Lily began serving dinner.

      Iris arched a brow. “Because it was obvious I wasn’t going to advance there.”

      “At least you had a steady income.” Rose threw up her arms. “You could pay your bills. You had health insurance, life insurance, a retirement account and sick days. You won’t be able to stay home when you’re sick now.”

      “I rarely used my sick days when I had them.”

      “Here.” Lily forced a soup bowl into Rose’s hands, then crossed back to the counter.

      “But at least you had them.” Rose remained focused on Iris.

      “That’s fine for you to say.” Iris gestured toward her sister. “People at your company respect you and your experience.”

      “You have to pay your dues, Iris.”

      “Pay my dues?” Her head was going to pop off her neck. “I’d been with RGB for six years. Meanwhile, new employees were coming in without my experience and leapfrogging over me up the corporate ladder, getting more money and more seniority, while I was doing all the work.”

      “So you bit off your nose to spite your face.”

      “What are you talking about?” Is Rose even hearing me?

      “Rather than stay and fight, you jeopardized your career and your financial security. Meanwhile, the people you were trying to get even with will be fine.”

      “This isn’t about revenge.”

      “Are you sure?”

      “I’d been fighting for six years, Rose.” Iris crossed her arms. “It was clear I wasn’t going to win that war.”

      “Here.” Lily shoved the stew at Iris.

      Iris took the bowl. “What are you doing?”

      “I’m going to eat my dinner in peace.” Lily carried her stew and ice water toward the dining room.

      “You’re just going to leave us?” Iris frowned at Lily’s back.

      Her middle sister turned to face her. “Do you think it’s fun for me, listening to the two of you argue all the time? Why do we have these family dinners if it’s not to enjoy what’s left of our family?”

      Iris glanced at Rose. “I—”

      “It’s just us.” Lily sounded tired. “Dad’s been dead almost three years. Mom died less than a year ago. I’m in this house, surrounded by happy memories of our past. Then you two come in and shout them down. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m not going to do this anymore. Eat your food, then leave.”

      Iris’s skin heated with shame as Lily walked away. “She seems pissed.”

      “Yes, she does.”

      “She never gets pissed.”

      “No, she doesn’t.” Rose sighed. “And she’s right. We’re lucky to have each other. We shouldn’t forget that.”

      Iris nodded. “We should apologize to her.”

      “Let’s do it.”

      Iris squared her shoulders, then led the way into the dining room. Lily sat alone at the table set for three. Iris took the seat at the place setting across from her. Rose settled beside Iris. Lily ignored them.

      Iris waited a beat. “I’m so sorry, Lil.”

      “So am I.” Rose’s voice was soft, contrite.

      Lily looked up. Iris held her breath, waiting for her sister’s response. Lily was the only one who even tried to understand Iris’s feelings. She’d never meant to repay her sister’s love and support with pain.

      Lily spooned more stew. “So how was everybody’s day?”

      Their laughter shattered the tension. Hours flew by as the sisters enjoyed dinner with seconds and dessert, and good conversation. They shared kitchen duty after the meal. Then Rose and Iris left. The outdoor lights illuminated the porch and driveway. Iris stood on the other side of the front door and listened as Lily connected the locks.

      She joined Rose on the driveway. “Be careful driving home.”

      “You do the same.” Rose paused beside Iris’s Camry. “Listen, if you decide to go back to work, I’m sure I can help you get a position with another company. I have connections in the business community.”

      “I am working.” Iris struggled to keep a hold on her temper.

      Rose held up her hands. “You know what I mean.”

      “Yes, Rosie, I’m afraid I do.” Why are we forever at odds? “I appreciate your offer. But I don’t need my family’s help to get a job. I can do this on my own.”


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