"I want to thank them for everything they did for us. A friend had a slideshow at her wedding, and I thought it was a nice thing to do."
"Okay. We can do this," I said.
She clicked on the laptop, and a picture of us as kids came up. "All you have to do is tell me if you like the picture or not."
"Why do you even have these?" I wondered after she showed us a dozen pictures. She had everything from when we were kids up until this year. We were as close as ever. Josie was the oldest and Ian the youngest. At thirty-one, I was in the middle.
"Oh, I've asked almost everyone I know to send me pictures, and well, you know, Facebook is also a good source."
I was relieved that my sister hadn’t included any pictures of me with Lina. We'd been together for many years, so finding pictures of me without her was not easy.
"Okay, so this wasn’t too terrible," Ian said once we finished. "Please don't ask my opinion again on who should sit at what table."
Isabelle rolled her eyes. "No, you made your opinion clear on the topic last time. Don't worry. I've asked Mom and Dad to take care of everyone back home. They'll know who wants to sit with whom. And they know all our mutual friends. So I'm taking care of them. You successfully managed to weasel your way out of that task."
“We didn't weasel our way out. It's just not the best use of our time," I said with a grin.
Isabelle got up from the couch, placing her hands on her hips. "Why are you so grumpy lately?"
She looked at our brother. "Ian, fess up. Is he having any fun or spending all his time focusing on project Z?"
Ian and I were running a software company together, Gallagher Solutions. We employed forty people and specialized in cloud solutions for midsize companies. Currently, we were working on one of our most ambitious projects. We’d nicknamed it project Z. It was software for an insurance model for people working in weather-dependent industries. My parents operated a ski lift back in Montana, and the few years when it didn't snow enough, we barely made ends meet. We only managed to get through the season out of the kindness of some friends. I had no idea what would have happened if they hadn't helped. I was determined to help people in similar situations so they’d have some recourse.
The insurance model wasn’t meant for big natural disasters—those were already sufficiently covered. We were aiming to find a solution for small niches that were currently not covered by insurance models. I got the idea when I researched the organization running the Innovator of the Year competition. Ian and I knew how to build the software, but winning the competition would bring us the right partners to implement the software nationwide. Project Z wasn’t just about money. It was personal.
"Oh, he's having plenty of fun," he answered. "I don't think you want to know all the details, sister dearest."
Isabelle mimicked plugging her fingers in her ears and shaking her head. "No, no, you're right. I don't need to know the details. I'm happy to know he's not spending all his time cooped up in the office."
I got up from the couch and headed to the kitchen island to pour myself a glass of water. "I want to win the competition, that's all. That requires some extra work for a few months. I don't mind."
"He's not cooped up in his office all the time. He has plenty of fun," Ian repeated.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Isabelle fixed her gaze on me. After a few seconds, she said, “By the way, I wanted to talk to you about something—”
The doorbell rang, interrupting her.
“Saved by the bell,” Ian exclaimed. “You looked like you were about to lecture him, sis.”
“I was,” Isabelle confirmed. “And don’t think I’ll forget about it just because we have company.”
I grinned at my sister. “That didn’t even cross my mind.”
Ryker, Cole, and Tess arrived together. Tess’s eyes bulged when she looked around the apartment.
“We haven’t started yet,” Isabelle said, sounding a bit embarrassed.
“She was too busy torturing us with wedding stuff.” Ian filled in everyone. Tess immediately lit up. She was helping Isabelle with the organization of it all too.
“Hey, don’t start with the wedding planning again,” Ryker warned, “or we’ll never start packing. I know how this goes.”
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