Dating Games: A Novel

Dating Games: A Novel

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by RM Johnson

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RM Johnson, author of the #1 Essence bestseller The Harris Family, returns with a riveting story of love, family, and revenge.

At age thirty-three, Livvy Rodgers is fed up with relying on men and working her dead-end job, so she decides to apply for a scholarship to become a registered nurse. In order to afford school, she needs to move to


RM Johnson, author of the #1 Essence bestseller The Harris Family, returns with a riveting story of love, family, and revenge.

At age thirty-three, Livvy Rodgers is fed up with relying on men and working her dead-end job, so she decides to apply for a scholarship to become a registered nurse. In order to afford school, she needs to move to a smaller apartment -- leaving no room for her twin daughters, seventeen-year-old Hennesey and Alizé.

Though both gorgeous, the two sisters couldn't be more different. Hennesey, a brilliant straight-A student, is soon off to college on a full scholarship. She's in a strong relationship with Rafe, a recently released convict unjustly jailed for drug possession after taking the rap for his old friend, Smoke, who has since become the most ruthless drug dealer in Chicago. Now a free man, Rafe wants nothing to do with his old friends and street life -- especially when he falls for Hennesey.

On the other hand, Alizé, who is perfectly comfortable relying on her undeniable sex appeal, is a hell-raiser. Once Livvy makes her announcement, Alizé is in desperate need of some money. She and her girlfriends come up with an outrageous plan to score some fast cash -- persuading the men with fat pockets they meet at clubs to take the girls to a hotel, and then drugging them and making off with their wallets and jewelry. In a weird twist of fate, one of their first victims is none other than Smoke, Rafe's old buddy from the street. Once robbed, he's bent on revenge -- and the violent chain of events that follow will change the women of the Rodgers family forever.

Emotionally charged and filled with unforgettable characters, Dating Games is an intense and thought-provoking page-turner, exactly what readers have come to rely on from RM Johnson.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Johnson's latest (after Love Frustration) is an urban soap opera of sex, drugs, crime and deceit-and even true love-weaving together the dramatic, if predictable, story lines of various Chicago denizens. Livvy Rodgers, a nurse's assistant and single mother of twin 17-year-olds, is struggling to make ends meet as well as to get over her elusive and bad-hearted lover, Carlos. Daughter Hennesey is a sweet honor student headed for college with a full scholarship; smart-mouthed twin Aliz cares for little but money and sex. Manly, kind Rafe Collins is fresh out of prison for a crime he didn't commit and stuck in a job as an auto mechanic for his old criminal pal, Smoke, who's using the fancy car dealership as a front for drug dealing. Cutting between different points of view-but always keeping a cool, almost journalistic distance from his characters-Johnson charts the heartbreaks and hopes of each of them. Livvy may have finally found a good man in Wade Williams; Rafe takes a shine to Henny but not before Aliz tries to rope him in; Wade befriends Rafe; and Henny and Rafe get their chance but it's a bumpy road, as everyone's lives cross and recross, binding them all together. Livvy's quest to find love and security, Rafe's struggle to escape the clutches of Smoke and make a decent life and Aliz 's misguided attempt to steal her way to luxury all come down to a violent denouement. The final chapters strain credibility, but this is a solid drama from well-known author and Essence bestseller Johnson. Agent, Elaine Koster. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Chapter One

Lying on her back, still feeling the sensation of her boyfriend between her legs even after he had risen from her, Livvy knew she would become pregnant. She felt the warm fluid swim through her, making her certain of this. Her mother would kill her for wanting to have this child at sixteen years old. She'd do it anyway, that also she was sure of.

She waited four months to tell her boyfriend, Avery, for fear that he would run away. But the wait didn't matter, because he had disappeared only days after the news was given to him.

She finally called his house, then went over there, camping in front of his doorstep, wearing her big T-shirt, her belly big and round in front of her. His mother gave her no information, acting as if she had never met, or given birth, for that matter, to her son, Avery.

"Don't know where he is, and don't know when he's coming back," she said, slamming the door in Livvy's face.

Livvy walked home slowly, her head hung low, only to get harassed by her mother the moment she walked through the door of their apartment.

Livvy remembered their last argument in the kitchen. The place was a mess, as it had always been, and her mother had just walked in from her second job. Exhausted, she fell into one of the kitchen chairs, her hair wild about her head, her cheap clothes smelling like smoke from the lounge she worked at in the evenings. She had the strength to toe off only one of her high-heeled shoes, leaving the other one on. She blew out an exasperated sigh.

Livvy had walked out of her bedroom in a T-shirt and panties. She had not heard her mother come in, and when she caught sight of her, Livvy quickly turned around, hoping to disappear back into her room.

"Hold it."

Livvy froze.

"Why ain't this kitchen clean?"

"I was sick, Mama."

"What's wrong with you?"

"My stomach," Livvy said, a sour look on her face. She placed a hand on top of the curve of her belly.

"Livvy -- "

"Mama, I ain't getting rid of it." Livvy knew what her mother was going to say, because she said it every night.

"Child, you see this place?"

Livvy looked at her uncertainly, not knowing where the question came from and what kind of answer was expected of her.

"You hear me?"


"It's a dump. Everything is falling apart. Ain't got living room furniture. Got to sit on folding chairs, because we can't afford nothin' else. Don't matter how many times we call the exterminator, don't matter how many bottles of Raid we spray, the roaches don't go away, and the damn rats think they got as much right to this place as we do." She paused, a look of disgust on her face, and glanced over the room.

"You like living like this, Livvy?"

Livvy tried holding her mother's stare but had to look away.

"Mama, I'm used to it."

"That's not what I asked you, child."

"It's our home, Mama." Livvy looked up at her mother, wanting to cry, feeling sorry and embarrassed for her.

"'It's our home' don't make it reason enough for us to have to live in this shit. This just how you gonna be living when you get my age. Is that what you want?"

Livvy didn't answer, knowing her mother's tactics for trying to get her to kill her unborn child.

"And you want your child living like this? You gonna have enough to worry about with diaper rash, and teething, and nonsense like that. You want to have to worry about looking down into your baby's crib and finding a rat sniffing around her? Constantly have to watch her while she's crawling on the floor, so she don't put lead paint chips or dead roaches in her mouth? Do you want that?"

"No," Livvy said, anger and frustration creeping into her voice.

"Then let me take you to the clinic. I'll be there with you, holding your hand all the way, baby. I'll be in the room with you."

Livvy let her mind wander down the street, into that room. She saw her legs hoisted up into those stirrups, heard the buzz of that blade, the suck of that vacuum, could almost feel her insides being yanked out of her.

"No!" she screamed, and turned, stumbling back on weary legs toward her room. But her mother was quickly up and out of that chair, had chased her down, one high-heeled shoe and all, and had spun Livvy around.

"Then what you gonna do, Livvy? You're sixteen years old, ain't finish high school. Ain't got no job, ain't got no skills to get a decent job, and you want to have a baby. How you gonna care for it?"

"We'll handle it."

"We? We!" Livvy's mother shouted. "Ain't nobody around here but you. Ain't nobody carrying that baby but you. Who the hell is we?"

"Me and Avery," Livvy whispered under her breath.

Livvy's mother sadly shook her head. "That boy is gone, and he ain't never coming back, child. You got to know that."

"He left, but once -- "

" -- once you have the baby, he gonna come back?" Livvy's mother finished for her. "No. He ain't. I thought the same thing when I had you, but don't no sixteen-year-old boy want to raise no child. He a child himself. But the difference between boys and you girls is that they smart enough to know they still children and got no business trying to raise one themself. Livvy..."

"I ain't killing my baby," Livvy protested, a tear slipping over the rim of her eyelid.

"Livvy, Baby -- ,"

"I ain't killing my child!"

"You gonna regret this your whole life."

"Like you regret having me?"

"No, no, Livvy," her mother said, stepping near to her, placing her arms around her, consoling her daughter. "You the best thing that ever happened to me. But why you gotta go and do it just because I did?"

Livvy stared into her mother's eyes, took a moment, then spoke. "Because I want somebody who really loves me."

"Livvy, I love you. You know that." Her mother tightened her arms around her child, but Livvy squirmed out of the embrace.

"You never here. You always at work, leaving me here by myself."

"Because I gotta take care of you. Pay rent, put food on the table."

"And what about Daddy? He didn't even stay around to raise me. Don't nobody love me. But my baby will when I have it. Even if Avery don't realize what a beautiful baby we made together, it won't matter, because my baby'll still love me." Livvy kept her eyes on her mother for a moment longer, then turned, and started back to her room.


"I'm having it, Mama."

"Livvy!" her mother called again.

"Ain't nothing more you can say. I said, I'm having it."

"Then you ain't having it here." Her mother's voice was low, but Livvy heard the words. She stopped dead, but did not turn and look around.

"That's right," Livvy's mother said. She sounded unsure, as if she questioned each word she said, but had to stay strong because of what she believed best for her child. "You heard me. You think you grown enough to bring a life into this world, then you grown enough to care for it yourself. I did what I was supposed to do. I had you when I was sixteen and would've cared for you until you was old enough to do it for yourself, but obviously that time is now. I ain't spending no more of my life raising somebody else child, even if it is yours. So I guess you got one more decision to make."

Livvy waited for a moment, making sure her mother was done saying what she had to say, then took the last few steps into her bedroom and closed the door behind her. There was no decision to make, Livvy thought, because it was made the night she got pregnant. She was having her baby.

Seventeen years later, Livvy Rodgers was thirty-three, working in a hospital as a nurse's assistant. She was proud of what she did, of what she accomplished, in light of the decisions she had made over the course her life. Yes, she could've done more, should've gotten further, but she took what she did very seriously.

The hospital uniform she wore was always spotless, brilliantly white, and sharply creased in all the appropriate places. Her curly, almost shoulder-length black hair was always pinned up in a bun, making her look very neat and professional. She kept herself in fairly good shape, although she could not seem to drop the fifteen pounds she had put on during her pregnancy. It had all gone to her hips and behind, making it necessary for everything she wore, including her uniforms, to be taken in at the waist in order for them to fit properly.

That evening, Livvy had been taking care of a new patient, a beautiful, fair-complexioned girl, with curly light brown hair, pulled back in a ponytail, and held with a single rubber band. She was the reason Livvy was having thoughts about her own childhood, about when she was pregnant.

Livvy assumed the girl couldn't have been any older than she was when she had given birth. If anything, she was probably a year or two younger.

The girl's belly was large and round under the blankets, for she was past due. She placed her hands over her stomach, shamefully trying to hide her unborn child from the nurses' assistant who was staring sympathetically down at her.

"You gonna have a baby," Livvy said, trying to smile in spite of the situation, sensing the girl's discomfort.

The girl smiled, slowly moving her hands. "Yeah. A baby girl."

"How old are you?"


The smile disappeared from Livvy's face.

Livvy was in labor and screaming, clawing at the dashboard, feeling that something was clawing as ferociously at her insides to get out.

"Are we fucking there yet!" Livvy yelled out to her friend. Sharika drove the '73 Datsun B-210 as fast as the little engine would allow.

"We a block away, girl, just hold on. Don't be spillin' your insides all over my seats. Hold on!"

Not ten minutes later, Livvy was on her back in the delivery room of the Cook County Hospital, the free hospital. She was screaming and crying now, hot tears streaming down the sides of her face, and all the while she was trying to keep her eyes closed, trying to block out that damn bright-ass fluorescent light that burned her retinas like the sun. She had never felt pain like this before. Not even the first time she had sex.

Livvy screamed again, wanting to push, get this over with.

"Don't push. Don't push!" Livvy heard a voice coming from somewhere behind the sheet that hid her lower half.

"Fuck you!" Livvy spat and instead of pushing, squeezed the hell out of Sharika's hand. Her childhood friend was there by her side, dressed in blue hospital scrubs, mask and hat, like she was the other parent -- the two of them a cute little lesbian couple.

"You feel any pain, you just squeeze my hand, all right, girl," Sharika had told her before the pain really started. Livvy squeezed all right, and she hoped she broke some bones so Sharika could feel pain close to what Livvy was feeling.

"All right, push. Push!" the doctor told her, and Livvy gave everything she had. The agony intensified, enveloping her entire body, but she continued, hoping it would stop, needing it to, because she felt she would surely die trying to give birth to her child if it didn't. Then just before she thought she would black out, the child passed out of her.

"Awww. Look what we have here," Livvy heard voices behind the sheet saying. She felt Sharika try to let go of her hand to see what was going on, but Livvy wouldn't let her go.

"What? What?" Livvy said, trying to raise her head, see over the sheet. She heard a smack, heard the baby start crying, and then almost simultaneously felt another pain.

"Hold it," the doctor commanded. "Hold it!" and Livvy knew something was wrong. Her baby was going to die. That's why it was crying. She just knew it.

She felt more pain, something else trying to push out of her, but she couldn't pay it any mind, because she was so worried about whether her baby would live or die.

"Surprise, surprise!" Livvy heard the doctor say through all her panicking and pain.

"What?" Livvy said, tears rolling over her cheeks. "Is my baby all right? Tell me!"

"I think we have a two-for-one."

Livvy turned to Sharika, still squeezing her hand. "What's wrong? What is he talking about?"

"Livvy, I want you to push again," the doctor told her.

"Why! What for?!" She felt another jolt of pain shoot through her belly.

Sharika pulled her mask down under her chin. "Because you're having twins," she smiled. "Now push!"

Five days later, Livvy lay in bed with her two little girls. Sharika's mother said she could stay at her house in the basement for a couple of weeks, till she found a job and a place of her own. Livvy thought of calling her mother, but the thought quickly passed. Her mother didn't want anything to do with her or her babies, so Livvy wouldn't force them on her. She thought of calling Avery, but had no clue of where to start. She called his mother to let her know the good news. His mother said nothing more than, "That's nice. But I still don't know where he is."

As Livvy lay there, her daughters in her arms, she realized that none of that made any difference. It didn't matter that no one cared about her anymore, because she would receive all the love she needed from her baby girls, Hennesey, and Alizé.

Copyright © 2003 by R. Marcus Johnson

Meet the Author

R.M. Johnson is the author of nine novels, including bestsellers The Harris Family and The Million Dollar Divorce. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Dating Games 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first book that I have read by R.M. Johnson and I really liked it! It was great I didn't lose interest for a second, I finished it in two days. Run out and get it!
Steph_E More than 1 year ago
This is my first time reading a book by this author and it was a really good book. It did have its slow moments but overall it was a good book. I dont care for the ending but I would recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bravo! Another great book by RM Johnson! This was the 2nd book I have read by Mr Johnson and I really enjoyed it. The events in this book seemed so real! Once I got to the middle of the book, I couldn't put it down. I loved every page and I can't wait to read my 3rd book by Mr Johnson.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hennesey is straight ¿A¿ student. Hennesey has a twin sister named Alize. Hennesey always says, ¿If my sister is my twin, then why are we so different?¿. While Hennesey is on her way to college on a full scholarship, her sister, Alize, relies on her looks and sex appeals to get what she wants. Livvy, Hennesey and Alize¿s mother, becomes pregnant and she doesn¿t know whether to keep the baby or not and her boyfriend, Avery, finds out after four months of the pregnancy and leaves her high and dry, with no help and no money for her baby. Soon she realizes that she doesn¿t need a man to keep her happy. Livvy, Hennesey, and Alize soon have to move out of their apartment to get a smaller place to save up their money so they can live like a normal family and not have to have Alize persuade men with lots of money to go to hotels with her. Once she¿s there, she drugs them and takes their money and jewelry. The genre of this book is fiction. It has lots of drama and suspense. It keeps you flipping through the pages wondering what¿s going to happen next. Every time I¿m ready to put down the book I can¿t. All the drama that happens in the book is very much relates to the drama in real life and what goes on in people¿s lives for example, drugs, alcohol and even prostitution. Alize and Hennesey are the most different set of twin any one has ever seen the might look a lot alike but they are completely different in every thing that they do. They never decide on anything together, but to some people that¿s the beauty of having a sister so they can fight all the time but, there are some times that sister can be the best of friend. When I read this book, it makes me think how lucky I am that I have a house that I can stay in and have enough food to last a few months and even extra money to spend on myself. Alize is described as a loose girl in the book and her sister, Hennesey, is described as a properly brought up child that has everything she ever wanted, scholarships to the best schools around the world. I would¿ve never have thought that Alize would have to almost prostitute her body to make a few bucks for her family.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I first read this book in 8th grade, it was wonderful then and wonderful now that Im in 12th grade. Its all about the underdog and you find yourself rooting for certain people who do not disappoint! This is an excellent read that will leave you on the edge wanting more. 5 stars !!!
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Jeffsjoi More than 1 year ago
This book was pretty good. It was a little slow at times, but it was good enough to keep you wanting to turn the pages to see what was going to happen next.
kesh81 More than 1 year ago
overall the book was good at times it got slow but at the same time makes you want to know whats going to happen next the ending still leaves you guessing whats going to happen i know you have to save for the nexted book but ending stories liike that make you not want to even bother with the author anymore but I'll say again it was a good book i enjoyed reading it but i was pissed when i got he end
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the first book I have read by RM Johnson and it is awesome. It is a page turner with lots of twists and turns. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I have read all year. I had a hard time putting it down. I recommend this book to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book. I couldnt put it down. My eyes were glued to the pages. I flew through the chapters and before I knew it, there were no more chapters. This books has it all: sex, love, scandal, abuse, and drugs. The book was simply mindblowing. In this book, Livvy has twin girls that are totally different. Hennesey is a very smart, caring, and loving daughter and the sister that is destined for medical school. On the other hand, Alize uses her physical beauty to get what she wants. All of their lives, Alize has always taken everything from Hennesey....all the way down to her men. However, one day Hennesey meets Rafe who has just gotten out of prison after three years. Alize attempts to steal Rafe, but is quickly shut down. Rafe likes Hennesey and no matter how much Alize looks like Hennesey, to Rafe she's just not her. Livvy decides that she has given her girls all that she can and now it is time for her to do some things for herself. When Livvy informs Alize and Hennesey that they need to find a place to stay by the end of the summer, Alize panics. She and her friends concoct a plan to drug men and steal their money and jewelry. When Alize and her friends rob Smoke, a cold blooded drug lord and killer (who also happens to be the same guy that Rafe was protecting when he went to prison), the stories takes a wild turn and youll never guess what happens next. This book takes you on a ride you will never forget. For those of you that like to foreshadow and like a challenge, this is definately the book for you!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story was a blast and i couldn't put it down after i started. The first RM Jonson novel i ever read and now im hooked. Henny and Ally were totally different but i loved how in the end they stayed tight.Dating Games can be looked at through many different point of views.Anyone who reads it will find it interesting :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dis' book waz really good. Their waz a lot of interesting stuff that happened in the book. Dis' is definetly a good book I wud love to read ova and ova again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i really liked this book. i didn't really read all that much before but ever since i picked up this book i couldn't put it down.this book has alot of excitment in it i really makes you want to trun the pages. this book is things that could go on in real life. this book about twins that live in the ghetto. the older twin is suppose to set an example but ends up getting them into trouble. i like this book well really love and recommand it to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Alize was a handful and caused drama for her sister. I was glad she made in the end but wished more info could have been revealed on her mom such as her career or schooling for the future. Alize was so disrespectful especially when she slept w/her Mom's boyfriend to prove a point to herself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story started out slow but turned out to be very good. I almost cried when I got to the end of the book. And that daughter Alize was too much for me. She would have gotten slapped ten times over. Im glad that Hennesey chose to give Rafe a chance regardless of his past. The end end was sort of like 'yeah right' but it is a fiction book and anything can happen!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i thought this book was amazing, my friend lent it to me one day saying that it was so good, at first i was a little skeptical,but after the first page i couldn't put it down, i was reading during lunch, before and after school, after practice, every time i could even read a sentence i tried. i just couldn't get enough of that book, i thought that it was truly amazing and suspensful, i think any and all who read it will love it.