Series: Dare Me #1
Published on March 28th 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
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Two fleeting smiles.
A dare that will change my life.
That’s all it takes to send me plummeting into the arms of the mysterious Holt Hamilton. Behind his crystal blue eyes is a secret, one that screams danger but calls to me anyway.
My name is Saige Phillips.
I never walk away from a dare.
Six lemon drop shots line the center of our table, and we’ve all refreshed our drinks and have fresh glasses of ice water.
“Ready?” Emery asks, and looks around at everyone, a hint of a challenge in her eyes.
“Let’s do it,” Zay says and rubs his hands together, ready to begin.
Emery beams with delight. “Okay, so we’re going counterclockwise. Rowan goes first, then Saige, then Zay, then Kinsley, and I’m last. We’ll ask you Truth or Dare. If you pick truth, we’ll use the questions from the app. If it’s a dare, we’ll come up with one as a group. Rules though, friends.” She looks pointedly at each of us. “It has to be safe, but it has to push boundaries.”
The guys grumble.
“I refuse to kiss Rowan,” Zay teases.
“You’re not my type,” Rowan jokes back.
“So, Ro.” Emery grins at him. “Truth or Dare?”
Rowan rubs his chin and ponders his two options for a minute. “Truth.”
“I knew he’d go easy on us,” Kinsley says.
“Hey hey,” he chides. “Let’s start off nice and slow. Build our way up.”
Emery taps the app on her phone, and the questions scramble. “Okay,” she says and chuckles to herself as she reads the question before reading it back to us. “Have you ever cheated on a boyfriend or girlfriend?”
“Really?” Rowan raises an unenthused eyebrow. “That’s the question?”
“Yep.” She turns the phone to face him, and he turns up his nose.
“Yes,” he answers, sounding bored. “I’ve cheated on both.”
“What!” Kinsley screams across the table. “You’ve had a boyfriend and a girlfriend?”
“Yes,” he mumbles and takes a sip of wine. “It was a long time ago.”
She drops her head back in laughter. “I need to hear more about this.”
I glance over to where Holt stands with his guest, and we make eye contact again, sharing a brief but friendly smile before I quickly turn my attention back to my friends. Emery is smirking at me, which means she caught me looking.
“No, you will not hear more about this.” Rowan raises his chin in defiance, then snatches Emery’s phone. “Moving on. Saige, truth or dare?”
I glance around the table at my friends and, without much thinking, blurt out, “Dare.”
Oh, shit. My stomach twists into a giant knot as those words fall from my tongue.
Everyone begins hooting and hollering, and I can’t help but laugh along with them. “Remember, safe,” Emery reminds us. “And, friends, let’s be reasonable.”
“Reasonable,” Kinsley snorts. “Okay, let’s put our heads together, guys.” They lean in to the center of the small round pub table, and whisper-yell over the tops of empty drink glasses and finally all sit back in their chairs.
“Bad idea.” Zay shakes his head and purses his lips. “I don’t like it.”
“Well, if one of you disagrees, then maybe you should come up with something new,” I chime in and look at Zay, who looks irritated.
“Not in this lifetime.” Kinsley giggles. “You ready, Saige?”
I swallow hard against my dry throat. “No.”
Truth. Always choose truth. What was I thinking?
“Too bad.” She grabs a shot off the table. “You are going to go ask Holt Hamilton out for a drink.”
“What?” I snap at her. I look around the table like my friends have lost their damn minds. “I can’t ask him out for drinks. He’ll think it’s a date, and dating a superior is strictly prohibited per the company handbook. There’s this thing called ethics in the workplace, people. Have you all lost your minds? Are you all crazy? Are you trying to get me fired?” They all roar with laughter and my heart races.
“First of all,” Kinsley tips her head back and swallows the lemon drop shot, “it’s not against company policy to date a coworker. You cannot date your direct manager. Holt is not your direct manager.” She looks pleased, like she just solved a murder case.
“He owns the fucking company,” I bark at her. “That pretty much qualifies as my manager.”
“Pipe down, little one.” Rowan pats my hand. “It’s just a drink, and purely innocent.”
I glower at him. “You said you’d have my back. This is not having my back, Ro.” I wipe my sweaty hands on my skirt.
“It’s all in pure fun.” His eyebrows dance at me. “Tell him we dared you if you have to.”
My frown deepens. “So I look like a thirteen-year-old? Hi, Mr. Hamilton. My friends over there dared me to ask you out. Will you have drinks with me? No thanks.” I cross my arms over my chest in defiance. Then, realizing that I probably look like I’m actually thirteen, I uncross them.
Zay chimes in, “I’ll bet one hundred dollars she won’t do it.”
“Chicken, Saige?” Kinsley kicks me under the table.
“I’m not a chicken, you assholes,” I grumble. “I’m reasonable. This is not reasonable. I’d like to keep my job.”
Emery nudges me. “It’s all in fun, and I am dying to see the look on his face when you ask him.”
I glance at Holt, feeling anxiety building in my stomach. Suddenly, he turns in our general direction to find all of us watching him. His brows pinch together in a confused look, but he offers us all a polite smile and a little nod of his head.
Ugh… “Fine. I’ll do it.” I add my two whiny cents, “This is really stupid, though, and if I wasn’t already close to being three sheets to the wind, I’d just take the damn shot.” I fan my face. The heat from the alcohol or the stuffy bar is getting to me.
“Atta girl!” Rowan grabs my hand and helps me down from the tall barstool. My knees wobble, and I press a hand my cheek to cool the flush crawling across my face. Between my nerves and the alcohol, my stomach is twisting and turning.
“Just breathe,” Rowan whispers in my ear as he grips my hand tightly. “Just ask him if he’d be interested in grabbing a drink sometime.”
“And when he says no?”
“You just smile and come back to us.”
Zay clears his throat. “What if he says yes?”
I turn around to shoot him a death glare.
Emery answers, “Then just know that she asked out the hottest man alive, and he accepted. Win-win.” She offers me a reassuring smile.
“Hottest man alive?” Zay mumbles under his breath and pffts into his glass of beer.
“Yes!” Emery and Kinsley say simultaneously.
“I can’t do this,” I say, reaching for my chair. Nerves are getting the better of me, and my knees are literally knocking together.
“You can,” Rowan assures me. “Go.”
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