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Lorana Hoopes

Take a Chance on Me

Take a Chance on Me

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Is this dare the dumbest thing I’ve ever done?

I’ve been in a funk lately, but you would be too if your fiancé had just dumped you. So, I’m not surprised when my best friends drag me out to dinner. I smell an intervention coming on. However, I am not prepared for their idea to get me out of said funk.

They want me to use a magic eight ball to make all my decisions until Valentine’s Day. And they’ve dared me. It’s dumb, but we all made a pact in high school not to turn down a dare. Still, this seems a little much. And it gets worse when I realize the promotion I’m up for requires me to work with the stiffest guy at work - Derek. This is going to be a disaster.

What’s worse is that somewhere between multiple trips to the ER, broken elevators, and dance lessons, I think I might be falling for Derek. We couldn’t actually work, could we?

Find out in this sweet and wholesome grumpy-sunshine romantic comedy with guaranteed laughs and heart-touching romance from USA Today best selling author Lorana Hoopes. Page Turner Awards Finalist.

First Chapter

Crazy. My friends are crazy. Possibly certifiable. That is the only explanation for the words that just spilled out of their mouths.

“You want me to do what?” I am sure that I have heard them incorrectly. Although, I probably should have suspected something when they suggested getting dinner in the middle of the week. Generally, we go out on Fridays, but we reserve the other days of the week for important things like birthdays, promotions, or interventions, which is what this appears to be shaping up to be.

“Just hear us out,” Hannah says, which sends up a major red flag. Hannah is the creative entrepreneur who started her own business, but she’s also obsessed with mood and personalities. She’s constantly telling us how the colors we see affect the way we feel and she tries to relate every little flaw we have to some personality trait. I’d say look it up if you don’t understand, but really, it’s just better to feign understanding and remain ignorant.

Her obsession is a little over the top. Of course, she would say that’s my microaggression rearing its ugly head - yes, according to her, people have microagressions too, whatever that means - but I’m not sure I buy that. Regardless, Hannah has a very take-charge attitude and I can see it rearing its ugly head as she glances at Charlie, Piper, and Belle who nod in return. “Remember when we were in high school and we used to make those pacts to try new things?”

Of course I remember. It would be nearly impossible to forget, especially since one of those pacts resulted in all of us dying our hair green one year. Our mothers were not pleased, and we were the laughingstock of the school for a week until we all broke down and returned our hair to its natural color. “Yeah, but we were in high school.” I lift a brow and look at each of them before continuing. “In case you missed the last decade, we are now out of high school and college. This is real life.” 

Hannah holds up her hands. “I know, but remember how fun it was just to let loose and not worry? With Valentine’s Day coming up-”

I interrupt her with a sigh and a roll of my eyes. “I am convinced Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday to make florists, card makers, and chocolatiers money.”

“Actually, Valentine’s Day isn’t a made-up holiday, although when it was originally introduced, it was much more about getting women pregnant than giving them chocolates and flowers,” Piper says, pushing her glasses up her freckled nose. Piper is like a walking encyclopedia and definitely got the best grades of all of us in high school and college, but sometimes her timing is atrocious.

“What?” She shrugs her shoulders. “There was a documentary about it on TV last night and I couldn’t sleep.”

“Of course there was.” Piper is almost always the last one of us to go to sleep. She says it’s because her mind refuses to turn off, and I’m tempted to believe her. She has way more going on in her head than I do. It’s scary everything that goes on in there. “Anyway, Valentine’s Day stinks.”

“That wasn’t your view last year,” Charlie says. Charlie is the no-nonsense, take charge one who I’m pretty sure knows at least three different ways to kill people. She works as a professional trainer, and I’m fairly certain it’s because she likes making people feel pain and it’s one of the few professions she can do that without getting thrown in jail.

I shoot her a withering look. “Last year, my fiancé hadn’t just dumped me for one of my friends.” Not as good of a friend as I thought, it turned out, but still. Last year, I had a date on Valentine’s Day. I received the overpriced flowers that died within a week, the delicious chocolate that I rationed for a month, so I wouldn’t gain too much weight, and I was treated to an overpriced dinner at a fancy restaurant. It looked pretty, but it sure wasn’t filling. Still, I wasn’t alone like I will be this year.

“Exactly.” Hannah flashes a smile, but it does not give me joy. Instead, it fills me with a sense of dread, but oblivious to my discomfort she continues, “And that’s why we came up with this. For the next few weeks, you let the eight ball decide any time someone asks you a question. It decides if you go on a date, if you stay late at work, if you eat Thai food or Mexican.”

“I don’t know guys.” I shake my head at the suggestion and not just because putting my life in the hands of an eight ball is weird, even for my friends. The wound is still pretty fresh. Adam broke up with me just a few months ago, before Christmas but not before I’d purchased his gift that I’d had to return later, and I’m not sure I’m ready to date again. Especially not after hearing he’s already engaged again. My whining about his engagement is most likely what caused this friendtervention.

“Of course, you can set boundaries,” Hannah continues as if she doesn’t hear my objection. “Like obviously, you won’t do anything illegal or against your morals, but otherwise,” she shrugs, “you let the eight ball decide and just go with the flow.”

“I watched a documentary on the eight ball once. Did you know it originally started in a tube and then a crystal ball, but it became the eight ball after a billiard company used it for a promotional idea. Not many things that go through three iterations continue to last as long as it has.”

“What’s an iteration?” Belle asks Piper, her forehead scrunching in confusion. I love Belle, but she’s kind of the airhead of the group. She is an actual Southern Belle who still sounds like she just got off the set of Gone with the Wind and she’s about as ditzy as they come. Her blonde hair is more than a perfect color. It’s like the punctuation to her ditziness. 

“It’s a change.” Charlie shoots Piper a reproachful look. “Piper just likes to sound smart.”

“I am smart,” Piper quips.

“Oh, well, I think it’s a great idea no matter how many alliterations it has,” Belle says, turning back to me.

Piper rolls her eyes at the word slip, but the rest of us decide to let it go. No one wants to have to explain alliterations to Belle. Nor does her liking the idea give me warm fuzzies. After all, she nearly ruined Christmas last year when she thought a killer was after her. In the end, it worked out, but still. “Then maybe you should do it,” I say back, but going with the flow doesn’t sound all bad. Obviously my taste in men isn’t what I thought it was, so maybe letting fate decide isn’t such a bad thing. Besides, it’s only for a few weeks. How bad could it possibly be?

“I say we make it a dare.” Charlie folds her arms across her chest and arches one eyebrow. Though not bulky, she is definitely jacked, and the muscles in her arms ripple as she flexes. Even so, I shoot her another warning look. She knows I won’t turn down a dare. None of us will. One of the stupid pacts we made in high school was that we would always accept a dare as long as it wasn’t dangerous. The thought at the time was that sometimes we could see what the other people needed when they couldn’t and we could issue dares that would help them get over fears. It was a good idea at the time, but I’m regretting the pact now.

“I second that.” Belle raises her hand as if she thinks this is a democracy. 

“Even though I find dares to be antiquated, I will agree in this circumstance,” Piper says.

Hannah smiles triumphantly at me. “Well, the dare has been issued. What are you going to do now, Katie?”

I look at each of them and sigh. I should be mad that they’ve ganged up on me, but honestly, I love these girls like sisters, so I can’t stay mad for long. “Fine, hand me the eight ball.”

“Yes!” Hannah pumps her arm and then pulls it from her purse. She doesn’t carry an especially large one, so I have no idea how she got it in there, but she’s a master at packing, so it shouldn’t surprise me. “We picked it up specially for you, so it’s never even been used before. Well, I’m sure people tried it in the store, but you know what I mean.” She hands me the baseball sized object encased in cardboard.

“I can’t believe you guys.” I begin opening the box to pull the ball out. “I’m going to look like an idiot doing this.” I glance around the restaurant sure that every eye is watching us right now, but thankfully I am wrong and no one seems to be paying us any attention.

Belle flicks her hand. “Just explain that it was a dare and you couldn’t say no.”

“I doubt most people take dares as seriously as we do.” I manage to get the rest of the cardboard off and hold the plastic ball in my hand. I have a vague memory of having one of these in middle school, but I have no idea whatever happened to it. “Well, shall we put this baby to the challenge?”

“What are you going to ask it?” Belle leans forward, her eyes gleaming like it’s Christmas or her birthday, and she’s about to open a huge present. She loves birthdays and refuses to celebrate just one day. Instead, she has a birthday week.

“Am I going to enjoy this challenge?” I flip the ball over and ‘Yes Definitely’ pops into the viewing screen. “I think you may have to take this back. It’s broken already.”

Hannah leans over to read the decision and shoves me. “It is not. I think you will enjoy this challenge, and I for one will enjoy watching you have to consult it for your decisions.”

“How very optimistic of you.” 

“You’re just being pessimistic,” she shoots back, sticking her tongue out at me. “This will be good for you.”

“Ask it if you’ll have a date for Valentine’s Day this year,” Belle says, wiggling in her chair. She’s almost like a puppy trying to contain her excitement.

Though I’m not sure I want to know the answer to that question, especially since I’m not sure I’m ready to date again, I ask the ball and turn it over, chuckling when ‘My sources say No’ floats to the top. “Maybe it’s accurate after all. There certainly aren’t any prospects on the horizon.”

“But there could be,” Belle says. “I bet it changes before the fourteenth.”

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see.” I set the ball to the side. “Now, can we focus on something other than my love life or lack thereof?”

The girls agree, and the topic switches to the struggles they’ve been facing at work, but as the conversation continues, my eyes slide to the magic eight ball. Even though I know it’s a gimmicky toy and nothing more, I want to ask it if Adam’s happy. If he loves Amy? If he ever loved me? This is going to be a long few weeks.

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.