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She was just…Jane, like plain Jane, and even her own backstory – or lack of – reflected this.

“Do you know,” she shared absently, “I even complained to my parents once, about how boring I am, and how boring my life is. I even asked them if it was possible I was adopted or even an illegitimate child. I was that desperate to make at least one part of me interesting.”

Jaike was wide-eyed. “And then what happened?”

“Mom gave me five dollars and told me to go out and find someone I could pay to listen to me.”

Jaike burst into laughter while Derek coughed to cover his.

“You’re being too hard on yourself,” Jaike managed to say when she finally got a hold of herself again.

“I’m just being honest.” Jane reached out to pat Jaike’s round tummy, saying, “Little one, listen to me closely. Never ever be like your Godmother Jane—-”

Jaike swatted her friend’s hand away. “Stop that.”

“If you want my unsolicited opinion—-” Derek pretended not to notice his wife’s friend vehemently shaking her head. “I think the lack of, err, excitement in your life is due to the fact that you’re not putting yourself out there enough.”

“You know I did,” Jane protested. During last year’s Christmas party at her workplace, a colleague had asked Jane what she thought about the showdown that had taken place in the company’s chat room. The online mudslinging had been about gender equality, with Merry, one of the company’s up-and-coming news anchors, saying certain rules in the industry were still sexist, while Hannah, an outgoing executive, had said those rules existed for a reason.

“I think Merry had come up with rather salient points, but I also thought she had been unnecessarily rude,” Jane had answered honestly, recalling the way the beautiful TV personality had used ‘fucking’ like a prefix for Hannah’s name.

As soon as she had spoken, a voice from behind had answered coolly, “Don’t you think you’re the rude one? Shouldn’t you say things like that to my face rather than backstabbing me?”

It had been Merry of course, and the other woman had walked past her with a contemptuous toss of her head in the middle of Jane’s stammering apology.

The story about it had spread like wildfire in the company, and although Merry’s subsequent suspension had many of her colleagues telling Jane that she had been vindicated, it hadn’t made Jane feel any better.

Instead, the incident had given her a phobia about speaking up, and the trauma had been so that Jane had been forced to secretly submit to several counseling sessions to get over it.

Seeing the frowning, unhappy look on her friend’s face, Jaike’s own face softened. “You’re talking about the Not Merry episode, aren’t you?”

“What else?” Jane answered gloomily.

“That was an isolated incident,” her friend said gently. “You must know that by now, right?”

Jane shrugged, which the couple knew was Jane’s way of being silently stubborn.

“You are too stiff, that’s all,” Derek said finally.

“I think so, too,” Jaike said with a nod. “Just at least try loosening up a bit more. If you just tried, you’ll realize how much you’re missing out on your life. You’ll meet new friends. New guys—-”

“I work in P.R.,” Jane interrupted dryly. “I meet new guys all the time.”

“Yes, but they can’t fall in love with you if you don’t let them see the real you. I swear, if guys knew just how funny you are—-”

Jane made a face. “How many times do we have to go through this? Guys don’t dig clowns. Okay?”

“See?” Jaike flashed a triumphant grin. “That’s funny, isn’t it?” She turned to her husband, and the billionaire said obediently, “It is.”

Jane rolled her eyes. Of course Jaike’s husband would agree. Derek was shamelessly indulgent wherever his wife was concerned, and if Jaike told him she wanted the sun, Jane was pretty sure the billionaire would find a way to give it to her.

“Let’s just agree to disagree,” Jane told the two. “I’m a lost case—-”

“You’re not,” Jaike insisted with a shake of her head. “And I know exactly how to prove it.”

Jane started feeling suspicious.

“I’m going to dare you—-”

Jane groaned. “That’s cheating!” Jaike knew how much she hated not taking on a dare. It was, like, her one and only Achilles’ heel, which she just couldn’t get rid of.

But Jaike already had her phone out, and she let out a little whoop afterwards before showing Derek and Jane what she found on the Internet.

Top Dares for Bridal Showers

Jane frowned. “But this isn’t a bridal shower.”

“Stop nitpicking,” Jaike censured.

“I can’t help it. I’m paid to nitpick—-”

“Well, don’t do it now. We’re not at work, are we?” Jaike pointed to #1 on the list. “See that?”

Make out with a beautiful stranger.

“Are you crazy?” Jane burst out. “That entire sentence should be flagged. Stranger. Beautiful. Make out.”

Derek’s eyes gleamed. “Jane Cooper, dared to make out with a beautiful stranger?”