Home > Verity(5)

Author: Colleen Hoover

“The timeline for the other two is up for discussion. Ideally, we would like to see the contract completed within the next twenty-four months.”

I can sense Corey doing the math in his head. It makes me wonder if he’s calculating to see what his cut would be or what my cut would be. Corey would get fifteen percent. That’s almost thirty-four thousand dollars, simply for representing me in this meeting as my agent. Half would go to taxes. That’s just under one hundred thousand that would end up in my bank account. Fifty grand per year.

It’s more than double the advance I’ve received for my past novels, but it’s not enough to convince me to attach myself to such a successful series. The conversation moves back and forth pointlessly, since I already know I’ll be declining. When Amanda pulls out the official contract, I clear my throat and speak up.

“I appreciate the offer,” I say. I look directly at Jeremy so he’ll know I’m being sincere. “Really, I do. But if your plan is to bring in someone to become the new face of the series, I’m sure there are other authors who would be a much better fit.”

Jeremy says nothing, but he is looking at me with a lot more curiosity than he was before I spoke up. I stand up, ready to leave. I’m disappointed in the outcome, but even more disappointed that my first day outside of my apartment has been a complete disaster in so many ways. I’m ready to go home and take a shower.

“I’d like a moment with my client,” Corey says, standing quickly.

Amanda nods, closing her briefcase as they both stand. “We’ll step out,” she says. “The terms are detailed in your folders. We have two other writers in mind if this doesn’t seem like it would be a good fit for you, so try to let us know something by tomorrow afternoon at the latest.”

Jeremy is the only one still seated at this point. He hasn’t said a single word this entire time. Amanda leans forward to shake my hand. “If you have any questions, please reach out. I’m happy to help.”

“Thank you,” I say. Amanda and Goddammit Barron walk out, but Jeremy continues to stare at me. Corey looks back and forth between us, waiting for Jeremy to exit. Instead, Jeremy leans forward, focusing on me.

“Could we possibly have a word in private?” Jeremy asks me. He looks at Corey, but not for permission—it’s more of a dismissal.

Corey stares back at Jeremy, caught off guard by his brazen request. I can tell by the way Corey slowly turns his head and narrows his eyes that he wants me to decline. He’s all but saying, “Can you believe this guy?”

What he doesn’t realize is that I’m craving to be alone in this room with Jeremy. I want them all out of this room, especially Corey, because I suddenly have so many more questions for Jeremy. About his wife, about why they reached out to me, about why she’s no longer able to finish her own series.

“It’s fine,” I say to Corey.

The vein in his forehead protrudes as he attempts to hide his irritation. His jaw hardens, but he yields and eventually exits the conference room.

It’s just Jeremy and me.


Counting the elevator, this is the third time we’ve been alone in a room together since we crossed paths this morning. But this is the first time I’ve felt this much nervous energy. I’m sure it’s all mine. Jeremy somehow looks as calm as he did while he was helping me clean pieces of a pedestrian off of myself less than an hour ago.

Jeremy leans back in his chair, dragging his hands down his face. “Jesus,” he mutters. “Are meetings with publishers always this stiff?”

I laugh quietly. “I wouldn’t know. I usually do these things over email.”

“I can see why.” He stands and grabs a bottle of water. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting now and he’s so tall, but I don’t remember feeling this small in his presence earlier. Knowing he’s married to Verity Crawford makes me feel intimidated by him even more than when I was standing in front of him in my skirt and bra.

He remains standing as he leans against the counter, crossing his legs at the ankles. “You okay? You didn’t really have much time to adjust to what happened across the street before walking into this.”

“Neither did you.”

“I’m alright.” There’s that word again. “I’m sure you have questions.”

“A ton,” I admit.

“What do you want to know?”

“Why can’t your wife finish the series?”

“She was in a car accident,” he says. His response is mechanical, as if he’s forcing himself to detach from any emotion right now.

“I’m sorry. I hadn’t heard.” I shift in my seat, not knowing what else to say.

“I wasn’t on board with the idea of someone else finishing out her contract at first. I had hope she would fully recover. But—” He pauses. “Here we are.”

His demeanor makes sense to me now. He seemed a little reserved and quiet, but now I realize all the quiet parts of him are just grief. Palpable grief. I’m not sure if it’s because of what happened to his wife, or what he told me in the bathroom earlier—that his daughter passed away several months ago. But this man is obviously out of his element here as he’s challenged with making decisions heavier than anything most people ever have to face. “I’m so sorry.”

He nods, but he offers nothing further. He returns to his seat, which makes me wonder if he thinks I’m still contemplating the offer. I don’t want to waste his time any more than I already have.

“I appreciate the offer, Jeremy, but honestly, it’s not something I’m comfortable with. I’m not good with publicity. I’m not even sure why your wife’s publisher reached out to me as an option in the first place.”

“Open Ended,” Jeremy says.

I stiffen when he mentions one of the books I’ve written.

“It was one of Verity’s favorite books.”

“Your wife read one of my books?”

“She said you were going to be the next big thing. I’m the one who gave her editor your name because Verity thinks your writing styles are similar. If anyone is going to take over Verity’s series, I want it to be someone whose work she respects.”

I shake my head. “Wow. I’m flattered, but…I can’t.”

Jeremy watches me silently, probably wondering why I’m not reacting as most writers would to this opportunity. He can’t figure me out. Normally, I would be proud of that. I don’t like being easily read, but it feels wrong in this situation. I feel like I should be more transparent, simply because he showed me courtesy this morning. I wouldn’t even know where to start, though.

Jeremy leans forward, his eyes swimming with curiosity. He stares at me a moment, then taps his fist on the table as he stands. I assume the meeting is over and start to stand as well, but Jeremy doesn’t walk toward the door. He walks toward a wall lined with framed awards, so I sink back into my chair. He stares at the awards, his back to me. It isn’t until he runs his fingers over one of them that I realize it’s one of his wife’s. He sighs and then faces me again.

“Have you ever heard of people referred to as Chronics?” he asks.

I shake my head.

“I think Verity might have made up the term. After our daughters died, she said we were Chronics. Prone to chronic tragedy. One terrible thing after another.”

I stare at him a moment, allowing his words to percolate. He said he’d lost a daughter earlier, but he’s using the term in plural form. “Daughters?”

He inhales a breath. Releases it with defeat. “Yeah. Twins. We lost Chastin six months before Harper passed. It’s been…” He isn’t detaching himself from his emotions as well as he was earlier. He runs a hand down his face and then returns to his chair. “Some families are lucky enough to never experience a single tragedy. But then there are those families that seem to have tragedies waiting on the back burner. What can go wrong, goes wrong. And then gets worse.”

I don’t know why he’s telling me this, but I don’t question it. I like hearing him speak, even if the words coming out of his mouth are dismal.

He’s twirling his water bottle in a circle on the table, staring down at it in thought. I’m getting the impression he didn’t request to be alone with me to change my mind. He just wanted to be alone. Maybe he couldn’t stand another second of discussing his wife in that manner, and he wanted them all to leave. I find that comforting—that being alone with me in the room still feels like being alone to him.

Or maybe he always feels alone. Like our old next-door neighbor who, from what it sounds like, was definitely a Chronic.

“I grew up in Richmond,” I say. “Our next-door neighbor lost all three members of his family in less than two years. His son died in combat. His wife died six months later of cancer. Then his daughter died in a car wreck.”

Jeremy stops moving the water bottle and slides it a few inches away from him. “Where’s the man now?”

I stiffen. I wasn’t expecting that question.

The truth is, the man couldn’t take losing everyone that meant anything to him. He killed himself a few months after his daughter died, but to say that out loud to Jeremy, who is still grieving the deaths of his own daughters, would be cruel.

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