Home > Verity(14)

Author: Colleen Hoover

“Yeah. I stay up pretty late and then sleep in most mornings. I hope that’s not an issue.”

“Not at all. I’m actually a night owl, too. Verity’s nurse leaves in the evenings and comes back at seven in the morning, so I stay up until midnight and give Verity her nighttime medications. Nurse takes over when she gets here.” He grabs his plate from the microwave and sits across from me at the table.

I can’t even make eye contact with him. All I can think of when I look at him is the part of Verity’s manuscript I read where she mentioned his hand was between her legs at the Steak ’n Shake. God, I shouldn’t have read that. Now I’ll be blushing every time I look in his direction. He has really nice hands, too, which doesn’t help the situation.

I need to change the direction of my thoughts.

Like now.

“Did she ever talk with you about the series she was writing? Like what she had planned for the characters? The ending?”

“If she did, I can’t remember,” he says, looking down at his plate. He absentmindedly moves around a slice of pizza. “Before her car wreck, it had been a while since she’d written anything. Or even talked about writing.”

“How long ago was her wreck?” I already know the answer, but I don’t want him to know I Googled his family’s history.

“Not long after Harper died. She was in a medically induced coma for a while, then went into an intense rehabilitation center for several weeks. She’s only been home for a few weeks now.” He takes another bite. I feel bad for talking about it, but he doesn’t seem put off by the conversation.

“Before my mother died, I was her only caregiver. I don’t have any siblings, so I know it isn’t easy.”

“It isn’t easy,” he says in agreement. “I’m sorry about your mother, by the way. I’m not sure I said that when you told me about it in the coffee shop bathroom.”

I smile at him, but say nothing else about it. I don’t want him to ask about her. I want the focus to remain on him and Verity.

My mind keeps going back to the manuscript, because even though I know very little about the man sitting across from me, I almost feel as though I know him. At the very least, I know him the way Verity described him.

I’m curious to know what kind of marriage they had, and why she ended the first chapter with the sentence she chose. “Until he discovered the one thing that meant more to him than I did.”

The sentence is ominous. It’s almost as if she were setting up the next chapter to reveal some terrible, dark secret about this man. Or maybe it was a writing strategy, and she’s going to say he’s a saint and that their children mean more to him than she did.

Whatever it means, I’m dying to read the next chapter now that I’m staring at him. And I hate that I have so many other things that should be my focus right now, but all I want to do is curl up and read about Jeremy and Verity’s marriage. It makes me feel a little pathetic.

It’s probably not even about them. I know a writer who admitted she uses her husband’s name in every manuscript until she can come up with a name for her character. Maybe that’s what Verity does. Maybe it was just another work of fiction, and Jeremy’s name was only there as a placeholder.

I guess there’s only one way to find out if what I read was true.

“How did you and Verity meet?”

Jeremy pops a pepperoni in his mouth and grins. “At a party,” he says, leaning back in his chair. Finally, he doesn’t look sad for once. “She was wearing the most amazing dress I’d ever seen. It was red, and so long that it dragged on the floor a little bit. God, she was beautiful,” he says with a hint of wistfulness. “We left the party together. When I walked outside, I saw a limousine parked out front, so I opened the door and we climbed inside and talked a little. Until the driver showed up and I had to admit the limousine wasn’t mine.”

I’m not supposed to know any of this, so I force a laugh. “It wasn’t yours?”

“No. I just wanted to impress her. We had to make an escape after that because the driver was pretty pissed.” He’s still smiling, like he’s right back in that night with Verity and her fuckable red dress. “We were inseparable after that.”

It’s hard for me to smile for him. For them. Seeing how happy they seemed back then, and then looking at what their life turned into. I wonder if her autobiography explains in detail how they got from point A to point B. At the beginning of it, she mentions Chastin’s death. Which means she wrote it, or at least added to it, after that first huge tragedy. I wonder how long she’s been working on it?

“Was Verity already an author when you met her?”

“No, she was still in grad school. It was later, when I had to take a temporary position in Los Angeles for a few months, that she wrote her first book. I think it was her way of passing the time until I came back home. She was passed up by a couple of publishers at first, but once she sold that first manuscript, everything just... It all happened so fast. Our lives changed practically overnight.”

“How did she handle the fame?”

“I think it was harder for me than it was for her.”

“Because you like being invisible?”

“Is it that obvious?”

I shrug. “Fellow introvert, here.”

He laughs. “Verity isn’t your typical author. She loves the spotlight. The fancy events. It all makes me uncomfortable. I like being here with the kids.” There’s a very subtle shift in his expression when he realizes he spoke of his girls in the present tense. “With Crew,” he says, correcting himself. He shakes his head and then clasps his hands behind his neck, leaning back like he’s stretching. Or uncomfortable. “It’s hard sometimes—remembering they aren’t here anymore.” His voice is quiet, and he’s staring past me, at nothing. “I still find their hairs on the sofa. Their socks in the dryer. Sometimes I yell out their names when I want to show them something, forgetting they aren’t going to come running down the stairs.”

I watch him closely, because not all of me is convinced yet. I write suspense novels. I know when there are suspicious situations, suspicious people almost always accompany those situations. I’m torn between wanting to find out more about what happened to his girls, and getting out of here as fast as I can.

But right now, I’m not looking at a man who is putting on a show to garner sympathy. I’m looking at a man who’s sharing his thoughts out loud for the first time.

It makes me want to do the same.

“My mother hasn’t been gone that long, but I know what you mean. Every morning that first week, I’d get up and make her breakfast, only to remember she wasn’t there to eat it.”

Jeremy drops his arms to the table. “I wonder how long it lasts. Or if it’ll always be this way.”

“I think time will definitely help, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to entertain the idea of moving. If you’re in a house they’ve never been in, the reminders of them might fade. Not having them around would become your new normal.”

He runs a hand across the stubble on his jaw. “I’m not sure I want a normal where there aren’t traces of Harper and Chastin.”

“Yeah,” I say in agreement. “I wouldn’t either.”

His eyes remain on me, but it’s quiet. Sometimes a look between two people can last so long, it shakes you. Forces you to look away.

So I do.

I look at my plate and run my finger along the scalloped edge of it. His stare felt like it was going far past my eyes, into my thoughts. And even though he doesn’t mean for it to, it feels intimate. When Jeremy’s eyes are on mine, it feels like an exploration of the deepest parts of me.

“I should get back to work,” I say, my voice barely above a whisper.

He’s unmoving for a few seconds, but then sits up straight, quickly scooting back his chair as if he just broke out of a trance. “Yeah,” he says, reaching for our plates as he stands. “I should get Verity’s meds ready.” He walks our plates to the sink, and as I’m exiting the kitchen, he says, “Goodnight, Low.”

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