Home > Verity(5)

Verity(5)
Author: Colleen Hoover

Amanda pulls folders out of her briefcase and slides them in front of Corey and me.

“Thank you for meeting with us,” she says. “We don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll cut right to the chase. One of our authors is unable to fulfill a contract due to medical reasons, and we’re in search of a writer with experience in the same genre who may be interested in completing the three remaining books in her series.”

I glance at Jeremy, but his stoic expression doesn’t hint at his role in this meeting.

“Who is the author?” Corey asks.

“We’re happy to go over the details and terms with you, but we do ask that you sign the non-disclosure agreement. We would like to keep our author’s current situation out of the media.”

“Of course,” Corey says.

I acquiesce, but I say nothing as we both look over the forms and then sign them. Corey slides them back to Amanda.

“Her name is Verity Crawford,” she says. “I’m sure you’re familiar with her work.”

Corey stiffens as soon as they mention Verity’s name. Of course we’re familiar with her work. Everyone is. I hazard a glance in Jeremy’s direction. Is Verity his wife? They share a last name. He said downstairs that his wife is a writer. But why would he be in a meeting about her? A meeting she isn’t even here for?

“We’re familiar with the name,” Corey says, holding his cards close.

“Verity has a very successful series we would hate to see go unfinished,” Amanda continues. “Our goal is to bring in a writer who is willing to step in, finish the series, complete the book tours, press releases, and whatever else is normally required of Verity. We plan to put out a press release introducing the new co-writer while also preserving as much of Verity’s privacy as possible.”

Book tours? Press releases?

Corey is looking at me now. He knows I’m not okay with that aspect. A lot of authors excel in reader interaction, but I’m so awkward I’m afraid once my readers meet me in person, they’ll swear off my books forever. I’ve only done one signing, and I didn’t sleep for the week leading up to it. I was so scared during the signing that it was hard for me to speak. The next day, I received an email from a reader who said I was a stuck-up bitch to her and she’d never read my books again.

And that’s why I stay at home and write. I think the idea of me is better than the reality of me.

Corey says nothing as he opens the folder Amanda hands him. “What is Mrs. Crawford’s compensation for three novels?”

Goddammit Barron answers this question. “The terms of Verity’s contract will remain the same with her publisher and, understandably, won’t be disclosed. All royalties will go to Verity. But my client, Jeremy Crawford, is willing to offer a flat payment of seventy-five thousand per book.”

My stomach leaps at the mention of that kind of payout. But as quickly as the excitement lifts my spirits, they sink again when I accept the enormity of it all. Going from being a nobody writer to co-author of a literary sensation is too much of a jump for me. I can already feel my anxiety sinking in just thinking about it.

Corey leans forward, folding his arms over the table in front of him. “I’m assuming the pay is negotiable.”

I try to catch Corey’s attention. I want to let him know that negotiations aren’t necessary. There’s no way I’m accepting an offer to finish a series of books that I’d feel too nervous to write.

Goddammit Barron straightens up in his chair. “With all due respect, Verity Crawford has spent the past thirteen years building her brand. A brand that wouldn’t exist otherwise. The offer is for three books. Seventy-five thousand per book, which comes to a total of two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars.”

Corey drops a pen on the table, leaning back in his chair, appearing to be unimpressed. “What’s the time frame for submission?”

“We’re already behind, so we’re looking to have the first book submitted six months from the contract signing date.”

I can’t stop staring at the red lipstick smeared across her teeth as she speaks.

“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.

Again.

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.”

   
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