Home > Verity(17)

Verity(17)
Author: Colleen Hoover

“I’m calling because the application you submitted was processed today. Unfortunately, there was a recent eviction that showed up in your name, so we can’t approve you for the apartment.”

Already? I just moved out a couple of days ago. “But my application was already approved with you guys. I’m supposed to move in next week.”

“Actually, you were only pre-approved. Your application wasn’t fully processed until today. We can’t approve applications with recent evictions. I hope you understand.”

I squeeze the back of my neck. I won’t get my money for another two weeks. “Please,” I say to him, trying not to sound as pathetic as I feel right now. “I’ve never been late on my rent until now. I was just hired for another job, and in two weeks, if you let me move in now, I can pay you an entire year’s rent. I swear.”

“You can always appeal the decision,” he says. “It might take a few weeks, but I’ve seen applications get approved due to extenuating circumstances.”

“I don’t have a few weeks. I already moved out of my last apartment.”

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ll email you our decision, and at the bottom of the email, contact that number for an appeal. Have a good day, Ms. Ashleigh.”

He ends the call, but I still have the phone pressed to my ear as I squeeze my neck. I’m hoping I’ll wake up from this nightmare any second now. Thank you, Mother. What the hell am I going to do now?

There’s a soft knock on the office door. I spin around, startled again. I can’t deal with today. Jeremy is standing in the office entryway, looking at me with a face full of empathy.

I left the door open when my phone rang. He probably heard that entire conversation. I can tack mortified onto the list of adjectives that describe today.

I set my phone on Verity’s desk, then fall into her desk chair. “My life wasn’t always this much of a hot mess.”

He laughs a little, stepping into the room. “Neither was mine.”

I appreciate that comment. I look down at my phone. “It’s fine,” I say, spinning my phone around in a circle. “I’ll figure it out.”

“I can loan you money until your advance is processed through your agent. I’ll have to pull it from our mutual fund, but it can be here in three days.”

I have never been this embarrassed, and I know he can see it because I practically curl into myself as I lean forward on the desk and drop my face into my hands.

“That’s really sweet, but I’m not taking a loan from you.”

He’s quiet for a moment, then chooses to take a seat on the couch. He sits casually, leaning forward, clasping his hands in front of him. “Then stay here until your advance hits your account. It’ll only be a week or two.” He looks around the office, seeing how much progress I haven’t made since I arrived yesterday. “We don’t mind. You aren’t in the way at all.”

I shake my head, but he interrupts.

“Lowen. This job you’ve taken on is not easy. I’d rather you spend too much time in here prepping for it than get back to New York tomorrow and realize you should have stayed longer.”

I do need more time. But two weeks in this house? With a woman who scares me, a manuscript I shouldn’t be reading, and a man I know way too many intimate details about?

It’s not a good idea. None of it is good.

I start to shake my head again, but he holds up a hand. “Stop being considerate. Stop being embarrassed. Just say alright.”

I look past him, at all the boxes lining the walls behind him. The things I haven’t even touched yet. And then I think about how, with two weeks in here, I would have time to read every book in her backlist, make notes on each of them, and possibly outline the three new ones.

I sigh, conceding with a little bit of relief. “Alright.”

He smiles a little, then stands up and walks toward the door.

“Thank you,” I say.

Jeremy turns back around and faces me. I wish I had let him walk out the door, because I swear I can see a trace of regret in his expression. He opens his mouth, like he wants to say, “You’re welcome,” or “No problem.” But he just closes his mouth and forces a smile, and then shuts the door behind him when he leaves.

•••

Jeremy told me earlier this afternoon that I needed to be outside before the sun disappeared behind the mountains. “You’ll see why Verity wanted an unobstructed view from her office.”

I brought one of her books with me to read on the back porch. There are about ten chairs to choose from, so I take a seat at a patio table. Jeremy and Crew are down by the water, tearing old pieces of wood out of their fishing dock. It’s cute, watching Crew grab the pieces of wood Jeremy’s handing to him. He carries them to a huge pile, then grabs another from his dad. Jeremy has to wait for him each time, because it takes Crew longer to dispose of the wood than it does for Jeremy to rip it out of the wooden frame. It proves how much patience he has as a father.

He reminds me a little of my father. He died when I was nine, but I’m not sure I ever saw him angry. Not even at my mother, with her prickly comments and frequent hot temper. I grew to resent that about him, though. Sometimes I perceived his patience as weakness when it came to her.

I watch Crew and Jeremy a little longer, in between attempts at finishing my chapter. But I’m finding it hard to comprehend anything because Jeremy took his shirt off a few minutes ago and, while I’ve seen him take his shirt off before, I’ve never seen him without an undershirt. His skin is slick from the sweat he’s worked up over the past two hours of being down at the dock. When he yanks at the wood with the hammer, his muscles stretch across his back, and I immediately recall the last chapter Verity wrote. There were so many intimate details about their sex life, and from what I read, it was very active. More so than any of my relationships have been.

It’s hard looking at him and not thinking about sex now. Not that I want to have sex with him. And not that I don’t. It’s just that, as a writer, I know he was her inspiration for several of the men in her books. And it makes me wonder if I need to view him as my inspiration as I tackle the rest of this series. I mean…it’s not the worst thing. Being forced to step into Verity’s shoes and visualize Jeremy for the next twenty-four months as I write.

The back door slams shut, and I tear my eyes away from Jeremy. April is standing on the patio, staring at me. Her gaze follows the path of mine, and then she cuts her eyes back to me. She saw. She saw me eyeing my new boss. Pathetic.

How long was she watching me stare at him? I want to cover my face with this book, but instead, I smile like I was doing nothing wrong. I mean, I wasn’t.

“I’m heading out,” April says. “I put Verity in bed and turned on her television. She’s had dinner and her meds, in case he asks.”

I don’t know why she’s telling me this, since I’m not in charge. “Okay. Have a good night.”

She doesn’t tell me to have a good night in return. She walks back into the house and lets the door fall shut again. A minute later, I hear the hum of her engine as her car pulls out of the driveway, disappearing between the trees. I glance back at Jeremy and Crew, and Jeremy is ripping up another piece of wood.

Crew is staring at me, standing near the pile of discarded fishing dock. He smiles and waves. I lift my hand to wave back, but curl my fingers into a soft fist when I realize Crew isn’t waving at me. He’s looking above me, to the right.

He’s looking up at Verity’s bedroom window.

I spin around and look up, just as her bedroom curtain falls shut. I drop her book onto the patio table, knocking over my bottle of water in the process. I stand up and take three steps farther back to get a better look at the window, but there’s no one there. My mouth falls open. I look back at Crew, but he’s retreating back to the dock to grab another piece of wood from Jeremy.

I’m seeing things.

But why was he waving at her window? If she wasn’t there, why was he waving?

It doesn’t make sense. If she was looking out her window, Crew would have had a much bigger reaction, considering she hasn’t been able to speak or walk on her own since her wreck.

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