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Verity

Verity

Page 21

It’s a lock.

He must have installed it today. He really is considerate. I reach up and lock the door.

Does Jeremy think I wanted a lock on the inside of this bedroom door because I don’t feel safe in this house? I hope not because that’s not why I wanted the lock at all. I wanted a lock so they would all be safe from me.

I walk to the bathroom and turn on the light. I look down at my hand, trailing my fingers across the scar.

After the first few times my mother caught me sleepwalking, she became concerned. She put me in therapy, hoping it would help more than the sleeping pills did. My therapist said it was important to unfamiliarize myself with my surroundings. He said it would help if I created obstacles that would be hard for me to move past while I was sleepwalking. A lock on the inside of my bedroom door was one of those obstacles.

And, while I’m almost certain I locked it before I fell asleep all those years ago, it doesn’t explain why I woke up the next morning with a broken wrist and covered in blood.

I choose not to read more of Verity’s manuscript. It’s been two days since I read about the attempted abortion, and the manuscript is still at the bottom of her desk drawer, hidden and untouched by me. I can feel it, though. It exists with me in Verity’s office, breathing shallowly beneath the junk I covered it with. The more I read, the more unsettled I become. The more unfocused I become. I’m not saying I’ll never finish it, but until I make progress on what I’m here to do, I can’t get sidetracked by it again.

I’ve noticed, now that I’ve stopped reading it, being in Verity’s presence doesn’t creep me out as much as it did a few days ago. I actually came up for air after working all day yesterday in the office to find Verity and her nurse seated at the dinner table with Crew and Jeremy. In the first couple of days I was here, I was in the office while they had dinner, so I wasn’t aware that they brought her to the table when they ate together. I didn’t want to intrude, so I went back to my office.

There’s a different nurse today. Her name is Myrna. She’s a little older than April, round and cheerful with two rosy spots on her cheeks that make her look like an old-fashioned Kewpie doll. Right off the bat, she’s a lot more pleasant than April. And honestly, it’s not that April is unpleasant. But I get the vibe she doesn’t trust me around Jeremy. Or Jeremy around me. I’m not sure why she dislikes my presence, but I can see how being protective of her patient would mean judging another woman who is staying in her invalid patient’s home. I’m sure she thinks Jeremy and I lock ourselves in the master bedroom together after she leaves every evening. I wish she were right.

Myrna works on Fridays and Saturdays, while April takes the rest of the week. Today is Friday and, while I expected to be moving into my apartment today, I’m relieved it’s all worked out the way it has. I would have left here unprepared. The extra time I’ve been given has been a lifesaver. I’ve knocked out reading two more books in the series in the past two days, and I actually enjoyed them a lot. It was fascinating, seeing how Verity always writes from the antagonist’s point of view. And I have a good sense of the direction I need to take with the series. But just in case, I still search for notes now that I know what I’m actually looking for.

I’m on the floor, digging through a box when Corey texts me.

Corey: Pantem did a press release this morning, announcing you as the new co-author of Verity’s series. Sent a link to your email if you want to take a look.

As soon as I open my email, there’s a knock on the door of the office.

“Come in.”

Jeremy opens the door, peeking his head in. “Hey. I’m headed to Target to get a few groceries. If you make me a list, I can grab whatever you need.”

There are a few things I need. Tampons being one of them, even though I only have a day or two left of my period. I just wasn’t expecting to be here this long, so I didn’t pack enough. I’m not sure I want to tell Jeremy that, though. I stand up, dusting off my jeans. “Actually, do you mind if I go with you? Might be easier.”

Jeremy opens the door a little wider and says, “Not at all. Leaving in about ten minutes.”

•••

Jeremy drives a dark grey Jeep Wrangler with jacked-up tires, covered in mud. I’ve never actually seen it because it’s been in the garage, but it’s not what I expected him to drive. I assumed he’d drive a Cadillac CTX or an Audi A8. Something a man in a suit would drive. I don’t know why I keep picturing him as the professional, clean-cut businessman I met that first day. The man wears jeans or sweatpants every day, is always outside working, and has a rotating stock of muddy boots he leaves by the back door. A Jeep Wrangler actually fits him better than any other vehicle I’ve been picturing him in.

We’re out of his driveway, about half a mile down the road, when he turns down his radio.

“Did you see Pantem’s press release today?” he asks.

I grab my phone from my purse. “Corey sent me the link, but I forgot to read it.”

“It’s only one sentence long in Publishers Weekly,” Jeremy says. “Short and sweet. Just how you wanted it.”

I open the email and read the link. It’s not a link to Publishers Weekly, though. Corey sent me a link to the announcement made on Verity Crawford’s social media page, via her publicity team.

Pantem Press is excited to announce that the remaining novels in The Virtue Series, made successful by Verity Crawford, will now be co-written with author Laura Chase. Verity is ecstatic to have Laura on board, and the two are looking forward to the co-creation of an unforgettable conclusion to the series.

Verity is ecstatic? Ha! At least I know never to trust another publicity announcement. I start reading the comments below the announcement.

-Who the heck is Laura Chase?

-WHY IS VERITY HANDING OVER HER BABY TO SOMEONE ELSE?

-Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

-That’s how it usually works, right? Mediocre author gets successful, hires shittier author to do her job?

I set down my phone, but it’s not enough. I turn off the ringer and put it in my purse, then zip it shut. “People are brutal,” I mutter under my breath.

Jeremy laughs. “Never read the comments. Verity taught me that years ago.”

I’ve never really had to deal with comments because I’ve never really put myself out there. “Good to know.”

When we arrive at the store, Jeremy hops out of the Jeep and runs around to open my door for me. It makes me uneasy because I’m not used to this kind of treatment, but it would probably make Jeremy even more uneasy if he allowed me to open the door myself. He is just the type of guy Verity describes him to be in her autobiography.

This is the first time I’ve ever had a guy open a door for me. Dammit. How messed up is that?

When he grabs my hand to help me out of the Jeep, I tense up because I can’t prevent my reaction to his touch. I want more of it when I shouldn’t want any of it.

Does he feel the same around me?

Sex for him has been out of the picture for quite a while now, which leads me to wonder if he misses it.

That has to be a hard adjustment. To have a marriage that seemed to revolve around sex in the beginning, only to have sex ripped out of the marriage overnight.

Why am I thinking about his sex life as we’re walking into Target?

“Do you like to cook?” Jeremy asks.

“I don’t dislike it. I’ve just always lived alone, so I don’t make meals very often.”

He grabs a shopping cart, and I go with him to the produce section. “What’s your favorite meal?”

“Tacos.”

He laughs. “Simple enough.” He grabs all the vegetables he’ll need to make tacos. I offer to make spaghetti for them one night. It’s really the only thing I cook that I can honestly say I’m good at.

He’s on the juice aisle when I tell him I’ll be back, that I need a few things outside of the grocery department. I get the tampons, but grab other things to throw in the cart with them, like shampoo, socks, and a few shirts since I didn’t really bring any with me.

I have no idea why I’m embarrassed to buy tampons. It’s not like he’s never seen them. And, knowing Jeremy, he’s probably purchased them for Verity a few times. He seems like the type of husband who wouldn’t think twice about it.

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