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#1 New York Times Bestseller · USA Today Bestseller · Globe and Mail Bestseller · Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.
Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night her family was forever altered.
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents could devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2018 by Colleen Hoover
Cover design by Murphy Fennell
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Originally published in ebook and print by Colleen Hoover
First ebook edition: October 2021
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So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
So Be It
About the Author
Contact Colleen Hoover
This book is dedicated to the only person this book could possibly be dedicated to.
Tarryn Fisher, thank you for accepting the darkness in people as much as you accept their light.
I hear the crack of his skull before the spattering of blood reaches me.
I gasp and take a quick step back onto the sidewalk. One of my heels doesn't clear the curb, so I grip the pole of a No Parking sign to steady myself.
The man was in front of me a matter of seconds ago. We were standing in a crowd of people waiting for the crosswalk light to illuminate when he stepped into the street prematurely, resulting in a run-in with a truck. I lunged forward in an attempt to stop him—grasping at nothing as he went down. I closed my eyes before his head went under the tire, but I heard it pop like the cork of a champagne bottle.
He was in the wrong, looking casually down at his phone, probably a side effect of crossing the same street without incident many times before. Death by routine.
People gasp, but no one screams. The passenger of the offending vehicle jumps out of the truck and is immediately on his knees near the man's body. I back away from the scene as several people rush forward to help. I don't have to look at the man under the tire to know he didn't survive that. I only have to look down at my once-white shirt—at the blood now splattered across it—to know that a hearse would serve him better than an ambulance.
I spin around to move away from the accident—to find a place to take a breath—but the crosswalk sign now says walk and the thick crowd takes heed, making it impossible for me to swim upstream in this Manhattan river. Some don't even look up from their cell phones as they pass right by the accident. I stop trying to move, and wait for the crowd to thin. I glance back toward the accident, careful not to look directly at the man. The driver of the truck is now at the rear of the vehicle, wide-eyed, on a cell phone. Three, maybe four, people are assisting them. A few are led by their morbid curiosities, filming the gruesome scene with their phones.
If I were still living in Virginia, this would play out in a completely different manner. Everyone around would stop. Panic would ensue, people would be screaming, a news crew would be on scene in a matter of minutes. But here in Manhattan, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle happens so often, it's not much more than an inconvenience. A delay in traffic for some, a ruined wardrobe for others. This probably happens so often, it won't even end up in print.
As much as the indifference in some of the people here disturbs me, it's exactly why I moved to this city ten years ago. People like me belong in overpopulated cities. The state of my life is irrelevant in a place this size. There are far more people here with stories much more pitiful than mine.
Here, I'm invisible. Unimportant. Manhattan is too crowded to give a shit about me, and I love her for it.
"Are you hurt?"
I look up at a man as he touches my arm and scans my shirt. Deep concern is embedded in his expression as he looks me up and down, assessing me for injuries. I can tell by his reaction that he isn't one of the more hardened New Yorkers. He might live here now, but wherever he's from, it's a place that didn't completely beat the empathy out of him.
"Are you hurt?" the stranger repeats, looking me in the eye this time.
"No. It's not my blood. I was standing near him when…" I stop speaking. I just saw a man die. I was so close to him, his blood is on me.
I moved to this city to be invisible, but I am certainly not impenetrable. It's something I've been working on—attempting to become as hardened as the concrete beneath my feet. It hasn't been working out so well. I can feel everything I just witnessed settling in my stomach.
I cover my mouth with my hand, but pull it away quickly when I feel something sticky on my lips. More blood. I look down at my shirt. So much blood, none of it mine. I pinch at my shirt and pull it away from my chest, but it sticks to my skin in spots where the blood splatters are beginning to dry.
I think I need water. I'm starting to feel light-headed, and I want to rub my forehead, pinch my nose, but I'm scared to touch myself. I look up at the man still gripping my arm.
"Is it on my face?" I ask him.
He presses his lips together and then darts his eyes away, scanning the street around us. He gestures toward a coffee shop a few doors down.
"They'll have a bathroom," he says, pressing his hand against the small of my back as he leads me in that direction.
I look across the street at the Pantem Press building I was headed to before the accident. I was so close. Fifteen—maybe twenty—feet away from a meeting I desperately need to be in.
I wonder how close the man who just died was from his destination?
The stranger holds the door open for me when we reach the coffee shop. A woman carrying a coffee in each hand attempts to squeeze past me through the doorway until she sees my shirt. She scurries backward to get away from me, allowing us both to enter the building. I move toward the women's restroom, but the door is locked. The man pushes open the door to the men's restroom and motions for me to follow him.
He doesn't lock the door behind us as he walks to the sink and turns on the water. I look in the mirror, relieved to see it isn't as bad as I'd feared. There are a few spatters of blood on my cheeks that are beginning to darken and dry, and a spray above my eyebrows. But luckily, the shirt took the brunt of it.
The man hands me wet paper towels, and I wipe at my face while he wets another handful. I can smell the blood now. The tanginess in the air sends my mind whirling back to when I was ten. The smell of blood was strong enough to remember it all these years later.
I attempt to hold my breath at the onset of more nausea. I don't want to puke. But I want this shirt off me. Now.
I unbutton it with trembling fingers, then pull it off and place it under the faucet. I let the water do its job while I take the other wet napkins from the stranger and begin wiping the blood off my chest.
He heads for the door, but instead of giving me privacy while I stand here in my least attractive bra, he locks us inside the bathroom so no one will walk in on me while I'm shirtless. It's disturbingly chivalrous and leaves me feeling uneasy. I'm tense as I watch him through the reflection in the mirror.
"Be right out," he says.
I relax a little, comforted by the thought that someone outside this door would hear me scream if I needed to.
I focus on the blood until I'm certain I've washed it all off my neck and chest. I inspect my hair next, turning left to right in the mirror, but find only an inch of dark roots above fading caramel.
"Here," the man says, fingering the last button on his crisp white shirt. "Put this on."
He's already removed his suit jacket, which is now hanging from the doorknob. He frees himself of his button-up shirt, revealing a white undershirt beneath it. He's muscular, taller than me. His shirt will swallow me. I can't wear this into my meeting, but I have no other option. I take the shirt when he hands it to me. I grab a few more dry paper towels and pat at my skin, then pull it on and begin buttoning it. It looks ridiculous, but at least it wasn't my skull that exploded on someone else's shirt. Silver lining.
I take my wet shirt out of the sink and accept there's no saving it. I toss it in the trashcan, and then I grip the sink and stare at my reflection. Two tired, empty eyes stare back at me. The horror of what they've just witnessed have darkened the hazel to a murky brown. I rub my cheeks with the heels of my hands to inspire color, to no avail. I look like death.
I lean against the wall, turning away from the mirror. The man is wadding up his tie. He shoves it in the pocket of his suit and assesses me for a moment. "I can't tell if you're calm or in a state of shock."
I'm not in shock, but I don't know that I'm calm, either. "I'm not sure," I admit. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he says. "I've seen worse, unfortunately."
I tilt my head as I attempt to dissect the layers of his cryptic reply. He breaks eye contact, and it only makes me stare even harder, wondering what he's seen that tops a man's head being crushed beneath a truck. Maybe he is a native New Yorker. Or maybe he works in a hospital. He has an air of competence that often accompanies people who are in charge of other people.
"Are you a doctor?"
He shakes his head. "I'm in real estate. Used to be, anyway." He steps forward and reaches for my shoulder, brushing something away from my shirt. His shirt. When he drops his arm, he regards my face for a moment before taking a step back.
His eyes match the tie he just shoved in his pocket. Chartreuse. He's handsome, but there's something about him that makes me think he wishes he weren't. Almost as if his looks might be an inconvenience to him. A part of him he doesn't want anyone to notice. He wants to be invisible in this city. Just like me.
Most people come to New York to be discovered. The rest of us come here to hide.
"What's your name?" he asks.
There's a pause in him after I say my name, but it only lasts a couple seconds.
"Jeremy," he says. He moves to the sink and runs the water again, and begins washing his hands. I continue to stare at him, unable to mute my curiosity. What did he mean when he said he's seen worse than the accident we just witnessed? He said he used to be in real estate, but even the worst day on the job as a realtor wouldn't fill someone with the kind of gloom that's filling this man.
"What happened to you?" I ask.
He looks at me in the mirror. "What do you mean?"
"You said you've seen worse. What have you seen?"
He turns off the water and dries his hands, then faces me. "You actually want to know?"
He tosses the paper towel into the trashcan and then shoves his hands in his pockets. His demeanor takes an even more sullen dive. He's looking me in the eye, but there's a disconnect between him and this moment. "I pulled my eight-year-old daughter's body out of a lake five months ago."
I suck in a rush of air and bring my hand to the base of my throat. It wasn't gloom at all in his expression. It was despair. "I'm so sorry," I whisper. And I am. Sorry about his daughter. Sorry for being curious.
"What about you?" he asks. He leans against the counter like this is a conversation he's ready for. A conversation he's been waiting for. Someone to come along and make his tragedies seem less tragic. It's what you do when you've experienced the worst of the worst. You seek out people like you…people worse off than you…and you use them to make yourself feel better about the terrible things that have happened to you.
I swallow before I speak, because my tragedies are nothing compared to his. I think of the most recent one, embarrassed to speak it out loud because it seems so insignificant compared to his. "My mother died last week."
He doesn't react to my tragedy like I reacted to his. He doesn't react at all, and I wonder if it's because he was hoping mine was worse. It isn't. He wins.
"How did she die?"
"Cancer. I've been caring for her in my apartment for the past year." He's the first person I've said that to out loud. I can feel my pulse throbbing in my wrist, so I clasp my other hand around it. "Today is the first time I've stepped outside in weeks."
We stare at each other for a moment longer. I want to say something else, but I've never been involved in such a heavy conversation with a complete stranger before. I kind of want it to end, because where does the conversation even go from here?
It doesn't. It just stops.
He faces the mirror again and looks at himself, pushing a strand of loose dark hair back in place. "I have a meeting I need to get to. You sure you'll be okay?" He's looking at my reflection in the mirror now.
"Yes. I'm alright."
"Alright?" He turns, repeating the word like a question, as if being alright isn't as reassuring to him as if I'd said I would be okay.
"I'll be alright," I repeat. "Thank you for the help."
I want him to smile, but it doesn't fit the moment. I'm curious what his smile would look like. Instead, he shrugs a little and says, "Alright, then." He moves to unlock the door. He holds it open for me, but I don't exit right away. Instead, I continue to watch him, not quite ready to face the world outside. I appreciate his kindness and want to say more, to thank him in some way, maybe over coffee or by returning his shirt to him. I find myself drawn to his altruism—a rarity these days. But it's the flash of wedding ring on his left hand that propels me forward, out of the bathroom and coffee shop, onto the streets now buzzing with an even larger crowd.
An ambulance has arrived and is blocking traffic in both directions. I walk back toward the scene, wondering if I should give a statement. I wait near a cop who is jotting down other eyewitness accounts. They aren't any different from mine, but I give them my statement and contact information. I'm not sure how much help my statement is since I didn't actually see him get hit. I was merely close enough to hear it. Close enough to be painted like a Jackson Pollock canvas.
I look behind me and watch as Jeremy exits the coffee shop with a fresh coffee in his hand. He crosses the street, focused on wherever it is he's going. His mind is somewhere else now, far away from me, probably on his wife and what he'll say to her when he goes home missing a shirt.
I pull my phone out of my purse and look at the time. I still have fifteen minutes before my meeting with Corey and the editor from Pantem Press. My hands are shaking even worse now that the stranger is no longer here to distract me from my thoughts. Coffee may help. Morphine would definitely help, but hospice removed it all from my apartment last week when they came to retrieve their equipment after my mother passed. It's a shame I was too shaken to remember to hide it. I could really use some right about now.
When Corey texted me last night to let me know about the meeting today, it was the first time I'd heard from him in months. I was sitting at my computer desk, staring down at an ant as it crawled across my big toe.
The ant was alone, fluttering left and right, up and down, searching for food or friends. He seemed confused by his solitude. Or maybe he was excited for his newfound freedom. I couldn't help but wonder why he was alone. Ants usually travel with an army.
The fact that I was curious about the ant's current situation was a clear sign I needed to leave my apartment. I was worried that, after being cooped up caring for my mother for so long, once I stepped out into the hallway I would be just as confused as that ant. Left, right, inside, outside, where are my friends, where is the food?
The ant crawled off my toe and onto the hardwood floor. He disappeared beneath the wall when Corey's texts came through.
I was hoping when I drew a line in the sand months ago, he'd understand: since we no longer have sex, the most appropriate method of contact between a literary agent and his author is email.
His text read: Meet me tomorrow morning at nine at the Pantem Press building, floor 14. I think we might have an offer.
He didn't even ask about my mom in the text. I wasn't surprised. His lack of interest in anything other than his job and himself are the reasons we're no longer together. His lack of concern made me feel unjustly irritated. He doesn't owe me anything, but he could have at least acted like he cared.
I didn't text him back at all last night. Instead, I set down my phone and stared at the crack at the base of my wall—the one the ant had disappeared into. I wondered if he would find other ants in the wall, or if he was a loner. Maybe he was like me and had an aversion to other ants.
It's hard to say why I have such a deeply crippling aversion to other humans, but if I had to wager a bet, I'd say it's a direct result of my own mother being terrified of me.
Terrified may be a strong word. But she certainly didn't trust me as a child. She kept me fairly secluded from people outside of school because she was afraid of what I might be capable of during my many sleepwalking episodes. That paranoia bled into my adulthood, and by then, I was set in my ways. A loner. Very few friends and not much of a social life. Which is why this is the first morning I've left my apartment since weeks before she passed away.
I figured my first trip outside of my apartment would be somewhere I missed, like Central Park or a bookstore.
I certainly didn't think I'd find myself here, standing in line in the lobby of a publishing house, desperately praying whatever this offer is will catch me up on my rent and I won't be evicted. But here I am, one meeting away from either being homeless or receiving a job offer that will give me the means to look for a new apartment.
I look down and smooth out the white shirt Jeremy lent me in the bathroom across the street. I'm hoping I don't look too ridiculous. Maybe there's a chance I can pull it off, as if wearing men's shirts twice my size is some cool new fashion statement.
"Nice shirt," someone behind me says.
I turn at the sound of Jeremy's voice, shocked to see him.
Is he following me?
It's my turn in line, so I hand the security guard my driver's license and then look at Jeremy, taking in the new shirt he's wearing. "Do you keep spare shirts in your back pocket?" It hasn't been that long since he gave me the one off his back.
"My hotel is a block away. Walked back to change."
His hotel. That's promising. If he's staying in a hotel, maybe he doesn't work here. And if he doesn't work here, maybe he isn't in the publishing industry. I'm not sure why I don't want him to be in the publishing industry. I just have no idea who my meeting is with, and I'm hoping it has nothing to do with him after the morning we've already had. "Does that mean you don't work in this building?"
He pulls out his identification and hands it to the security guard. "No, I don't work here. I have a meeting on the fourteenth floor."
Of course he does.
"So do I," I say.
A fleeting smile appears on his mouth and disappears just as quickly, as if he remembered what happened across the street and realized it's still too soon to not be affected. "What are the chances we're heading to the same meeting?" He takes his identification back from the guard who points us in the direction of the elevators.
"I wouldn't know," I say. "I haven't been told exactly why I'm here yet." We walk onto the elevator, and he presses the button for the fourteenth floor. He faces me as he pulls his tie out of his pocket and begins to put it on.
I can't stop staring at his wedding ring.
"Are you a writer?" he asks.
I nod. "Are you?"
"No. My wife is." He pulls at his tie until it's secured in place.
- “Sublimely creepy with a true Hoover pulse. I’ve been waiting for a thriller like this for years.”—Tarryn Fisher, New York Times bestselling author
- “Riveting and unexpected. Impossible to put down.”—Claire Contreras, New York Times bestselling author
- "This isn't a book, it's a visceral experience."—B.B. Easton, bestselling author
- “Verity delivers the grand slam of thriller twists—the holy grail of'what the…?!' moments . . . It lit up my brain."—Washington Post
- "If you came here to find a mystery romance book that’ll have you on the edge of your seat (and keep you up at night), add Verity by Colleen Hoover to your cart."—Cosmopolitan
- "Unravels a picture-perfect couple’s courtship and marriage in truly twisted—and jaw-dropping—fashion."—Elle magazine
- “If you've yet to experience the delight that is reading one of Hoover's novels, we suggest starting with this . . . Prepare for your pulse to race and palms to sweat."—E! News
- “The energy and pace in this book are like a fun house at a carnival. It's ever-changing, and just when you think you know what to expect next, Hoover hits you with another turn. Up until the very final page, readers are mining for clues. Just when you thought you figured out the who, what, when, where, and why, it completely changes, leaving you gobsmacked.”—BuzzFeed
- "The perfect choice if you're after a gripping read but be warned, its twists and turns may very well keep you up at night."—Refinery29
- "Colleen Hoover's romances and contemporary fiction novels . . . grip readers with emotionally charged storylines, unique plotlines, and twists that leave us reeling." —Business Insider
- "Talk about a word-of-mouth of page-turner we’re still not over . . . Cue the seductive mystery that has one of our all-time fave twists. Run, don’t walk.”—The Skimm
- "An explosive, sexy thriller full of chilling admissions, incredible twists and turns, and some seriously creepy plotlines. I can honestly say that I’ve never read another thriller quite like it."—BookReporter.com
- "Seamlessly blends romance and horror."—New York Post
- "Full of suspense with steamy scenes and creepy undertones."—Plymouth Magazine
- "Hoover always tells her stories so beautifully . . . [An] ideal holiday gift.”—Houstonia magazine
- "Emotionally charged, sinister, evocative, fascinating and very addictive. We read Verity with a knot in our stomachs from the first to last page! What a brilliant read!"—TotallyBooked Blog
- "Wow I'm speechless, I don't know where to start with this one. Verity was a captivating, fast paced, twisted, and addictive story."—Read More Sleep Less Blog
- "If you’ve read any of our recent book round-ups here on The Everygirl, you know how much our editors love this book. It created quite the chain reaction, and now, those who have not yet read it are in the minority. Obviously, this means it is a great book, but the real reason we can’t stop talking about it is because of the story—it is truly the most shocking book I have ever read. It also started a huge internet book debate about what really happened, so you’ll be wrapped up in this world even after you finish reading."—The EveryGirl
- "I recommend this book to everyone I come across!"—Her Campus
- "Solidified my love for romantic suspense."—She Reads
- "There are genuinely spooky moments that had me squirming, and all sorts of twists and turns."—Business Insider
- "If you’re a book lover drawn to dark thrillers, start with the stand-alone page-turner Verity."—Reader's Digest
- "You'll stay up all night reading this . . . Hoover expertly combines thriller with romance to test the boundaries of who is telling the truth, and who is lying."—Woman's Day
- "What makes Verity so good is that it is both a steamy romance novel as well as a deeply twisted and disturbing psychological thriller, flawlessly wrapped into one story . . . steamy, disturbing, and surprising."—The Mary Sue
- "Twisted . . . a thrilling deviation from her typical romance books." —HelloGiggles
- On Sale
- Oct 5, 2021
- Page Count
- 336 pages
- Grand Central Publishing