Last Light
Author:M. Pierce



I hurried out of the study and through the house. I ducked around Valerie in the kitchen. She had placed framed pictures of Matt all over the house—here on a coffee table, there on a shelf. Inescapable, beautiful Matt.


I stumbled into a long room dominated by couches and a baby grand. More pictures of Matt stood on the piano. I picked up a frame.


I was still shaking, and a kernel of dread was growing in my stomach. A young Matt beamed at me from the picture frame. He was crouched in a shed with three large dogs fussing for his attention. His eyes were alight.


When would it be my turn to truly know him? Fear answered: Never. You’ll never know him. You can’t hold on to a man like that.


“So, did you?”


I spun.


Seth grasped my arm and shook me. I met his eyes. Wild eyes … storm dark.


“Did you write it?” he said. I tried to yank my arm out of his grip. His fingers tightened until they hurt.


“Let me go. I’ll scream.”


“Très dramatique.” Seth drew closer to me.


“Let me go.”


“You are every bit as feisty as the book makes you out to be.”


“I didn’t write it. What the hell is wrong with you? Get away from me.”


“You sure that’s what you want? Rumor has it you like pushy men.”


My eyes darted around. Where was Nate? With my back to the piano and Seth’s death grip on my arm, I was trapped.


“What do you want?” I whispered.


“I don’t know.” Seth searched my expression. “You seem fun. A fun diversion from my … mourning.” His voice dried with humor.


“You’re sick.”


“Runs in the family. You aren’t being very sympathetic, Hannah. My brother is dead. I need someone to talk to.”


“Not me.” I wrenched my arm uselessly.


“No? Then how about a quick fuck before the service?”


My heart stuttered and began to thud. In that moment, I wanted to run back to Shapiro babbling about Night Owl and sexual harassment—and then I felt ill. This was Seth Sky. Shapiro was on his side, not mine.


Seth leaned in and brushed his lips to my cheek. I gathered a breath to scream. Seth shoved me, and the force of his push sent the air out of my lungs.


“Don’t be so damn dull,” he muttered, and he left me reeling against the piano.






Chapter 6






Radiant black. Midnight black. Jet black.


Soft black, blue black, silken black. Black with highlights. Black with lowlights. Black with three tones for more natural color.


I shuffled up and down in front of Smart Mart’s hair dye section, glaring at the boxes.


Gorgeous models with glossy hair smiled back at me. One resembled Hannah—pale skin, smoky eyes, and curling black-brown locks—and I lingered over that box.


How are you surviving without her?


Melanie had no right to ask me that. So what if she read Night Owl? That didn’t mean she understood me—or me and Hannah.


Finally, I chose a L’Oréal blue-black hair dye kit because it cost more than the others.


I loitered in Smart Mart, enjoying the warmth.


I’d spent the better part of an hour hiking from the cabin into town. I wore sunglasses, a North Face jacket with a high collar and hood, a wool hat, gloves, scarf—the whole nine yards.


Concealing my face was priority number one.


Staying warm came in at a close second.


I carried a day pack with some cash, water, two granola bars, a compass, and my phone. No one looked at me twice. In Colorado, things like me materialize out of the woods every day.


I wandered to the SUPER SALE section at the back of the store. A woman was studying the discount pastries, which were ninety-nine cents because they sat out for days. I watched her.


Damn, did it ever feel good to be out in public and not M. Pierce. When people know you’re an author, they turn into weirdos. I swear. A woman who would normally spit in your coffee is suddenly quoting Whitman and reminiscing about AP English, or a guy who would try to cut you in line instead harangues you with the story of his third divorce.


You can’t see the real world anymore. Everyone becomes a caricature.


“Anything good?” I asked the woman perusing the pastries.


She gave me a wary look. “They’ve got doughnuts,” she mumbled. “And the bear claws.”


I smelled alcohol on her breath.


“Huh, yeah.” I picked up a container of cinnamon buns, pretended to inspect them, and smiled at the woman. I felt such pity for her, and such gratitude, too—because she let me be nobody. She let me be a stranger, and not M. Pierce. “These look decent. Thanks.”


I browsed the books and magazines. I sneered at the bestsellers. There were a few young adult series, a legal thriller, a thick fantasy. The usual suspects.


The Surrogate, my last novel, would be “posthumously published” next month, in March. It would be a bestseller. It would sit on the list for months. It would do so not because it’s good, though it is, but because my name is on the cover—and because I just died from a rare puma attack while attempting a solo ascent of Longs Peak.


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