Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

That night, I had walked through our condo and brooded over the memories it held.

 

Our Christmas tree stood in the living room. We would spend Christmas apart. There was the deep-button sofa where we cuddled and watched movies, and our small kitchen crowded by an island and breakfast nook. I often sat there, staring at Hannah’s backside while she cooked.

 

Hannah filled that place. Hannah laughing, Hannah in my arms … every room, Hannah.

 

I had ached for her suddenly—a hot stab of sorrow that nearly doubled me over. What the fuck? I missed her, and she was only one room away.

 

God … I was having second thoughts.

 

I returned to bed and found Hannah still awake. She wiped her eyes on the sheets. I climbed over her, entangling our limbs and kissing her longingly.

 

“Brave bird,” I whispered as our lips parted. “Come with me. Please.”

 

I had made this case before, and a familiar look of fatigue came over Hannah’s face. It was my first idea—my best idea. Why die, after all, when I could escape the public with Hannah? We could drop off the grid together. The hope of it rose inside me again.

 

“Please,” I repeated. “Let’s go somewhere no one knows me. We can disappear; there’s no law against that. I’ll take care of you. I have enough money—we’d never need to work—and we wouldn’t have to leave this.” I emphasized my point by pressing my long, firm body against hers. She responded with a sigh. “This is my life. You’re my life, Hannah…”

 

“No, Matt.” Her fingers slid through my hair. “You know I’m not. You’ve got cold feet. We’ll get through this, but don’t—” She turned her head away, resting her cheek on our pillow. “Don’t ask me to leave my life. My job, my family…”

 

I tried to turn Hannah’s face toward me, but her neck stiffened.

 

She sniffled, and a bright tear rolled from her eye.

 

It broke my fucking heart.

 

Freezing wind whipped through the woods. Flecks of ice stung my cheek. I rose from that memory like a ghost.

 

Through the dark, I saw a light glowing in the cabin. I imagined Hannah was there, though I knew I’d left the light on for myself, and I hurried toward it.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7

 

 

HANNAH

 

 

I stood shivering on the front steps of Nate’s house, waiting for the driving arrangements to be settled.

 

Valerie was inside giving last-minute instructions to the caterers.

 

Madison and Owen huddled close to me and I held their small hands. Madison was quiet, buried in a book, and Owen seemed cowed by the somber atmosphere.

 

“Are you warm enough?” I said. I squeezed his hand. He was adorable, a miniature Nate.

 

“It’s cold.” Owen kicked a clump of snow with his little boot. Then he lowered his voice and fixed me with his serious dark eyes. “I don’t like Uncle Seth,” he whispered.

 

I glanced toward the brothers. They were conferring at the end of the driveway. Nate gestured to the road. Seth shrugged. His posture said they were having an argument.

 

A pearly white Bentley was parked in front of the house. Seth’s car? Rich asshole …

 

“Why not?” I said, smiling down at Owen.

 

I was shaken by my exchange with Seth and I almost told Owen that I didn’t like Uncle Seth either, but nine-year-olds have a habit of broadcasting secrets.

 

“He’s mean,” Owen said. No kidding, I thought. I trembled as I remembered the force of Seth’s grip and the crazed look in his eyes.

 

“She can come with me.” Seth’s voice cut through the air. “Let’s go, Hannah.”

 

I blinked at Nate and Seth. They were both staring at me.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“I said let’s go. You’re riding with me.” Seth strolled toward the Bentley.

 

I shot a pleading look at Nate. Fuck, what could I say? I don’t want to ride with your sociopathic brother who assaulted me in your house?

 

Nate was oblivious to my discomfort. He breezed up the driveway and took Owen’s hand.

 

“How did it go with Shapiro?”

 

“Fine, it … went fine.” I forced a smile. It went terribly. I needed to call Matt ASAP and tell him about the lawsuit. But right now, I had more pressing problems, like psycho Seth.

 

Valerie swept out of the house and took Madison’s hand. She smiled at me. I smiled back, but I felt queasy. I was trapped—again.

 

“Well, we’ll see you there,” Nate said.

 

“Yeah … see you.”

 

Seth stood by the passenger-side door of his car and gazed at me. I stalked over and climbed in without looking at him.

 

“My lady,” he quipped.

 

Seth smiled as he got in.

 

“It’ll warm up in here soon,” he said. His leather gloves creaked on the wheel.

 

I stayed quiet as he spoke, and after he spoke. I planned to stay quiet the whole way. Don’t engage him. Don’t look at him. Get a ride back with Nate.

 

We wound through Nate’s neighborhood and I tried to focus on the mansions instead of the oppressive silence in the car.

 

“I hope you’re not waiting for an apology,” Seth said.

 

I closed my eyes and clutched my purse.

 

“You know, it’s forty minutes to the cemetery. At least.”