Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

Matt said I didn’t know what it meant to him. He was right. I didn’t know what it meant. I didn’t know what the hell it was.

 

But now I know. It was his privacy. And now I know how he valued his privacy. Above me, above his family, above everything.

 

*

 

Two months after the book signing, I stood in a phone booth in New Jersey, just outside my motel.

 

I listened to the ringtone on the line. I listened to the rain, a steady frigid patter.

 

What I am doing, I thought, is wicked. How can I?

 

And then I pictured Matt.

 

The scenes of our last days together were surreal.

 

Matt moving money into the wall safe in our condo.

 

Matt pacing, talking excitedly about freedom and his writing.

 

Matt vanishing onto a snow-choked trail in the mountains.

 

Watching him go—watching him smile back at me. Real fear in my heart. Confusion. And now this: a facsimile of grief that I would present to Matt’s family. Who had I become?

 

“Hannah?”

 

The voice sounded far off. I crushed the phone against my ear.

 

“Matt … hi.”

 

“Hannah. Are you okay? I miss you. Fuck, I miss you.”

 

My eyes began to sting.

 

“No, I’m not okay. How can I be? How can I be okay?”

 

“Listen, Hannah. This is as hard as it gets. Everything will get easier after this.”

 

“No.” I clenched my teeth. “I don’t think so.”

 

“It will. Baby bird, trust me. I don’t even want you there. Why are you going? Tell Nate you can’t go. Call him now and tell him.”

 

“No. I’m going. I deserve this.”

 

“Hannah…”

 

I swallowed thickly and closed my eyes. A car passed, crunching over old ice and snow.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” I whispered. “If I seem guilty or sad, if I can’t look your family in the eye … however it goes. Maybe that’s what grief looks like. I don’t even fucking know. I don’t know anything. I don’t know why I agreed to this.”

 

“Is that how it is?” Matt’s voice chilled. “Then tell them I’m alive.”

 

“Matt, no. I—”

 

“No, go on. Tell everyone the truth. I won’t do this. I won’t be made to feel like I’ve conned you into this, like I’m manipulating you. Mm, I know … it was all well and good when we were together, but you get away from me for a few weeks and suddenly you can’t remember why you did this? I thought you wanted this for me.”

 

“I did. I do. Stop it. You can’t get—”

 

“What can’t I get? Angry? I’m not angry, Hannah. Do whatever you want. I told you not to go out there. I told you to stay away from it all.”

 

I stayed quiet then and so did Matt. He was right. He told me not to get involved with his family. He knew how it would hurt and how guilty I would feel. And I, a self-saboteur of the first degree, did it anyway.

 

I helped my lover fake his death.

 

I lied to my family, Pam, the police.

 

Now I would lie to Matt’s family. I would show them my phony grief. I would watch their sincere suffering. I would go to Matt Sky’s memorial.

 

“This is crazy,” I whispered. “I feel sick every day. I’m lonely. I have a z-zillion questions. Are you okay? Do you have enough food? The book … I mean, did anyone—”

 

“Hannah, I miss you so fucking much. Please…”

 

Simple longing filled Matt’s voice, and just like that, the tension between us faded.

 

“I have to see you,” he said. “Soon. I’m fine. Food’s fine. No word on Night Owl. I put out some feelers, posted questions on forums. No replies.”

 

“When I’m back, I’ll drive out.”

 

“Yeah, when you’re back. Soon as you can. It’s been so fucking long. I’m going crazy, bird.” Matt’s breath quickened. He hesitated, and then went on in a rush. “I want to be with you. I want to be inside you. For hours. Here, by the fire. I need you like that…”

 

The cold of the phone booth disappeared. I pictured Matt in nothing but his skin, and I could practically feel his breath on my lips.

 

“I need you, too.” I lowered my voice. “Like that. In … inside me.”

 

“God, you’re so good. So good to me. Hannah…”

 

Matt was probably touching himself. I heated at the thought. How unfair, his unimpeded access to that beautiful body. And how strange that our romance reverted to this: furtive phone calls, lonely nights, waiting, touching ourselves.

 

Were we moving backward, or was this new and exciting?

 

“How…” he said. “This thing with us—how is it still so—”

 

“Intense,” I murmured.

 

A car door slammed.

 

I lingered a moment over my vision of Matt—his body draped across the couch, his back arching and hips seeking mine as he played with himself—and then I opened my eyes. The morning light stung.

 

“Shit,” I hissed.

 

A silver Cadillac sedan was parked across the street, and striding toward my phone booth was Nathaniel Sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

MATT

 

 

I gazed at the cabin’s vaulted ceiling. Thick stained beams formed a truss from wall to wall and they gleamed in the firelight.

 

I needed Hannah on top of me, riding me hard.

 

My dick rose against the fabric of my lounge pants.

 

“Intense,” I repeated. “Mm … say that again. Talk, I want to hear your voice. Tell me what you want. Are you alone?”