Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

I glanced at him. God, he was nearly Matt. Matt’s dark-haired brother, at home in his car the way Matt only ever looked in his Lexus: A prince in his purring, expensive machine.

 

Nate tipped his head against the headrest.

 

“But there’s no Matt now, is there? No drive to Geneva. No boy to save.” A wistful smile played on his lips. He rolled his head toward me. I stared at the cigarettes and lighter in my hand. “Go ahead, Hannah.”

 

“What?” I swallowed.

 

“I don’t mind if you smoke one in the car.”

 

“Oh … no, it’s okay, I—”

 

“Please,” he said. “And you should have offered me one by now.”

 

Nate plucked the cigarettes from my hand and neatly peeled off the plastic. He rapped the box against the heel of his hand.

 

“I didn’t think,” I mumbled. “You’re … a doctor.”

 

“Yes, that’s right. I’ll have one for my brother.”

 

We lit our cigarettes and lowered our windows a sliver.

 

I took thin drags and exhaled fast. Soon I was dizzy. The smoke made my eyes water. Perfect—false tears.

 

When I looked at Nate, though, I saw very real tears standing in his eyes.

 

“It’s all right,” he said. “It’s okay. I don’t know—it makes no sense. Is my brother dead? I can’t say it.” He reached for me, found my hand, and held it tight.

 

Nate didn’t cry, but I began to think I might. I couldn’t stand to see his grief.

 

We finished our cigarettes and Nate pulled me over for a hug. His long fingers curled at the back of my neck. I pressed my face against his coat and breathed in the scent of cologne and smoke. I let myself imagine he was Matt.

 

“It’s all right,” Nate said again, and I knew he said it for himself.

 

*

 

We pulled up to Nate’s house at noon. We had an hour to kill before the service.

 

Mounds of graying snow lined the drive and a half-melted snowman stood by the front steps. Still, the home was magnificent. Yellow light shone in the windows. A large winter wreath hung on the door.

 

A few cars were parked along the street, and I recognized a catering van.

 

“Home sweet home,” said Nate. “I really wish you’d agreed to stay with us, Hannah. That motel…” His nose wrinkled. Classic Sky disdain, barely disguised.

 

“I wanted to, Nate. It’s just, this house…” I stumbled over my excuse.

 

“Too many memories?”

 

“Yeah.” I climbed out of the car before Nate could get my door.

 

He rounded on me, blocking the sidewalk.

 

“Hannah,” he said. He sounded cautious. “A few items, nothing major. Val—she’s quite upset.” He gestured to the house. “Owen, we haven’t explained it to him. He’s too young, you see? But Madison knows, and she understands.”

 

“Okay, got it.” I felt a Pam-esque urge to say: Will you be coming to your point in 2014? Something more was on Nate’s mind, clearly.

 

“Good, good.” He tugged off his gloves. “No one gives a damn about the book, of course. Don’t worry about that.”

 

My stomach dropped.

 

The book.

 

Night Owl.

 

The book Matt started in Denver and finished in Kevin’s cabin. The book that somehow leaked onto the Internet and got published as an e-book by “W. Pierce.”

 

Matt swore he had no part in it—no part beyond writing it, that is. I believed him. After all, Night Owl chronicled our romance in aching detail. No way would Matt, Mr. Privacy Above All Else, publish that book for the world to see.

 

But who did, and why?

 

I remembered when I first heard about Night Owl. Pam got wind of the e-book in late January. Just weeks after appearing, it was viral. Half a thousand reviews on Amazon. Pirated copies all over the web. The text posted on forums, blogs, Facebook.

 

And my name was in it, Matt’s name, the whole story.

 

I sat up late that night reading the book, by turns horrified and aroused. And livid.

 

I called Matt in the early morning. I was shaking, shouting into my cell. “How could you put it online? How could you publish that book without asking me?”

 

“What?” he said. “What book, what fucking book? Where?” Panic bled into his voice. My God, I realized then, he has no idea.

 

“Hannah?” Nate waved a hand before my eyes.

 

“Huh? Sorry. Uh, the book. It’s … just so disturbing. So embarrassing.”

 

“I can only imagine.” Nate was suddenly upbeat, talking hurriedly. “The audacity. It’s absolute filth. Dragging my brother’s name through the mud, and yours. You know, it follows the whole episode in Geneva with alarming accuracy. Matt had a local friend there, at a farm up the road. Could be her. Who knows what he told people when he was in that frame of mind? Whoever it is, they know about my house, my family, our—”

 

“Excuse me? Could be … who?”

 

“The woman at the farm. She could be the author.” Nate nodded. “Someone close to him, definitely. His psychiatrist? That’s almost too sick to consider, but who knows? People are so depraved, so desperate for money. They’ll take advantage of anyone, Hannah. Predators.”

 

Nate took my shoulder and steered me toward the house.

 

“Don’t worry, though,” he went on. “I’ve invited Shapiro. Ah, George Shapiro. Have I mentioned him? I’m sure Matt did. The family—”