Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

“Lawyer,” I said. My voice shrank with dread. “The family lawyer.”

 

“Yes, that’s right. It’s libel, that book. Defamation … whatever they call it. Shapiro is prepared to bury the author. I know you’ll talk to him.” Nate squeezed my shoulder. “Yours is the strongest case. Never mind the expense, this is important. For you, for Matt’s legacy.”

 

We were stalled at the front door. Nate held me by both shoulders and gazed earnestly at me, confident in my compliance. What could I say? Actually, Nate, Matt wrote Night Owl. He’s been chilling at our friend’s cabin, pretending to be dead. Sorry about that.

 

Fuck.

 

I gathered a breath and opened my mouth. Say something! Stop this ridiculous manhunt for “the author.” For Matt. “I—Nate, it’s so soon after Matt’s passing—”

 

The front door swung open.

 

The odor of potpourri and seasonal candles hit me.

 

“This must be the infamous little bird,” said a voice thick with cynicism.

 

I looked up, and up, at the tall figure standing in the doorway. We had never met, but he was unmistakable.

 

The middle brother.

 

Seth Sky.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

MATT

 

 

I sprinted up the cellar steps and rushed to my phone. I quickly checked the caller’s number. It wasn’t Hannah.

 

“Hello?” I let out a shaking breath. “Hello?”

 

Nothing. And yet I knew someone was there, sentience in the silence on the line.

 

“Please, don’t hang up,” I said. “I told you, you’re not in trouble. Talk to me.” I began to pace. “Come on. Icarus on fire, right? Clever name. I’m glad you called.”

 

I waited then, because I had said enough. I even smiled. Life is stranger than fiction.

 

“So, you’re alive,” said a voice. It was a female voice, smooth and cultured.

 

I paused in front of the fireplace. As I watched, a castle of cinders collapsed.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You’re alive,” she said.

 

You’re alive. The words should have worried me, but I felt safe in my fortress in the forest. Far from the world. As good as dead. I laughed and roamed around the couch.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said.

 

“I met you, but you wouldn’t remember. It was at the book signing in Denver. You had your face in your hands. Of course, I had this carefully prepared speech.” She chuckled. “And you … you didn’t even look at me. You looked pretty pathetic, Sky.”

 

Pathetic? What the hell? I opened my mouth to snap, then shut it.

 

“Are you recording this call?”

 

“No,” she said, “but I doubt you believe me.”

 

“Mm, you’re right about that. And let me just say—if you are recording it, if you make a move with your crazy theory about who I am, I will come after you. I don’t care who you are. I have the resources to find out, and I’ll come after you with all my family’s formidable power, so don’t fuck with me. Understand? Don’t fuck with me.”

 

“And here I thought I wasn’t in trouble.” She chuckled again.

 

I frowned.

 

Okay, the stranger had a point.

 

“You’re not in trouble,” I said. “Look, let’s start again. Hello.”

 

“Hello.”

 

I perched on the arm of the couch. “Have you got a name?”

 

“Melanie.”

 

“Anything to go with that?”

 

“Yeah. Like most humans, I have a last name. Should I give it to the strange man threatening me with his family’s … formidable power?” She wanted to giggle again; I heard the humor simmering in her voice. She was laughing at me. She found me comical and pathetic.

 

“Fine,” I snapped. “Do whatever the fuck you want.”

 

“Fine. My last name is vanden Dries.” She pronounced it Dreese. “It’s Dutch. It means ‘of the shore.’ I’m telling you that as a good-faith gesture, Sky. Let’s not—”

 

“Stop calling me Sky.”

 

“Then what do I call you?”

 

“You don’t call me anything.” I smiled and ran a hand through my hair. There. I’d regained control. “Melanie vanden Dries. Melanie of the Shore. Sounds good.”

 

“Yeah, I like it.”

 

“Convenient. Okay, Melanie vanden Dries, let’s get to the point. Why did you turn my forum post into an e-book?”

 

“I never said I did.” Now Melanie was on the defensive. The humor faded from her voice. Good girl, I thought—you ought to take this seriously.

 

“Assuming you did. Why would you?”

 

“Fine. Assuming I turned your forum post into an e-book, which would make me insane, I might have done it because … the story deserved to be shared.”

 

“Deserved to be shared?” I laughed. “You are insane. Have you heard of this thing called copyright infringement? You are selling my story, my words. How much have you made?”

 

Melanie went quiet.

 

Her answer could condemn her.

 

Meanwhile, I said nothing to condemn myself—but I was guilty. I wrote Night Owl and I posted it on an Internet forum. Worse, I told Hannah I had no idea how the story “leaked online.” Someone must have hacked my e-mail, I said. I e-mail all my writing to myself, for backup.

 

Hannah believed me.