Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

And why wouldn’t she believe me? Who could imagine that I, so obsessed with privacy that I faked my own death, would write that intimate and honest novel and throw it on the Internet for the world to see?

 

But that is exactly what I did.

 

I yanked open the sliding door and strode barefoot onto the deck. Winter air swirled around me. The snow quickly numbed my feet.

 

I lifted the cell.

 

“You are insane,” I repeated, this time in a softer voice. “So am I. You know I am. What I’m doing—it’s insane. Icarus on fire? I get it, Melanie. You’re flying too close to the sun, but I’m not going to be the one who burns you. I’m right up there with you. Now be honest with me, please. I just want to understand…”

 

I began to shiver. Gooseflesh rose along my arms, and my teeth chattered.

 

After a long gap, Melanie said, “Ten thousand. I’ve made about ten thousand dollars. I’m selling it cheap. Do you want the money? It’s yours. I don’t care.”

 

“Ten grand? I don’t want your lunch money, Mel. Thanks, though. Keep it.”

 

“Then what do you want? Do you want me to take it down? It’s all over the Internet.”

 

I hugged myself, pinching the TracFone between my jaw and shoulder. The absolute silence rang in my ears.

 

What do you want? Do you want me to take it down?

 

I hesitated, as if I were considering.

 

“No,” I said. “Quite the opposite.”

 

“I don’t understand.”

 

“Keep selling the book. That’s all.”

 

“But why?”

 

I smirked. “Why should I explain myself to you?”

 

“I … I dunno.”

 

“I’m sure you don’t, Melanie. Maybe you published my story to make some cash, or”—she butted in to disagree, but I talked right over her—“maybe you published it on a whim, because you wanted to share what doesn’t belong to you. People like you act without thinking, but don’t for one moment imagine that I am so simple.”

 

Melanie made a small, hurt sound.

 

“All you need to know,” I continued, “is that I wanted Night Owl to go viral, and you helped that happen. Don’t try to understand, just keep selling the book. You’re making decent money, right? Good for you. Keep it all.”

 

“It’s not about the money,” she mumbled.

 

“I don’t care what it’s about.” I didn’t. I had accomplished my goal—contacted the stranger who published Night Owl, urged her to continue selling the book—and now I wanted to go. “Look, I’m running out of minutes.”

 

“Prepaid cell?” Melanie giggled suddenly, and I narrowed my eyes. How old was she? The giggle was girlish, but she spoke with an adult’s poise.

 

“Well … yeah,” I said.

 

“You’re like a spy, living on the run. Do you go out in sunglasses? Did you dye your hair? Get plastic surgery?”

 

“No, no.” An involuntary smile quirked my lips. I ruffled my hair, which was dirty blond and in need of a cut. Melanie had given me an idea. “Actually, ah … my hair. I dyed it … black.”

 

“Black?”

 

“Mm, black. Dark hair runs in the family. It looks good, of course.” I cocked my head. Nate looked sharp with his raven hair. So would I.

 

“Of course.” Melanie laughed. “Hey … how are you surviving without her?”

 

“Excuse me?” My smile dropped.

 

“Hannah. How are you surviving without her? Night Owl … paints a picture of obsession. And I saw her with you, at the book signing. It’s all true, isn’t it? I—”

 

I closed my TracFone and let myself back inside.

 

Enough.

 

I shivered in the warm cabin and turned my phone over and over in my hand. My day was shot for writing, but I didn’t want to write.

 

I wanted to go into town.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 5

 

 

HANNAH

 

 

Seth Sky.

 

He had Matt’s attractive, angular features—the high cheekbones and expressive mouth. He had Nate’s dark hair, which he wore to his shoulders.

 

I took his measure in a moment: long hair, leather jacket, sullen smirk aimed at me—plus the “little bird” comment, designed, I felt sure, to let me know he’d read Night Owl. Designed to embarrass me.

 

Yup, Seth fit the wannabe-rocker profile perfectly. Also, the quarter-life-crisis profile. What a chump. If he was trying to make me uncomfortable, he could take a number.

 

“Seth,” Nate said, “when did you get here?”

 

“Few minutes ago. You playing chauffeur?”

 

The brothers embraced. Seth stood a few inches taller than Nate. As he hugged Nate, he locked eyes with me. I raised a brow.

 

Fucking Sky men with their presumptuous stares.

 

“Oh, Hannah.” Nate broke from his brother. I smiled sweetly at Nate and angled myself away from Seth. “This is Seth, my brother.”

 

“Mm.” My eyes slid over Seth. “Nice to meet you.” I hoped my voice, posture, and expression conveyed my real meaning. Go to hell.

 

“Yeah, same,” said Seth.

 

Something in Seth’s voice made me want to look at him, but I didn’t. I wouldn’t gratify him. Still, and I hated to admit it, Seth reminded me of Matt more than Nate ever would. The sneering tone, the lanky frame, and the way I felt his stare glued to me … it was Matt through and through. Also, the asshole demeanor.

 

“Hannah, can I get your coat?” Nate moved behind me. I hugged myself. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to be seen in my dress.

 

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