Last Light
Author:M. Pierce

I flipped open the cover.


On the first page, I recognized Matt’s unambiguous handwriting. Black ink. Slanting letters crammed together. The words pressed hard into the paper: December is the cruelest month to die in …






Chapter 40






I ran right up to the complex, holding on to that heart-stopping sensation until the last moment. I unlocked the lobby door and jogged in. My sneakers squeaked on the linoleum.


I almost missed her.


She made no sound, only sat crumpled below the mailboxes.


A torn yellow envelope lay across her lap, and on top of that, my notebook.


I breathed deep and fast. Acid burned in my legs and sweat poured down my face. I barely heard my voice above my heart.




Red puffiness rimmed her eyes.


As I got closer, I saw tear tracks on her cheeks.


“For … the talk show,” she mumbled. She thrust a bundle of index cards up at me.


“Ah.” I wiped my hand on my shirt, which was plastered to my torso. My basketball shorts were sweat soaked, too. “These must be … my talking points?”


I scanned the scene, starting to understand. Hannah brought the notecards to my mailbox. She still had a key. Maybe she meant to return the key.


She opened the box, saw Melanie’s envelope, and …


“You read it,” I said. “My new book.”


“Some of it. I skimmed the whole thing.”


I watched her fight a wave of emotion—she was beautiful, strong and proud—and she lifted her head in a simple gesture of defiance.


“Take the cards,” she whispered.


I shook my head.


“You bring them up. I’m covered in sweat.” I turned and headed to the stairs, listening for Hannah behind me. I can’t say what I felt—I don’t know. Was it anger, anticipation, gladness? Tonight, my little bird flew home.


When I opened our door, she stood behind me.


I flicked on a light in the kitchen.


I’d put away Hannah’s good-bye note—thank God—and kept the place clean. I’d changed nothing in her absence, though the pantry contained chips and ramen instead of real food.


I brushed my finger splint from the counter into a drawer. No point explaining about that.


What now?


Hannah placed my mail and the index cards on the island. I wanted to touch her—to lift her dress—and then I thought about Seth and felt ill.


“I’m glad you read it,” I said. “Now you know.”


“What do I know?” She lingered by the counter.


That I love you, I thought, and that I didn’t sleep with Mel, and how everything slid out of control. But all I said was, “I need a shower. I won’t be long. Stay if you want.”


I left her standing in the kitchen.


And I knew she’d be gone when I got back.






Chapter 41






Matt disappeared around the corner and soon I heard water jolting the old pipes. Jeez, he was dripping sweat. He never ran like that when we were together.


I drifted through the kitchen and living room. I trailed my fingers over Matt’s marble notebook. Last Light. It was a sequel to Night Owl. More of our story. And what a story it was.


Why didn’t he tell me about it?


I spent a moment in front of the hallway mirror, blew my nose and dried my eyes, and then I settled on the couch. Laurence watched my benignly.


If Matt’s story was true, and I believed it was, then he never slept with Mel. He also spared me the harrowing details of his fall and the mountain lion attack.


And, though I hated to admit it, reading Matt’s version of events helped me understand why he put Night Owl online—just a little. I still thought it was wrong, but at least I understood.


I stared into space until I heard the whine of our bedroom door.


Oh …


Matt was getting dressed.


I could walk into that room right now and find him peeling off his towel, naked, clean …


“You’re still here.”


I started. Heat rushed to my cheeks when I laid eyes on him. Good Lord. His towel-dried hair spiked in every direction. His handsome face was somber, eyes glowing. Dark lounge pants and a T-shirt clung perfectly to his stunning body.


For fuck’s sake—this was exactly why I shouldn’t be around him. He had this infuriating mind-melting effect on me.


I stared at my knees.


“Yeah,” I said. “Still here.” Still working up the courage to tell you that I lied about sleeping with Seth … and then gave him a hand job.


Matt’s quiet chuckle sounded behind me. I glanced over my shoulder. He stood in the kitchen, leaning against the counter, shuffling through the index cards I’d prepared. His gaze flickered to me and I lowered my eyes. Fucking fuck. What the hell was going on here? Somehow, within the space of three weeks, I had reverted to Hannah Who Cannot Speak Much Less Think Around Matt Sky.


And I was supposed to be angry with him.


And he should really be angry with me.


Instead, he seemed quietly grateful for my presence.


“These are too much. Pam wants me to quote Thoreau?” He laughed. “It’s quite simple, Gail. ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.’”


“Yeah, Pam is … kind of funny.”