Author's Note: Thanks to those of you who have reviewed and to those of you who have stuck with the story for so long. I hope you enjoy this final chapter, and I invite you to share your thoughts on the story. :)
"Didn't Claire used to work here?" Tawny asked Dameon, scanning the crowd from their safe corner of the room, far from the two coffins set up at the front. She didn't want to look at Hayden, and she surely didn't want to look at Bailey.
Neither of them should have been dead, and she would never accept that they were.
"Claire?" Dameon asked, glancing away from the crowd and down at Tawny's distant expression. "Bailey's mortician friend? The one who died a few weeks ago?" Tawny nodded, and he returned his gaze to the crowd. "I think so, yeah. A shame she isn't still around to...take care of Bailey."
Tawny nodded slowly. "Yeah." The thoughts of a woman near the casket, a woman with a young child at her side, caught her attention. Did she have...cat ears?
She saved us, the woman remembered solemnly. She saved us at this very place only days ago, and now, here she is. Her sharp sob echoed through her child's mind, and she turned from the coffin to hurry toward the door, her child trailing along behind her.
"It was nice of these people to come," Tawny remarked, her eyes drifting to Dameon's face. "How did you find them all?"
He shrugged, offering her the ghost of a smile; it didn't quite reach his eyes, and she wasn't sure it ever would again. She knew the feeling. "The internet is an amazing thing."
"Did she really save them all?" she continued, now scanning the massive group of crying and mingling individuals – all ages, all genders, all species.
"Yes," Dameon whispered. "Yes, she did."
She was silent for a moment, swallowing back her tears. "We leave for D.C. tonight," she murmured after a moment. "Do you...Do you think we can take them all out? Do you think we can do it without her?"
"We can," he said, and that wisp of a smile curved his lips as he looked down at her. "I know we can." His gaze wandered back to the caskets, a solemn frown wiping the smile from his face. "She's watching over us," he whispered. "She'll be there to guide us. I'm sure of it."
She nodded, unable to argue with the determination encapsulated in his grim visage. "Always."
His hand slipped into hers after a moment, and he tried again to smile down at her. "We should go see them," he said softly. "We should go say our goodbyes." Tears welled in her eyes, a sob rising to clog her throat so that her only answer was a nod.
He led the way toward the front of the room, and Bailey's pale face slowly came into view. It was just as pretty as she remembered it, just as pale and lovely, but something was missing – Bailey was missing.
"Can devils become ghosts?" Tawny wondered aloud as she and Dameon drew to a stop beside Bailey's coffin, their hands still entwined.
"Devils can become anything," Dameon murmured, and she looked up at him to find a smile on his face that was truer than any he'd worn since Bailey's death. "She was proof of that."
And Tawny imagined the tall girl standing beside them, smiling down, the featherlight touch of her hand on her shoulder, and she imagined the sound of her voice as a whisper in her ear – "I love you, Tawny."
But then, she was gone, and Tawny's sob finally broke free.
Dameon pulled the girl to him, his arms tight but gentle around her small frame. He couldn't take his eyes away from Bailey's face.
In his mind, her eyes would flutter open, and she would sit up and reach out to him. "Why would you put me in a coffin?" she would muse, and then he would pull her free, and she would whisper "I love you" in his ear.
But she was still there, stone still in her ornate little casket, and he would never hear her voice again. He rested his cheek on the top of Tawny's head and began to weep.
She should have just drained the heart. She wouldn't have died so easily if she had just drained the heart...