They lit torches on the way out, and there was chatter. Harper smiled as she listened to it — because it wasn’t the talk of demons. It was the talk of fathers, sisters, men, women, wives, daughters. People.
She was glad for it and for Alec too. He was silent and emotionless, but he’d have time to heal. They weren’t dead, her vision hadn’t come true, and they were together.
“So this is goodbye, huh?” Chloe asked Conner, looping an arm through his.
Conner squeezed her arm against his and offered her a helpless smile. Then he separated and pushed Chloe down a more narrow tunnel that Sarah was leading the way through.
She grimaced as she started down, Conner on her heels. Harper followed, cradling her arm, with Alec only a few steps behind, trailing his hands along the wall of the corridor. The demons were in close succession behind them. Chloe looked back at Conner. “So are you gonna call? Write?”
“I’m glad I came, but you’ll all be fine without me,” he replied. “My kid needs me. I think I turned out okay, but the odds were stacked — I lucked out. I don’t think I can leave James’ future to the same chance.”
“You’re one in a million, Conner,” Alec said, stopping. “Most demons can’t be you.”
Harper glanced back at him. She saw a glimmer of peace wash over his face.
“Alec, don’t!” Harper moved toward him, but he shoved her forward, shimmering as he did. She fell into Conner, and both lost their balance. Her broken arm screamed in white-hot agony, but it was nothing compared to the terror she now felt.
She screamed at him again, but there was nothing else she could do. Alec struck the wall with all his vampiric strength, and the fault line he’d hit started the collapse.
The demons behind started to run, some forwards, some backward, as the walls and ceilings fell in. A crash in the back prevented retreat and Alec blocked any chance of going forward.
He was smiling. He lifted his hand to the rest of Afterlife, bidding them farewell.
In an instant, Conner vaulted over her, shifting as he did. The incubus snatched the vampire’s hand; his grip was firm. He yanked him forward just a moment before a beam above him came crashing down.
The demons’ screams faded as they were crushed, but Alec’s cry of shock and fury replaced them. “No!”
He threw a punch at Conner, but the other man caught his fist and held it. “Stop it. Stop, Alec.”
“You can’t,” Alec said. “You — you can’t — I have to—”
“You don’t get that kind of easy out,” Conner said, cold and certain. “No. No, you have to remain. You have to deal with what you just did. You can’t just murder them and then say goodnight.”
“They can’t change! It’s part of them. They would have broken, Conner. They would have — a year, ten years, it doesn’t matter, they would break, we always do—”
Conner glanced back at the rest of Afterlife, at the shocked, hurt faces. Then he turned to Alec again and pulled him close. Alec fought the embrace, but Conner was still stronger and held him tight.
“You get to remain. You get to deal with this,” Conner told him in a hoarse whisper as they both shifted back together. “You’re here, Alec. You stay.”