“He… what?” I could not even wrap my brain around the absurdity of the thought. “Why would he believe I’d choose anyone else? I jumped in front of a blade for him. I’m fairly certain that indicates my preference. His leaving has nothing to do with that.”

“Are you certain?” Liza gave me an exasperated look. “How did the two of you part? Let me take a stab at the scene—oh… sorry.” She cringed, motioning toward my leg. “That’s probably the wrong term for a while.”

I huffed a laugh. “What am I going to do with you?”

Liza wrapped an arm around me, holding me close. “You’re going to love me by heeding my romantic advice. Now, then, I wager Thomas formally bid you farewell. Cold. Not an ounce of flirtation to be found. I bet he even tipped his hat instead of kissing your gloved hand.” She grinned at my scowl. “Shed your mask, Audrey Rose. Tell him your fears. I promise you he doesn’t care about your cane or broken leg. It’s your soul he fell in love with. He’s giving you the opportunity to decide your own fate, but trust me, he loves you deeply.”

I turned away, suddenly not wanting Liza to see the tears that had begun streaming down. “What about you and Houdini?” I asked, deflecting. “He didn’t lie to you, you know.”

Liza shifted her attention back to the circus crates. “I know that. We just—while I adore him, I want a different sort of future. The carnival was exciting, but, hard as it might be to believe, I miss Mama.” Now I was the one who snorted and she nudged me. “Harry will find a woman who makes him happy, and I will find someone, too. Now, then, stop trying to hide from your own truth. Tell Thomas you love him, or you’ll spend the rest of your days regretting it.”

“But what if he is leaving because of the accident? What if he—”

“Pardon me.” Liza cleared her throat and nodded toward the opposite end of the promenade. “I think I see Mrs. Harvey waving all the way down there. I must go to her at once.”

“Honestly?” I swiped the wetness away and turned, annoyed by my cousin’s swift departure. My scolding died on my lips when I met Thomas’s gaze. He’d managed to slip in beside me, a magician in his own right. I shook my head as Liza winked over her shoulder and hurried away. Tears slipped freely over my cheeks again while he studied me. I angrily brushed them away, hating that, while I could mostly corral my emotions during an investigation, I had no control over them outside the laboratory.

“Cresswell,” I said, lifting my chin. “I thought you had business to attend to.”

“I did,” he said simply. “You see, I happened to ask Lord Crenshaw where he had such a handsome walking stick made when your uncle and I conducted our final interview. Imagine my surprise when he said he’d purchased it here in New York. There’s a shop right up the block, actually.” He moved closer, pointing in the general direction of where the store must be located. “I believe this rose beats the one Mephistopheles tried to give you.”

“I… What?”

Thomas tossed a cane into the air with one hand, caught it with the other, then handed it over to me on bended knee. It was a beautiful ebony cane with a carved rose knob. The shaft looked like the stem of the flower complete with thorns. I stared at it, unable to formulate words. It was stunning—a piece of art.

“Thomas, it’s—”

“Almost as handsome as me?”

I laughed, though more treasonous tears burst out, too. “Indeed.”

A seriousness entered his eyes, making my heart flutter. “Our work will always be important to each of us. But you have my heart wholly, Wadsworth. No matter what. The only way that will be taken is in death. And even then I will fight with every piece of me to hold your love near. Now and forevermore.”

I’d had nearly the same thoughts before everything went to hell on that stage. I ran my fingers through his hair, twisting a lock around as I gazed into his eyes. They were filled with adoration as real and true as anything. What we had was no illusion, but it was magical. I let my hand fall away from him and gripped my new cane, testing its weight. “You know? I believe this is the most precious rose I’ve ever received.”

He gave me a slow, playful smile. “My magic trick was fairly impressive, too. Do you think Mephistopheles will take me on? I could practice. Actually,” he said, taking my arm in his, adjusting his gait as I moved unsteadily beside him, “we ought to do an act together. What do you think of ‘the Amazing Cressworths’? It’s got a pleasant sound to it.”

“Cressworth? Did you honestly combine our names? And why does your name go first?” I stared at him out of the corner of my eye, mouth curved upward despite my best efforts. “I think the most amazing part of our act would be not lulling the audience to sleep with your wit.”

“Devilish woman,” he said. “What name do you suggest?”

“Hmm.” I leaned on my cane, pretending to think long and hard. “I suppose we’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.”

“Mmm. Speaking of that,” he said, “I’ve been thinking.”

“Always a troublesome thing.”

“Indeed.” Thomas managed to slip his hands around my waist. “We’ve already lurked in London alleys, explored spider-filled castle labyrinths, survived a lethal carnival…” He brought his lips close and I tilted my face up, heart fluttering as he brushed his mouth against mine softly. His kisses were an intoxicating form of sorcery. “Perhaps now we can try one of my suggestions? Might I offer—”

“Just kiss me, Cresswell.”

His crooked grin set fireworks off inside me, and without uttering another word, he obliged.