The soft notes of the clarinet faded as we entered the decadent hotel lobby. I whirled toward Jamison. “Can we afford this?”
He beamed. “I may know nothing about gemstones, but I know dollar bills.”
Dirty mainland money. The coins, I liked, but in four months, I still hadn’t gotten used to the crinkled bills.
“We can only stay for a night,” he admitted, tucking my hand into the crook of his arm.
We made our way to the front desk, slowing to admire the enormous chandeliers. Gold accents frosted every surface, from the ceiling panels to the marble floor. The hotel was like a gilded cake. My Revelle blood hummed as guests floated through the lobby, jewels whispering from beneath their long fur coats.
“This is too nice,” I murmured, though I couldn’t look away from the gorgeous décor. My fingers itched for my precious camera, the used one Jamison had bartered for in Philadelphia. I’d take a picture later. Nana absolutely had to see this lobby.
“They paid me well at the docks,” he said quietly. “Besides, we said we’d celebrate.”
Four months. It’d been four months since we left Charmant, which meant that if a Chronos wanted to turn back time to investigate Dewey’s death, they’d have to shave thirty-three years off their life. Would they be willing to sacrifice so much for their estranged kin?
After four months, we’d celebrate. We’d promised each other that.
The young woman behind the desk motioned for us to approach. Her cheeks flushed ever so slightly as she ogled Jamison, but once she took in our plain clothes, sullied after so much travel, her smile thinned. “We don’t allow non-guests to use our facilities.”
Irritation hummed from Jamison, but I pressed a hand to his chest. “Actually, we’re checking in.”
“One room or two?” She kept her eyes trained on Jamison as if I hadn’t spoken. Such a ridiculous mainland custom, ignoring women.
“One.” I waved Dewey’s heavy engagement ring. “Do you have a honeymoon suite?”
Her eyes widened at the enormous rock on my finger. Even in a place as decadent as this hotel, the diamond was unparalleled. We’d debated keeping it hidden in our belongings, but the desolate campgrounds we frequented never felt sufficiently safe to leave it behind. So I dyed my hair golden, cut it in a bob like Trys’s, and prayed no one would recognize me—or question the origins of the extravagant ring I wore.
“That’s positively beautiful,” she admitted rather reluctantly. With a slight shake of her head, she returned her attention to Jamison. “We have a honeymoon suite, sir, for six dollars per night. I presume that’s out of your budget.”
Jamison winced. Six dollars was more than we had, and even if we could afford it, the price was absurd. We could stay a week at a decent hotel for less.
Before he could reply, I tugged off my ring and held it out to her. “Want to see?”
Surprised, she plucked it from my hand.
I smiled sweetly. “Heavy, isn’t it?”
“It is.” With a soft sigh, she placed it in my waiting palm.
My Revelle blood surged to life. You’re feeling exceptionally generous. You wish to give us the honeymoon suite for free.
“You know what? The honeymoon suite shouldn’t go to waste. Why don’t you take it? On the house, of course.”
Feigning surprise, I rested my head on Jamison. “That’s too kind, isn’t it, darling?”
Amusement danced in his sapphire eyes. “Shockingly generous. Thank you.”
“I’ll have the bellhop bring up your bags. Anything else you require?”
He took the key from her outstretched hand and tucked it in his pocket. “If it wouldn’t be too much trouble to have the Times sent to our room in the morning, that’d be great.”
I squeezed his arm. Jamison scoured the New York papers for news from Charmant. We’d seen articles about George’s electoral win and Dewey’s disappearance from the public eye. Sulking in Italy, according to anonymous sources. Uncle Wolffe had done well. We’d also found plenty of write-ups about the Revelles’ winter extravaganza. It was, of course, the must-see show of the year. Tales of the new star’s acrobatic feats were spreading far and wide, attracting tourists from all over. By now, Colette’s ego had to be insufferable.
In one of her interviews last month, she’d been photographed with Trys, who looked healthier than ever. Jamison had practically keeled over with relief. His guilt had abated since then, though some days, it hung heavy over both of us. He still blamed himself for losing control. For almost losing his friend.
I knew that feeling all too well. Trevor’s shy smile visited me whenever I closed my eyes. Sometimes we were backstage again, and I was foolishly trying to stop his magic. Sometimes it was me squeezing the trigger.
One day at a time.
“Jewel magic?” Jamison murmured as we walked toward the grand staircase.
“Of course.” I waited until he looked at me. “I promise.”
The shadow magic still called to me sometimes, like a pretty little gem nestled in a dark corner of my mind, begging to be released. I never touched it, not even when we ran out of money and were in desperate need of a break. Without magic, making ends meet on the mainland was a bit of an adventure. We hitchhiked. Meandered off the beaten path. Made friends and listened to their stories, marking our map with new places. Like that enormous waterfall on the Canadian border, the roar of the rushing water so much louder than I’d imagined. Or that speakeasy in Chicago, the jazz so mesmerizing, we never touched our drinks.
Once we’d changed, we meandered down Royal Street, arm in arm. Walking in New Orleans was like strolling through a vibrant painting, one that dripped with color and music and life. In the last four months, I’d learned, to Jamison’s teasing dismay, that camping was not my favorite activity. So we’d settled into a pattern: a week off the beaten path to save money, and then a real mattress and shower to reset and find work. Jamison, as always, was happy to oblige.
I paused to snap a photo of a trio of flappers dancing outside a jazz club, laughing. If only pictures could capture music, too. Colette and Millie would love this song.
Jamison relaxed his arm over me. “Told you the musicians here rival the Revelles.”
I scoffed. “Don’t let Nana hear you say that.”
“I won’t dare say it in her presence.”
I leaned against him in gratitude. He always spoke of our eventual return to Charmant with certainty. As much as I loved traveling together, I missed my family, especially after everything they’d done to heal me. And to keep us hidden.
As if reading my mind, Jamison paused in the middle of the cobblestone street and lifted my face to his. “Hey. We’ll get back there soon.”
“I know. Roger will find a way to send word any day now.” I lifted onto the tips of my shoes to plant a lazy kiss on his lips. I was never, ever going to grow tired of kissing him whenever I pleased, no matter who watched.
We parted reluctantly, and for a moment I stared into those bright eyes. Not a day passed when he didn’t mention Trys and Roger, regaling me with some tale of their adventures together before he’d fall silent, his smile fading. Charmant was his home now, too. We’d return together.
I leaned against him as we began to walk again. “Take me everywhere you three went.”
A smile tugged at his lips. “Did you bring your dancing shoes?”
“I’m a Revelle. I could dance circles around you in heels so high, you’d have to press onto your tippy-toes to kiss me.”
He laughed, the sadness evaporating from his smile as if I’d charmed it right out of him. Love, I’d learned, is its own sort of magic, an elixir powerful enough to soothe even the deepest of wounds. Or perhaps it was this enchanting city. Of all the places we’d visited, only New Orleans tickled the back of my mind, as if my Revelle blood sensed the presence of magic here that wasn’t mine. The mainland kept secrets of its own.
Jamison tightened his arm around me, and I held the camera out, snapping a picture of him. Together, we’d explore this city, and the next, and the next, until it was safe to return home. And even though we missed those we’d left behind terribly, we had each other. We’d chosen each other, time and time again, no matter the knots Dewey had tied in our timelines. No matter the cost.
And we wouldn’t waste a drop of our precious time together.