But it was her or Martin, and she couldn’t sacrifice the rest of her life because of some magic gone wrong.
She gently took Martin’s hand. It was as limp as a sleeping kitten. A wash of pity swept her. He was in this state because of her. “Thank you, Martin.”
He nodded. “I love you, Willa.”
She smiled sadly. It was time to bring this charade to a close. She dropped his hand and held her palm out. “Brindlesticks, please give me the ring I made for you. I want it back.”
His eyes went wide, and he looked like he’d been slapped. “You tricked me.”
“No.” She shook her head. “I’m trying to save you, Martin. The magic in the ring is tainted. I’m going to make things right again.”
Snarling and muttering, he wriggled the ring free from his finger and threw it at her feet. He went oddly still, the anger on his face vanishing into blankness. He blinked like nothing around him seemed familiar.
She scooped up the ring and stuck it in her pocket. “Mr. Burnside, you might want to go back to your hotel room and get some sleep.”
He peered at her. “Who are you? Why am I here?”
“I’m Willa Iscove. I’m the one who made the ring for you.” She hesitated. “There was a mix up with the ring.”
He looked at his hand. “I don’t…where is it?”
“I have to make you a new one.” That’s the least she could do.
He glanced up, confusion clouding his gaze. “Why?”
“Because the magic I put into the first one wasn’t working. All my fault. I’ll make the new one right away and mail it to you express. You’ll have it by next week, I promise.”
He rubbed his finger where the ring had been. “This is all real odd.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
She realized Sheriff Merrow and Deputy Blythe were walking up behind him. The sheriff gave her a nod. “We’ll take it from here, Willa.”
Martin twisted around. “What’s going on?”
The sheriff answered for her. “You broke into Miss Iscove’s apartment.”
“I did?” Martin looked at her, eyes wild. “I don’t remember that.”
She felt awful. Her mistake had caused all this. “I’m not going to press charges.”
“We’re still taking him in for questioning,” Sheriff Merrow said.
Martin’s shoulders slumped. He put up no fuss as Deputy Blythe cuffed him and led him away to the squad car.
“Do you have to do that?” Willa asked.
The sheriff nodded. “He’s an unknown quantity, Willa. Better safe than sorry.”
Nick stepped off the fountain platform, still in gargoyle form. “You okay, Willa? You did great.”
She shook her head. She could sense him towering over her, but couldn’t bring herself to meet his gaze. “I feel awful. This was all my fault. My magic made him crazy.”
“Be that as it may,” Sheriff Merrow said. “He still broke into your house and damaged your front door. I’d like to talk to him, make sure he’s not going to do anything like that again, and he should pay for the damage.”
“No.” She frowned. “I’ll pay for it. Like I said, I’m not pressing charges.” She rubbed at her temple. “Chalk it up to a lesson learned.”
“Understood.” The sheriff gave her a nod. “Anything comes up, I’ll let you know but otherwise consider this matter done.”
A shimmer of energy caught her eye.
Nick was back in human form. He held out his hand. “C’mon, Willa. Let’s go home.”
She nodded and took his hand, letting him lead her away from the park. Neither of them spoke until they were a couple of blocks away.
“You sure you’re all right?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I feel responsible.”
“I know, but it’s over now. Resolved. Nothing more to…worry about.”
She glanced at him. “What? Why’d you pause like that?”
“It’s nothing.” His gaze held a distant look.
“No, it’s not. What are you thinking?”
“I don’t want to sound like one of those crazy conspiracy theorists, but that all went down really easily. He gave up his real name without much of a struggle.”
She pressed her hand to her cheek. “I don’t know…he thought he was in love with me. Why wouldn’t he have given me his name?”
“Like I said, it’s nothing.”
She tugged on his hand and brought them both to a stop. “What are you thinking?”
He pulled her in tight and wrapped his arms around her. “That I’m crazy about you.”
She smiled but poked a finger in his chest. “Seriously.”
Nick paused, then finally relented. “I don’t want to make you worry for no reason, but it seems suspicious to me that he’s so in love with you, then the ring comes off and he’s not.”
She thought a moment. “Well, I’m pretty sure that’s what happened before, when he sent me the email apologizing. He probably took the ring off then, too.”
“In that email, did he come off the same way? Like he didn’t know what had happened?”
“I…I don’t remember.” She bunched her mouth to one side. “I’d have to look again.”
“Maybe you should.” He kissed her, short and sweet. “Let’s go home. I’m sure Jasper’s ready to eat again.”