On a cold February evening, John Oscar Holloway fell in love at first sight when he walked into a crowded ballroom.

From a distance he saw her, elegant and poised, standing within a circle of men and women. Her hair glistened like gold spun into silk, her milky skin seemed almost to shimmer, and her eyes sparkled like morning dew. She was petite, with a delicate waist, and she smiled demurely. In her left hand, she held up a copper box with three red buttons.

John decided that he would meet her that night, win her love, and speak with her father at the first available opportunity.

In the next moment, one of the lady’s admirers pressed the middle button on the copper box, and the lady began to move her arms and head in a series of precise motions, like a bird . . . like a machine. When her routine was done, she resumed her resting position and fell still as her admirers laughed and applauded.

The cold of winter encased John’s heart. At long last, he had found his ideal, the perfection he sought, but she was nothing more than a doll.

Eudora Weathersby approached John, ignoring the gasps from others at her boldness. John could barely take his eyes away from the clockwork lady to greet the real one. She met his gaze at eye level, Amazon that she was.

“Miss Weathersby. She—it is your creation, I presume? She—it is a masterpiece.”

“Yes indeed, Mr Holloway. Although I must say, I couldn’t have done it without the inspiration I received from your own ingenious inventions,” she said with an inclination of her head, her brown, frizzy curls bouncing.

John smiled politely, but his eyes were drawn once more to the artificial angel. Looking upon her again, especially after viewing the mortal female by his side, enflamed his soul and made a mockery of him all in the same moment. Oh, for such a creature to be real and alive.

“You know,” continued Miss Weathersby, “I remember the first time I saw you, leaning over your workbench with your magnification glasses askew and a miniaturized engine in your hand. I thought you were the perfect clockwork man.”

Her voice buzzed in his ear like a gnat. If only the doll could speak, her voice would sound like the ringing of a silver bell.

“Falling in love with someone who will never return your affections — it hurts desperately, doesn’t it?” Miss Weathersby asked. Had he been looking at her, he would have seen something cold and fragile in her blue eyes. “I thought I would return the favor. If you ask nicely, perhaps I’ll make the next version able to dance.”

John Holloway continued to stare at the clockwork lady another moment, but then Eudora’s words pierced through the fog in his mind. When he turned to look at her, he saw only her back as she walked away.

About the Author

“I’m Virginia M. Sanders. I blog at http://kisschronicles.com. What I love about steampunk is its slippery, adaptable nature. It defies definition, and yet it’s highly recognizable. Also, steampunk is just incredibly sexy.”