Black Rock Colony, North American League, 1910
That his delivery was late annoyed Jonathan P. Quiverbottom beyond rationality. He glared at the oversized clock precisely placed at the apex of the sweeping staircases, but watching the second hand tick across the face only increased his distress.
Time was everything.
As he waited, he wanted to cross his arms, but he would never do so, not when such a stance would ruin the crisp lines of his custom-tailored suit. Most clothing was fashioned of pedestrian faux fibers, but Jonathan could afford the best natural fabrics. Nothing looked as good as wool, cotton, silk and leather, but nothing marred quite as easily either. So Jonathan didn't cross his arms, but he did tap his foot. Bouncing his foot against the thick carpet wouldn't harm his polished shoes or the rug, but the motion made him more aware of the passage of time.
A thousand scenarios marched through his mind of what might have gone wrong. Perhaps the delivery mobile had run afoul of a whirling dervish. Jonathan hated the high-speed single-people movers favored by the young and those who cared little for their own mortal flesh. However, without the fresh bodies such dangerous modes of transport provided, he would not be expecting a man-of-all-work bot in the first place.
Normally, anything that disrupted his exacting schedule was dismissed and forgotten. Late guests were not afforded entry to his home. It only took a time or two of being coldly ignored on his doorstep for them to stop coming. After ten years in Black Rock Colony, not a soul came to his door but delivery men, and they never tarried long.
"Rushing about again?" Jonathan would ask, stamping his thumb to confirm receipt of whatever goods they had delivered.
They mashed the words together until he took the phrase to mean both greeting and dismissal.
Not that Jonathan was lonely. Praise the paragons of science, no! He did as he pleased. He spent his time and considerable fortune pursuing activities he most thoroughly enjoyed. His home was his castle, his haven and his workshop. Here, the world moved in an orderly fashion. Every aspect occurred at a specific time.
As he parted the lace privacy sheers covering the doorway glass, he wondered if the delivery mobile hadn't been delayed at all. Perhaps they had never left the factory. What if they had deduced his intent? Jonathan's heart hammered hard, and a light sweat beaded on his brow. If Man-o-War Limited knew why he'd ordered one of their most talked-about bots, it could explain why his delivery was late. Jonathan mopped his face with a pristine handkerchief that smelled of sandalwood. Perhaps this was for the best. He could not be held to trial if he did not commit the wrong in the first place. But then he would be left to his own devices, and that had not served him well.
When a tall man with blond hair the exact color of butterscotch toffee paused at the base of his steps, Jonathan let the sheers drop. What was that man searching for? He appeared to be checking the numbers placed above his entryway.
Jonathan didn't think the young man was looking for him. He would not let him enter anyway, what with his ill-fitting clothing clearly fashioned from inferior-grade textiles and his jacket hooked by his finger and tossed casually over his shoulder. His very wide shoulder. Which seemed exactly wide enough for his beautifully shaped head and terribly informal jacket gesture.
Frowning, Jonathan tried to move away from the doorway, but the curious man held him riveted. Why were the slovenly always so indifferently beautiful? Even with all his meticulous care, Jonathan had never exuded half the appeal this creature did without effort. If he were a religious man, he might believe that God tested him in some way, but he was not, so he did not think he was being held to a divine trial.
"Oh, stop my brain from dithering!"
Another thing Jonathan could not abide was mental blather. The only time he indulged in such nonsense was when something or someone disrupted his schedule. He ordered himself to leave the foyer and refuse delivery, but he knew he could not. He had to know what Man-o-War Limited knew that he did not know. Once he had the secret of their manbots, he would vehemently decry the company for wasting his time on a delivery. But first, he had to pick apart their creation in order to duplicate their science.
Casting his gaze through the lace curtains again, he discovered the man was still there. Perhaps if he had a hat, he would appear more polished. He should do something to cover up the unruly waves of butterscotch hair. Those strands were simply too long for a man and far too pretty. Cleaned up, trimmed back and dressed in an appropriate suit, the man would be most fetching. Terribly so. Why, Jonathan could see their heads together as they discussed the latest happenings over tea and pastries. If he had a friend who looked like this, he would surely go out of his house and socialize more.
But he didn't.
And he wouldn't.
Jonathan would not make such a friend again. Once had been enough. But, to be fair, that man hadn't actually been his friend. More of a fleeting acquaintance. Jonathan only wanted him to be his companion. In all honesty, such an alliance would have been most foolish, and yet Jonathan had never stopped thinking of--
"He is still there!"
What if the delivery mobile came and found this ruffian wandering about? In the pale light of morning, with the skies darkly overcast and heavy with pending snow, what was technically morning was rather gloomy enough to appear almost as sinister as evening. If the delivery men feared being accosted, they would not stop, and then Jonathan's plans for the day would be ruined.
"Move along," he whispered, flicking his fingers at the man behind the lace.
Rather than going, he took the steps two at a time, displaying remarkably strong thighs below worn black fabric. Dressed properly, he would be a most intriguing gentleman, what with that stunning hair and powerful body and his hands--as he moved his work-worn hand toward the chime, Jonathan yanked the door open.
"Be off with you now. There is nothing for you here."
Rather than turn tail and run or even display a modicum of shock at Jonathan's sudden leaping out, the man allowed a smile to spread over his chiseled features. His smile was like the rest of him--unfairly handsome and almost indecently compelling.
This close, Jonathan saw that his eyes were molten gold. Liquid and striking, they reflected a tiny image of Jonathan back at himself, jarring his sense of not only where he stood, but who he was. Something he had never questioned. Jonathan knew precisely who he was and always had.
Until this moment.
Riveting and persuasive, the man's curious eyes held him enthralled, making him utterly forget why he wanted to shoo the man away in the first place.
As he continued to stare into his eyes, Jonathan thought of the gleaming clockwork gears he used to create his creatures. Boxes of them, all perfectly separated and labeled according to size, filled one wall of his laboratory. But no gear had ever shone as brightly as this man's eyes.