My name is Cornelius Latimer, and I have fallen in love. The object of my affection isn’t tall and blonde with all the right curves. It isn’t even human. My love belches smoke and breathes fire. My world runs on steam and hard metal, and I am a master of both. My Uncle, Rufus Harrison, has funded my expeditions. He’s gifted me with a lab containing all the parts and space I could possibly need. For weeks I have been toiling over my journals, crafting my biggest and best creation yet. It’s heady, this feeling of power. But I made a fatal error. I told a friend about my machine. And now someone who should not know, does. I should tear everything apart, but I can’t. Love does strange things to people.
Clockwork earrings highlighted the graceful curve of her neck. Red satin swirled around a tiny figure wrapped in a black suede corset. Dark eyes swept the room with only a hint of apprehension. Thick jet hair winked with stones as the angel turned toward me.
I nearly swallowed my tongue.
“Cornelius Latimer! What the devil is wrong with you?” My best friend, Anthony DeSalvo, frowned and followed my gaze. “Bloody hell.”
“That didn’t come from Hell,” I whispered. Around the crowded, gas-lit ballroom, other men stopped mid-sentence and faced the angel gracing the entryway. I was not the only man enthralled. The world paused and the throbbing pulse of distant steam engines mimicked my heartbeat.
Anthony snorted and tossed back his punch. “A pretty face that will be forgotten in a week.” He studied me, one eyebrow cocked at my lack of attention. He hooted with laughter. “Finally, one of the sacrificial virgins has caught your eye!”
I elbowed him. “I don’t mock you about your conquests.”
He chortled, straightening his silk waistcoat. “That’s because I have so many. This, this, is a special occasion.”
He remained silent a few more moments. I assumed he watched as she moved through the crowd like Moses. I spared him a glance, noting the intense stare he sent in her direction. Unreasonable jealousy clouded my senses. Just when I opened my mouth to comment, he pulled a large coin from his waistcoat pocket.
“I’ll flip you for her.” His tone turned serious.
That got my full attention. A strange gleam lit Anthony’s eye, one I had never seen before. “What?”
“You heard me. Even if she is your first crush, every man out there will be after her. At least if we’re both pursuing her, we’ll double our collective chances. But when we catch her, who will keep her?”