***Note: This is an unedited FIRST DRAFT of this story. You can also read it on Wattpad HERE.
Get caught up with Chapter 1 HERE:
As I sat in the waiting room of Dream Droids, I couldn’t believe a week had passed. I’d been so busy with Christmas, hunting down my dad’s missing gift, and my surprisingly enjoyable trip to Comic-Con, that my Christmas countdown ticked to almost two weeks before Christmas in a blink of they eye.
Dayton stuck his head out the door and waved me back. He looked so much more professional in his white lab coat over his Captain America t-shirt. As soon as I was seated behind his computer, he looked at me with icy blue eyes. “Did you find Spiderman yet?”
I took a deep breath. “Not yet.” It had to show up. I was running out of time.
“You really think someone in your family took it?”
I nodded. “I’m hoping it wasn’t intentional, but yeah. I don’t know where else it could have gone. It was there one minute, then gone the next.”
An almost-too-big smile formed on Dayton’s lips. “Well, it looks like you have a mystery to solve.”
“A mystery?” For some reason that word stirred something inside me. “A Christmas Mystery?”
Dayton nodded and leaned closer to me. “Hunting down the gift sounds like a perfect adventure. I’d love to help you find it.”
“Really? I don’t want to trouble you with it.”
“It’s no trouble at all! I’ve been thinking about you…and your dilemma since bumping into you on Friday night. I want to help. In fact, the whole idea of solving a mystery has me all excited.”
I examined his face for sincerity. His cheeks were slightly blushed, his blue eyes wide, and the smile on his face made him look five years younger—not that he needed to look younger, he was probably only a few years older than me. “Okay. If you want to help, who am I to deny you your Christmas wish,” I teased.
I told Dayton all the details of the Parade of Presents, including how my dad examined the gift for ten seconds, how I tucked it behind the tree, about the threats from Felix, and how I had spent a little time away from watching the tree, chatting with my sisters in the kitchen and other hostess duties. I then explained how I visited Faye and Felix’s house for Christmas cookie baking and snooped around some. “Everyone denies knowing what happened to the gift. I don’t know what to do next. I really want to trust them all.”
“Well, don’t worry. I’m going to help you out,” Dayton said. “Who are your suspects?”
I rattled off everyone that was at my house the night Dad’s gift went missing. “I don’t think it was Iris, Ivory…or Faye. I’m not sure about Felix or Alex…and I don’t know much about Gary, Mary’s new boyfriend.”
“So, you ruled out Iris, Ivory, and Faye because…?”
“Because I trust them?” I shrugged with a laugh. “I guess it’s hard to be impartial when you’re dealing with family. I’m glad you’re helping. I need someone who doesn’t know anything about them to look at the situation objectively.” All of a sudden, I lit up. “This is our ice-skating week! We’re all meeting out at Crescent Lake for our holiday skating event along with them lighting up the big tree at the lodge. Maybe you could come along and help me interview my family? Maybe you’ll pick up some subtle clues I miss because my feelings get in the way.”
The smile disappeared from Dayton’s face and he turned towards the computer monitor hanging on the wall. He lifted the keyboard off the table and clicked some keys, bringing the screen to life.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” I watched his flat expression and dug back to what I said. “Was that too forward? I just thought that you…forget I asked. Let’s get to work.”
“No,” Dayton said. “It’s a good idea and I’m happy to help. It’s just that our time is passing quickly here and I have a job to do. You hired me to create you a Dream Droid and I have another appointment in fifteen minutes…”
I smiled. “Well, I really appreciate your help—both with the missing present and with my humanoid.” I sat back in my chair and pointed to the monitor. “What’s our goal this week?”
“Physical description,” Dayton said. “We’ll be taking your preferences and building your humanoid shell…so…this week is pretty easy. All you have to do is tell me what you’d like him to look like.”
I searched my mind for that image I had of my droid, but it seemed lost. As I stared at Dayton’s blue eyes, I remembered the words I had told my sisters: blue eyes and dark blond hair. I opened my mouth to repeat them, but nothing came out. Was I creating a man that didn’t look a thing like Niles on purpose? Did it even matter what my companion looked like? After all, it was all about personality.
Apparently, Dayton found my lack of words funny. I must have looked like an idiot.
“Here,” he said between chuckles. “I can show you some pictures of other droids and you can let me know if you like them or not. Simple enough?”
“Honestly, I’m actually quite intelligent,” I said. “I shouldn’t struggle with this, especially with all the time you spent on the phone with me, preparing me for these types of decisions. I just feel a little put on the spot and can’t make up my mind.” My shoulders sagged.
“You’re not alone. That’s why we developed software to help.” Dayton clicked around on the wireless keyboard resting on his lap. Soon, the monitor was populated with all types of men…from teenagers to grey-haired gentlemen old enough to be my grandpa.
“So, what do you think?” Dayton asked, nodding towards the screen.
I examined each face, from the youthful to the aged, from a few wrinkles and grey hair to both ends of the spectrum. When I went to form words, I don’t know why I suddenly felt shy. I tucked my hands under my thighs and sat forward. “Well, I don’t want to rob the cradle…or have a grandpa at home, so I’d go with the three men in the middle.”
“What about ethnicity?”
I took a deep breath. “None of this matters. I’m just looking for companionship.”
“But you should have someone that appeals to you. Everyone is drawn to certain looks more than the other. Like me, I’m drawn to smart blonds with green eyes.”
My jaw must have fallen open. Dayton was describing me.
He laughed. “I’m just putting you at ease. Go on, pick one.” He motioned to the screen again.
I tightened my lips, searching for the image of the perfect man. “I guess I like dark-haired men.” There, I just said it. I was on a roll—might as well push the rest out. “With blue eyes and tall and thin.”
Dayton cleared his throat, and I saw his cheeks turn pink. “It’s not fair to describe me. I only described you to help you move forward.”
I arched an eyebrow at him. “So, you’re not attracted to smart blonds?” He went to dig himself out of the hole, but I didn’t let him. “I wasn’t describing you. You may fit the description, but—”
He finally managed to interrupt. “Don’t worry. Many women like the tall, dark-haired type.”
I shook my head. He was having a good time harassing me.
“Now, I’m going to show you a series of faces. Pick the first one or the second one. At the end, the computer will have formulated your perfect match.”
I nodded and sat back, waiting for Dayton to bring it up. The monitor was soon filled with two different men’s faces, both with dark hair and blue eyes, but one had full eyebrows and a square cheekbone, while the other had a more baby face and a dimple on the bottom of his chin.
“Okay. The first or second one.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It depends on their personality.”
“Neither of these men have personalities yet. It’s all purely physical. Man 1 or Man 2.”
“It doesn’t matter,” I said. “They’re both very…handsome.”
“You need to make a decision. Which would you rather bring home to Mom and Dad?”
I tilted my head, scrutinizing the men.
“Which would you rather parade around in front of all your sisters?”
“Man 2,” I said without a thought. Man 2 was more Ivory’s type, she’d be a little jealous.
“Good,” Dayton said. “Onto the next set of photos.”
After the first one, the decision got easier and easier each time until we finished with the last set of men. Dayton clicked off the computer.
“Don’t I get to see what I picked?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Unfortunately, I need to do some data manipulation first to blend all the components together. It’ll be a surprise. You did tell me this was your Christmas present to yourself. Don’t you like surprises?”
“Not really. That’s why we have the Parade of Presents at my house. I want to guess all the gifts well before Christmas.”
“Then, you’re going to have to guess what he’s going to look like.” Dayton was starting to ease up around me and his personality was showing. Had he been nervous around me previous, or did he see me as a friend like I saw him?
Dayton interrupted my thoughts. “So, when is your family ice skating thing?”
I had forgotten I invited him. Suddenly, an excitement swirled in my stomach. “Friday from five to seven.”
“Sounds good. I’ll pick you up at four.”
“I only live fifteen minutes from there.”
“Then four is perfect.” That sweet smile had me nodding in agreement.
“I’ll see you Friday then,” I said as I walked to his office door. As I walked down the hallway, I turned around to see him still watching me from his doorway. I gave him a quick wave and headed back to my car.
It wasn’t until I was behind the steering wheel that I realized that the details of our little Christmas-Gift-Napping-Investigation seemed awfully like a date.
He was picking me up at my house…one hour early…
It wasn’t a date, I assured myself. He’s helping me make my lifelong companion. He knew I didn’t date and that I’d sworn off men. He knew I paid top dollar for a forever droid.
A Dream Droid.
Then why did my insides feel all tickly, like they used to get when I was a teenager?
I took a deep breath and started my car with a smile on my face.
I needed to forget about Friday, otherwise I’d never make it through the week.
I needed to focus on work. On my family. On my Dream Droid.
But right now, I just needed to get back to work.
READ THE NEXT CHAPTER HERE!
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