Choosing Theo: Chapter 15

When you’re young, you’re told that staring is impolite. Most, if not all, people will grow uncomfortable if stared at for too long. Theo had evidently never learned this. For the last twenty minutes, he’d stared at her with unblinking intensity.

His gaze had roamed over her body hungrily. The way he looked into her eyes now, like he wanted to bore a hole in her mind, was very unnerving. She’d much rather he gawked at her breasts.

It didn’t help that he was sitting opposite her.

The machine they were seated in was one of the round silver balls she’d chased a few days ago.

After leaving the ceremony building, she’d seen the vehicle hovering nearby. As she’d drawn close, a curved panel had opened onto the ground, creating a ramp and revealing a small but comfortable seating area. Two plush couches faced each other, and in between them was a metal table.

When they’d both been seated, Theo had started typing something on the top of the table. Leaning forward, Jade had noticed a small screen that was almost imperceptible against the metal. Without any warning, the ramp lifted, sealing them in, and the pod had started to move. The ride was so smooth that if Jade hadn’t felt the initial soft jerk, she wouldn’t have known they were moving at all.

Jade’s initial curiosity and joy at experiencing something so new was tempered when she noticed Theo’s attention was on her. It was stupid for her to complain about a gorgeous man staring at her, but she couldn’t figure out what his look meant. It was as though he couldn’t decide whether he wanted to fuck her or kill her.

Once again, she tried to look away, but there was nothing to focus on. For all of its pros, this vehicle’s one big con was that it had no windows.

Spotting movement out of the corner of her eye, she turned to see Theo pulling something cylindrical from a compartment under his seat.

Never taking his eyes off her, he slowly unscrewed the top of the cylinder then held it to his mouth and took a swig. Then another.

No normal drink comes in a container like that. It has to be alcohol.

Holding out her hand, she glanced at the container and then back to Theo. A silent request. Confusion showed on his face, but after a moment he handed the cylinder to her.

A quick sniff confirmed it was indeed alcohol. Strong stuff too. Jade took a small swig and waited for the burn. The drink was smooth, however, and it slid down her throat easily. She took another long drink and then handed the container back to a stunned-looking Theo.

“Do women not drink here?” she questioned.

His eyebrows drew together, and she remembered he couldn’t understand her yet.

In spite of her fearfulness of the man across from her, she started to relax. “That’s strong stuff,” she said, motioning at the container. “Works fast.”

Theo put the cap back on and resumed his unblinking glower.

Liquid courage and the fact that he couldn’t understand anything she said emboldened her. “Can you please stop staring?”

His chin lifted, but he continued to frown.

“It’s making me nervous. Aren’t the men here supposed to be happy about having a wife? Shouldn’t you at least stare with a smile on your face?”

Crossing his arms over his massive chest, he leaned back in the seat, looking extremely frustrated.

“Ah. Upset because you can’t understand me?” she said, pointing an accusing finger at him. “Well, I have a lot more to be upset about than you.”

Jade started picking at her nails. A nervous habit. “Zikas really oversold this marriage thing, huh?” She continued without waiting for him to answer “I bet that when you finally get your translator updated, you still won’t talk.”

Yep. She was definitely buzzed now.

“You’re more the strong, silent type, right?” Eyeing his muscled arms, she sighed. “Mmm. Very strong.” She giggled at that.

Evidently, her tone and the fixed direction of her eyes had given him enough information to guess the meaning of her words, because his stare became heated. He leaned toward her and flexed his hands, as though wanting to touch her.

Jade shifted in her seat nervously until the vehicle door slid open, telling her the pod had arrived at their destination. Theo glanced outside and she took the distraction to sidle by him and jump out of the car. A dense forest came into view as she rushed out of the vehicle.

The air outside was cold and crisp with a slight tang. Jade inhaled deeply, smiling when the wind rustled her hair. She imagined the air on a Scottish island might smell like this.

A warm hand on the small of her back sent a jolt through her body, reminding her of their earlier exchange during The Testing. When she turned to face him, she noticed the vehicle had silently floated away. In its place stood a magnificent house. The word “house” didn’t quite fit, however.

The large building was situated in a clearing within the thick forest. Imposing trees with the same large round leaves she’d seen on her first night towered all around her. Although the woods were beautiful, they were eerily impenetrable. There would be nowhere to run even if she somehow got an opportunity to do so.

The walls of the gently curving building looked as if they were made out of translucent glass. The warm orange of the setting sun, which was now behind them, illuminated the shining exterior. Rather than reflecting off the building as she’d expected, the light seemed to be trapped within its walls, giving Jade the impression that she was staring at a giant luminescent animal.

Beautiful flowering plants, whose petals were unnaturally larger than the leaves, grew all along the base of the glowing building, seeming to bathe in the sunlight.

Feeling Theo’s eyes on her, she peered up at him and saw he was studying her reactions. Did he want her to like his home? Gesturing toward the house, she said, “Beautiful.”

His shoulders relaxed and he started walking away from her toward an enormous wooden door tucked between two rows of crawling, flowering vines. Theo’s hand paused a moment on the large handle, and she heard a heavy bolt sliding out of place.

Panic crept through the awe she felt after admiring the building. The door could only be unlocked by him? Does that mean she’d be trapped inside?

Theo glanced over his shoulder at her and lifted his open palm. Jade looked pointedly from his palm then back to his eyes and gave an exaggerated shrug. “I don’t know what you want.”

His jaw clenched. Slowly he reached toward her and let his hand hover above her own. He held her gaze and waited.

She chuckled, still feeling a little buzzed. “Well, since you asked so nicely.”

She lifted her hand and placed it in his. Warmth spread through her at the small contact.

Gently he circled her wrist with his large palm and tugged her forward until she stood in front of him facing the heavy wooden door. With one large hand still holding her wrist, he brought his other arm around the side of her face to touch something on the center of the door. She eyed his large bicep appreciatively.

He was so close to her back that she could feel his heat radiating off him and enveloping her in warmth. Her breathing hitched when she felt his breath brush against her hair.

Snap out of it Jade! she chided herself. He’s just standing behind you. No reason to get worked up.

She turned her head to peer at him, craning her neck since he towered over her. He glanced down at her briefly then guided her hand to lie flat against the center of the door.

A light pressure against her palm startled her, causing her to jump back against his hard chest.

Theo groaned softly behind her and then pressed her hand more firmly to the door.

She felt the soft pressure run over her palm once more and fought the urge to pull her hand back.

A small ding chimed from somewhere near the handle of the door, and Theo guided her hand to wrap around the curving metal of the handle. A second ding sounded just before she heard the noise of a heavy bolt moving into place.

Theo released her hand and stepped away from her.

A light breeze chilled her now-exposed back, and she felt sorry for the loss of the warmth he provided.

He motioned for her to touch the door handle once again. When she did, the handle recognized her touch and unlocked.

Relief washed over her. He gave me access to the door!

When Jade just held the handle and beamed at Theo, he seemed to grow uncomfortable, glancing all around her until finally he reached past her and pushed the heavy door inward.

“Oh, right. Sorry,” Jade said sheepishly, feeling like an idiot for not attempting to open the door.

As Theo ushered her into the dimly lit interior, she studied the thickness of the door, and a sense of foreboding crept over her. She may have been able to unlock it, but she doubted whether she’d be able to move it.

Initially, she thought the door had been crafted from what she’d assumed was wood. Looking at a cross section of it, however, she could see that the wood-like material was just a veneer. The middle of the door was dark gray metal. Rather than one bolt near the handle, many latches and bolts ran the length of the door and frame. Once locked, it would be impenetrable.

It unlocks for me. It unlocks for me, she chanted, trying to remind herself she wouldn’t be locked inside.

As they moved further into the house, soft lighting began to illuminate the interior. Jade’s steps faltered when the room before her came into view. The inside of his home was as glorious as the outside had been.

The large open room in front of her contained a sunken living room with a large roaring fireplace, an open kitchen and a small dining area. What was most breathtaking, however, was the fact that the walls and ceiling formed a large glass dome, providing sweeping views of the scenery and sky. The front exterior of the building must’ve been the only side you couldn’t see through.

The house overlooked a crescent-shaped beach comprised of glittering black sand. The rising moons hung gently over the sparkling water.

Glowing glass bubbles of various sizes floated softly around the inside of the home, providing warm lighting. Some congregated around large potted plants, and Jade wondered whether the lights were able to drift wherever they were needed. Glancing above her, she found that a few glass bubbles were, in fact, hovering a few feet above them, providing light.

Theo urged her forward with a soft hand on her back. Jade craned her neck to take in as much as she could while allowing herself to be guided through the many rooms of the house.

As he led her through one exceptional room after another, she had to admit that Theo had good taste. They’d been walking through his home for a while now, and she had yet to see something she didn’t like. Theo pointed to a door at the end of the hall and gestured to himself.

“That’s your room.” She nodded. She wondered why he didn’t want her to see the interior. Was he messy? The state of the rest of the house made her think not.

Pointing to a door across from his own, he gestured to her.

Her door and his couldn’t have been more than ten feet apart. “So we’re neighbors,” she said awkwardly, motioning between their two rooms.

Theo glanced in the direction of his door before leaning past her and opening her door. This room, like all the others, was beautiful.

The glass dome that extended into this side of the house gave her a full view of the dark forest beyond. A dozen feet or so of land had been cleared between the house and the tree line of the forest, allowing a large beam of fading sunlight to highlight the mossy ground.

Jade had to stop herself from mentally planning the perfect garden to go in that sunny spot. I won’t be staying for very long.

A comfortable-looking bed large enough to fit five of her was situated across from another glowing fireplace. Sighing, she thought of lying in the plush bed and sleeping. The loveliness of Theo’s home had temporarily distracted her from her exhaustion as well as her hunger. To punctuate her thought, her stomach gave a loud rumble.

He was already glancing at her stomach when she turned to ask, “Do you have any food?” She clutched at her stomach and then pointed at her mouth, attempting to mime her needs.

He nodded and waved her ahead of him toward the door but halted when she didn’t move.

When Jade had seen herself in the mirror earlier after donning the green dress, she’d had to admit, she was hot. Back on Earth she was considered overweight, and although she was pretty, men didn’t notice her often enough for her to think of herself as hot.

Seeing Theo’s expression when he’d glimpsed her for the first time, she’d realized he definitely thought she was hot. If the bulge in his pants was any indicator of attraction toward her, then he must’ve thought she was downright gorgeous.

“The sad truth about looking this good is that it can be uncomfortable,” she said, gesturing to her dress. “Clecanians have the most advanced medical technology in the universe, but pretty shoes hurt on every planet, big guy.”

Jade wanted to change and be comfortable. Something about Theo’s house made her feel like she could find a soft place somewhere by a fire, cuddle up with a blanket and sleep.

How to make him understand what I want? Noticing a dresser along the wall, she crossed to it and pulled a drawer open. As she’d assumed, the drawer was empty. She motioned to the empty drawer and then her dress. Plucking at the fabric, she theatrically mimed being uncomfortable.

His dark glare told her he was offended by what she did. Maybe he thought she was admonishing him for not providing her with clothing. Slowly she approached him and reached out to tug the bottom of his soft shirt. She then pointed to herself.

Wrenching the shirt out of her hand, he turned on his heel and left the room. “Great!” she said, throwing her hands in the air. “I’ve pissed him off again.”

Not knowing what else to do, she started exploring her room more fully. A door stood on either side of the fireplace. An empty walk in closet was located behind one. Behind the other, she found a small but elegant bathroom containing a tall, sleek bowl she gathered was a toilet, as well as a large rounded corner. Hundreds of small holes lined the ceiling and walls of the alcove, and she guessed it was a high-end cleansing area.

Jade groaned, wondering if her bath this afternoon would be the last she’d have a while. Even a lukewarm shower sounded better than the unsatisfying dissolving foam she’d grown used to.

Asivva had been right about the disappointments of some technological advances. The foam was marvelous and could be used for everything from cleaning dirt off your body to cleaning your mouth and teeth. Zikas had looked at her strangely when she’d asked for a toothbrush her first night. But foam could never compare to the luxury of slipping into hot water.

By the time she’d finished her business in the bathroom and used a tall pillar with a spout to foam-wash her hands, Theo had returned. He was standing in her room, holding some clothing. She took the clothes from his outstretched hand and waited for him to leave the room. When he didn’t move, she shooed him with her hands.

He tilted his head at the gesture but eventually did leave with a scowl still securely placed on his face.

She closed the door behind him and attempted to unfasten the tight laces lining the back of her dress. By the time she’d detangled herself from the dress, she was sweating.

Theo had left her a dark red silky shirt and soft black pants. The shirt fell to her mid-thigh and the neckline hung so loosely that she had to remind herself not to bend over for any reason or she’d be in danger of flashing her bare breasts.

The underwear she’d been provided was made out of an oddly thick fabric, and although she was grateful for the coverage, she wondered why women here only wore underwear but no bra.

Jade did everything she could think of to prevent the soft pants from falling off of her body but no matter how many times she rolled them, they kept sliding down her legs.

Maybe he has a belt I can borrow. Poking her head out of the door, she glanced around, hoping to ask him for something to hold the pants up. He was nowhere in sight.

A delicious smell greeted her, and her stomach rumbled more insistently. “Well, he is my husband. I guess he can see my legs.”

She padded down the hall, toward the kitchen. She saw Theo hunched away from her over the corner of a polished purple stone island she hadn’t noticed before. As she drew closer, he straightened and picked up a thick glass filled with amber liquid. When she was within arm’s reach, she stopped. He downed the glass then turned to face her.

His eyes widened when he saw her exposed legs. The glass he was holding shattered.

Shards fell all around her bare feet. Without moving from his spot, Theo threw his thick arm around Jade’s waist and lifted her until she was crushed against his chest. He spun on the spot and deposited her onto the island. Jade’s hands shot forward, trying to pull her shirt down over her thighs.

Why did he just do that? For a moment she thought his motives in picking her up had been more passionate in nature.

Now, as she watched him examine her feet, she felt he was merely trying to make sure she didn’t get hurt by the glass. A small part of her had been thrilled by his sudden show of attraction, but now as she watched him carefully lift and turn her feet in his big hand, a warm, fuzzy feeling overwhelmed her.

He may look like a hulking angry tattoo enthusiast most of the time, but he was showing a caring side she hadn’t expected.

Why had he broken the glass in the first place? Was he angry at seeing her in his shirt? Unlikely, since he’d tried to protect her from the shards almost as soon as they’d fallen. It may be that he was too strong for his own good. For all she knew, he could go through hundreds of glasses a month.

Seeming satisfied that her feet weren’t hurt, he dug in his back pocket for a slim black rectangle. Silently, he pressed a few silver buttons and then put it back in his pocket.

A low humming sounded from behind her. Peering over her shoulder, she saw a small vacuum-like appliance had appeared out of nowhere and was working its way toward them.

“That’s really handy. You know, I…” Jade trailed off as she twisted back toward Theo and found his eyes riveted to her legs.

He was very close to her now. A balled fist rested on the counter on either side of her. Sitting at this height, with him bent as he was, put her nearly at eye level with him.

Jade cleared her throat. Theo lifted his eyes to hers slowly, unapologetically. He tried to scrub his hand over his face and winced. Tracks of red blood ran down his wrist from his palm.

Jade gasped as she reached for his hand to examine it. Jagged shards of glass jutted out of his palm. Blood had pooled on the counter where he’d rested his fist.

“Why didn’t you tend to this? It must hurt like hell,” she said, picking a small piece of glass out of his finger and dropping it on the ground for the small machine to clean up.

Theo watched while she attempted to remove the glass from his hand without causing too much pain. She winced in sympathy as she pulled a deeply embedded shard from his palm.

Theo didn’t wince or flinch once. In fact, she thought he looked…calm. His eyes had lowered to half mast, his shoulders relaxed, and his breathing was slow and even.

She shot him a puzzled look. “Do you enjoy pain or something? Are you a masochist?” When he didn’t answer, she continued, “Because I do not. I’d be crying like a baby if I were you.

“Why did you break that glass, huh? Don’t know your own strength?” Knowing he couldn’t understand her, Jade had started speaking more to herself than him.

“How did I get myself into this?” she said absently. “One day I’m at home watching movies and the next I’m sitting, half naked, on a countertop within inches of the sexiest man I’ve ever seen.”

The last piece of glass was out, so Jade grabbed a cloth from nearby and started wiping away the blood. “I don’t understand why everyone is so scared of you,” she babbled. “I mean, sure, you glare at everyone like you’d like to rip their heads off, but you’ve been looking at me like that for hours now and you haven’t done anything cruel.”

Jade set the towel away and examined one of the black marks curving around his wrist. “Those markings…” She sighed, tracing the mark with her finger. “I’d like to lick every one of them,” she said with a wicked smile.

Theo leaned in close and said in a low, rumbling voice, “Is that so?”


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