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Choosing Theo: Chapter 19

Jade had spent the morning exploring the house. In addition to the rooms Theo had shown her yesterday, she’d found a gym that looked like it received little use. Jade had wondered what Theo did to stay in such great shape if not lift weights in a gym.

She’d also found a few more guestrooms on the other side of the house. For a moment, she had felt pleased to know that Theo had chosen the guestroom closest to his to be her room rather than on the other side of the house.

Her happiness had been smothered when she’d realized he’d probably done this to keep an eye on her rather than because he wanted to be close to her.

Jade wandered the rest of the house, puzzled at her own reactions to Theo. On Earth, her current therapist had made her understand she tended to shut people out as soon as they made one wrong move. She’d called it “door slamming.” Jade had comprehended, after agonizing weeks of painful self-reflection, that she’d “slammed the door” on many people, often for small, stupid reasons.

Annie, who’d been her best friend since college, had bailed on a trip to Florida that they’d planned, and Jade had overreacted to the extreme. She’d accused her poor friend of prioritizing her boyfriend over their friendship and cut off communication with her.

Keeping herself at a distance from people and never allowing herself to be emotionally connected was Jade’s default. So why wasn’t she acting that way with Theo? He’d given her a multitude of valid reasons to shut him out, but she hadn’t. On the contrary, the smallest show of kindness on his part made her feel weak in the knees.

Jade reached the last room she had left to explore, and her worried thoughts melted away. The room contained only a massive bath. A literal bathroom. It reminded her of what an ancient bathing house must have been like, except smaller. The floor and walls of the room were covered in dark blue stone veined with gold.

The ceiling was elaborately tiled to resemble the night sky. Sparkling gold stones scattered across the ceiling, glowed in the dim light, and very tiny glowing bubble lights floated near the ceiling, giving the impression that stars were hovering in the room. Steam rose from the inky black tub, making the whole room appear hazy and dreamlike.

Jade decided then and there that she’d be spending an exorbitant amount of time in this room. It was her favorite by far.

“Lovely, isn’t it?” came a rough voice from behind her.

Jade jerked and then spun around. “You need to wear a bell,” she said, clutching her heart.

“I need to speak with you about something. Can you come with me?”

He was still wearing a shirt, but now the material was soaked with sweat and clung to his impressive physique. She ogled his wide upper body, wondering if this sight was better or worse than shirtless Theo. It was certainly more tantalizing.

“Well?” he said impatiently.

Jade tore her eyes away from his chest. “Yeah. Sure.”

He turned and walked toward the large open room in the front of the house.

“So,” he began when they were both seated in the sunken living room. “I thought it would be a good time for you to meet Cebo.”

“What’s a Cebo?” Jade said nervously.

“Cebo is my…our pet.” His eyes twinkled, and the corner of his mouth twitched. Something was wrong.

“Okay,” she said slowly.

“It’s customary for the female of the house to bond with the pet. You should make sure to keep him with you for at least twenty-four hours.”

“What kind of animal is he?” she asked apprehensively. He was relishing this exchange, which made Jade assume that “Cebo” was some kind of disgusting, giant, two-headed possum.

“Maybe it’s best if you just meet him.” Before Jade could protest, he’d started walking toward the door.


I can’t wait to see her face. Theo snickered inwardly.

Taking a last look at the distressed expression she wore, he opened the door. Cebo shot past him, detecting a new person in the room.

Theo watched Jade with barely contained excitement.

“A dog!” she exclaimed, and her face broke into a wide grin.

As Cebo charged for her at a pace that would make any female cry out, Jade fell to her knees arms wide.

Theo stood with his mouth agape. Cebo was licking her face! Drooling everywhere! Any other woman would be appalled. They would’ve demanded the animal be removed from the house.

Jade, however, was now on the floor with Cebo. She hugged him around the neck and when he rolled over, she rubbed his belly, all the while smiling and speaking to him in a loving voice. “What a handsome boy you are! Good dog.” Jade sat up and glanced at him, perplexed. “How do you have a dog? There are dogs on this planet?”

“This animal isn’t native to this planet. I bought him from an exotic breeder.” The one animal that had stood out to Theo on that trader’s ship resembled an Earth animal! What were the odds?

“Well, he looks mostly like a dog,” she said, tilting her head to study Cebo. “I’ve never seen any dog with a tongue like this. His eyes are a little funny too. He’s also much bigger than normal dogs are, but he’s close enough.”

“So, you like him?” Theo croaked.

“Oh, I love dogs,” she said, never taking her eyes from Cebo. “When I was growing up, we always had at least one dog in the house. I was planning on going to the pound to rescue one in a few weeks actually.”

“Rescue?” She likes animals and she protects them from harm too?

Her smile faded. “Yeah. On Earth there are so many dogs without homes. People don’t want them roaming free on the street, so they catch them and put them in pounds. If nobody adopts them after a certain amount of time, many places will put them down.”

“Put them down? Down where?”

She placed a hand by the side of her mouth and whispered as if she didn’t want Cebo to hear. “Kill them.”

“That’s barbaric,” Theo hissed.

“I agree, but sadly, many of the things that happen on my planet are pretty barbaric.”

Theo gave his head a little shake, trying to get back on topic. “You don’t mind keeping him with you? All the time?”

“Now that I know he’s here, I don’t want him going anywhere. Can he sleep in my room?” she pleaded.

Theo released a defeated breath. “I suppose.”

She stood and ran towards the stairs. “Let’s go see my room, Cebo!”

Cebo chased after her happily.

When she was out of sight, Theo dropped onto the couch. He was disconcerted. Introducing her to Cebo was supposed to infuriate her. Annoy her at least. It was supposed to be the first step toward making her time here intolerable.

She liked him. No, she loved him. Theo scratched his head.

He needed to do more research on Earth. Thinking back, he did buy Cebo from a vendor who claimed he sold “exotic” animals. If Cebo was similar to…what did she call them? Dogs? It stood to reason that Cebo could be part dog. If the vendor were selling things collected from Class 4 planets, it was unlikely he’d make that information known. It was highly illegal.

Tomorrow he’d request more information about Earth from some of his work contacts. Once he knew more, he’d adjust his plan accordingly. Until then, he’d continue to try and shake her resolve. Seeing her in the bathing room had given him another idea.

Before he put that plan into motion, he first needed to address another, more pressing, issue. He couldn’t let her walk around the house wearing only his shirt. Staying focused was crucial right now. Seeing teases of her cleavage whenever she bent over made him want to rip the shirt off her body.

She needed clothing.


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