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Choosing Theo: Chapter 21

“Whew. Done,” Jade said, tossing the tablet onto the bed. Glancing through the glass, she saw that it was now dark outside. Cebo was snoring loudly on the bed next to her. “I’d better go down to dinner,” she whispered.

She had spent the last few hours buying a year’s worth of clothing. That was how long she was supposed to stay on this planet, after all. Three months here, nine months looking for someone to take me back to Earth.

She’d also browsed through the wide selection of toiletries and beauty products listed but ended up not purchasing anything. It was easy to recognize the clothing, especially since she could see them on the projection in her room. All of the other products were a mystery.

She couldn’t learn what they were either, because the descriptions of the products were written in Clecanian. Jade had decided it was better to wait to buy those items until she knew more about their function and their ingredients. For all she knew, they could be made from that plant she was allergic to.

Side note. Remember to ask what the name of that plant is again.

Tonight, at dinner, she planned to ask Theo if she could invite Asivva to come and visit. It would be nice to see her again. Heck, it would be nice to talk with anyone who didn’t look like they were angry with her seventy-five percent of the time. Also, Asivva could explain what the items she’d scrolled through earlier were and help her pick out the things she needed most.

Jade tiptoed out of her room so she didn’t wake Cebo and headed toward the kitchen. As she neared, she spotted Theo sitting at the table and gazing out the window contemplatively. Plates of delicious-smelling food were already piled on the table in front on him.

Passing the stone island on her way to the table, she asked, “How is this here sometimes and not here others?”

“It retracts into the floor when not in use,” Theo said blandly, as though retracting 1,000-pound islands was mundane.

Jade gazed at the floor for a moment, wondering what the underside of Theo’s house looked like. Was there a whole selection of furniture just waiting to be called to the surface?

Moving to the table, she sat across from him and waited for him to acknowledge her.

Without glancing up, he filled her glass, then his own, with fizzy red liquid. “Did you buy everything you needed?”

“I bought clothes and shoes, but I wanted to wait to talk to you before buying the rest. I don’t read Clecanian, so I didn’t know what most of the products were.”

A muscle ticked in his jaw, and he motioned to the food and drink on the table. “I used the recommendations from your file to prepare this. Hopefully the suggestions were accurate and you like these things. Please let me know if you don’t.” Lifting the glass he’d just filled and taking a sip, he added, “The scan estimates you’ll like this beverage.”

Lifting her glass, she asked, “What is it?”

Raising his eyes to meet hers, he answered, “It’s an alcoholic drink made from Wanget, a type of fruit.”

Jade hesitantly took a sip. A sweet yet slightly tart flavor exploded over tongue. “Mmm.” She took a larger sip this time. It reminded her of an experimental sparkling wine. “It tastes similar to one of my favorite drinks from Earth.”

“Good.” Theo leaned forward and swept away the small glowing bubble lights that were keeping the food warm. “Let’s eat.”

Although his face didn’t show it, she sensed he was pleased that she enjoyed something he’d provided. After all, it did look like he went to a lot of effort to choose specific things she’d enjoy.

Jade examined her glass and noticed it was already half empty. “Wait. How strong is this?” she asked uncertainly.

He quirked his brow at her.

“The drink I had in the car on the way over here tasted really good, but was very strong.”

The corner of Theo’s mouth quirked in a smile. “You’re the first female I’ve met who thinks mott tastes good.” He downed the rest of his drink in one gulp and then refilled his glass. “This is not nearly as strong. Mott is three times as strong as this.”

Upside: he’d finally cracked a smile. Downside: her appreciation of hard liquors made her seem like an alcoholic.

All of the food she ate during dinner was both confusing and delicious. Nothing on the plate was familiar to her and every time she ate something new, she’d been entirely disconcerted.

She decided to try some small, round blue items first, since they reminded her of blueberries, but when she tasted them, she found the texture to be more crunchy than soft and the flavor spicy rather than sweet. After each bite of food, Jade needed to take a moment to work through her confused senses and decide whether she liked what she was eating.

After some trial and error, Jade was able to work out which foods she enjoyed the most. With her preconceived notions about what the foods should taste like out the window, she decided the items she enjoyed were delicious.

Whoever graded him on cooking had gotten it right. He could’ve been a successful chef back on Earth.

“You’re enjoying the meal?” he asked quietly. He was sitting back in his chair watching her, having finished his own meal a while ago.

Between bites, she replied, “It’s incredible but strange. I can’t tell what anything is, but it all tastes wonderful. Do you always eat this well?”

As he’d done many times throughout the meal, he refilled their drinks before answering.

Is he trying to get me drunk?

He leaned forward and placed his elbows on the table. “Not always. Clecanians mostly just use the food synthesizer.”

Jade finished swallowing a mouthful of red mush that tasted like cheese and garlic, then asked, “A what?”

Theo lifted his hand pointing into the corner of the kitchen at a small panel. “A synthesizer makes food for you. Type the dish you’d like, and it’ll appear.”

“Wow, that’s amazing! Why do you even cook at all? If I had that back home, I’d use it every day.” A machine that could cook for you sounded like a dream come true. “I’m a terrible cook. My aunt always said I could burn boiling water.”

Jade averted her gaze, taking another bite. The sudden mention of her aunt had sent a jolt of sadness through her.

Theo rested his elbow on the table, lifting his glass for another sip. “The food tends to be a bit bland when made in the synthesizer. Cooking the food by hand always yields better results for special occasions like tonight.”

Jade’s chewing slowed at his cool tone. Her mouth was still full, so she raised her eyebrows, implying a question.

“Tonight, we’ll bathe together as husband and wife for the first time.”

Trying to swallow too quickly, Jade choked and coughed. After a moment, she managed to wheeze, “Come again?”

Handing her the glass she had been clutching for, he calmly repeated, “Tonight, we’ll bathe together as husband and wife for the first time.”

Eyes still watering, Jade set her palms on the table and took a couple of deep breaths. “I understood the words, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not taking a bath with you.”

Theo sat back in his chair and stretched his long legs out in front of him. Irked, she realized he was enjoying this.

“Traditionally, a newly married wife and husband bathe together the second night of their marriage and then again once a week thereafter.”

Her eyes widened further. “I don’t care about your tradition! I’m not getting in a bath with you. I didn’t know about this, and I’m certainly not doing it.”

“Ignorance won’t get you out of this. It’s not my fault you didn’t learn enough about our culture before you married into it,” he said coolly.

Jade saw red. She opened and closed her mouth wordlessly before screeching, “How dare you! I didn’t choose to get married! I—”

“It doesn’t matter how you got here,” he waved a hand dismissively, “You’ll be in that tub by the end of the night whether you want to be or not.”

“You can’t force me to go in there with you! I know that much.”

“Who’s going to stop me? You?” He chuckled.

“I’ll tell Zikas!”

“How?” He flashed her a wicked grin like he’d been waiting for her to make this threat. “Do you know where the communicator is? Do you know how to use it? Can you even read the numbers?”

How would she call him? She hadn’t realized it until now, but there was no way for her to get in contact with anyone unless he showed her how. He was right. He could do what he wanted, and she couldn’t stop him.

He smirked. “That’s what I thought.”

A plan. She needed an escape plan. She could take her chances in the woods. The front door looked too heavy to open quickly, so she’d have to run through the glass leading to the beach. She’d learned while exploring this morning that all she had to do to get outside was walk close to the glass.

“You wouldn’t make it to the door,” he chided, reading her mind. “It’s time. Let’s go.”

Gotta try! she thought as she sprang out of her seat. Hefting the chair above her head, she threw it at him.

Before seeing whether he was hit, she bolted to the glass wall. A pane of glass formed from the solid wall and slid out of her way silently. She dashed through the new opening and ran toward a trail on the opposite side of the beach.

Chancing a glance behind her, she saw Theo stepping onto the patio. He didn’t bother to run at first. He stalked toward her, like a predator. Then he bared his teeth in a terrifying grin and began to sprint.

Her legs ached as she tried to pick up speed while running through the sand. The night air was cold, but the sand felt warm against her feet as though the dark color of the sand had trapped the sun’s heat from the day before.

She could see the small trail drawing closer. Only a few feet away.

Strong arms wrapped around her waist and threw her forward. Before they hit the ground, he turned their bodies so she landed on top of him.

Once on the ground, he rolled and pinned her underneath him. Her wrists were secured above her head in one of his large palms. He wedged his hips against hers and forced her legs apart with his own legs, ensuring she couldn’t kick him.

Jade writhed and hissed underneath him like a feral cat. “Get off of me!”

“Calm down!” he bellowed.

His hold on her wrists tightened painfully. Jade whimpered but stilled.

Theo rested his forearm in the sand by her head. “That’s better,” he said, loosening his grip again.

The moons above backlit Theo so she couldn’t see his face. She could tell he was turned on, though, from the feel of his hardened cock as he absently rocked his hips against her. “You shouldn’t have run,” he grated out, his whole body tense.

He started to grind his hips more vigorously, and so help her, it felt wonderful. Jade had to stifle a moan as his shaft pressed against her clit.

This couldn’t happen. He’d just chased her like an animal. “Theo,” she said, her voice shaky.

It seemed to take all of his control to stop, because he shook violently.

“Theo?” she called softly.

Growling, his left hand shot out to cover her mouth. He leaned down and pressed his forehead to hers. It took him a few moments to regain control of himself but when he finally did, he jumped off her.

Shaken, she got to her feet, but before she could rise all the way, he threw her over his shoulder and headed toward the house.


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