Choosing Theo: Chapter 23

Shit! He’d scared her again. The look on her face as she ducked into the water and covered her breasts with her arm said as much.

He inwardly shook himself. Why did he care if he scared her? That’s what you were trying to do!

Still, he felt guilty. He hadn’t meant to frighten her, but he was too aroused. When she’d stood in front of him, he’d first seen her magnificent smile and then her naked body. The sight had nearly caused him to break his word and grab her.

His words had sounded harsher than he’d meant them to be because he was barely holding onto his control.

Without saying a word, he exited the tub. Running away.

Theo had never run away from anything! Wars. Assassins. The occasional overly confident male. Threats were to be faced head on.

This small female had rattled him so much with her easy conversation and soft body that he was now retreating from his own bathing room!

Plucking a towel from the wall, he turned to see she hadn’t moved.

He opened and closed his mouth a few times before finally saying, “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Before slamming the door shut, he stopped and added, “Don’t try to run from me again. My Traxian blood will force me to chase you. It’s instinct. I don’t know how much control I’ll have next time.”

How had that encounter gone so poorly? Theo thought as he stomped through the house to his room.

Every time he thought he had the upper hand with her, she somehow managed to come out on top. He’d met his match, he concluded, dropping down into a chair in front of his fireplace.

He’d learned a great deal about her during the bath. She’d suffered greatly in her life. The look in her eyes when she’d talked about her family’s death had convinced him she was being truthful. At least about that.

Pride welled in his chest at how strong she was, but he quickly stifled the emotion. You cannot be prideful over something that isn’t yours, he told himself.

His still rock-hard cock twitched. She was yours for a moment.

He fisted his shaft, recalling her hot tongue on his ear. He needed release now.

Pumping his fist, he recalled her pert breasts. They were fuller than Clecanian females’ normally were. They’d bounced when she’d pulled back from him. He came hard when he imagined taking one of her small pink nipples in his mouth.

Theo cleaned himself up and threw on some soft sleeping pants. They felt like sandpaper against his unrelenting erection, and he groaned. It was going to be a long night.

He retrieved the mott he’d left by his bed and returned to the fire to brood over Jade. Was she still in the bath? Still naked?

Theo punched the arm of his chair. Enough! She’s not for you!

She should’ve been disgusted. Asking her to lick his scars had seemed like an excellent way to expose her lies. He’d expected a grimace at least, and a halfhearted swipe of her tongue at most. The way she’d lavished his neck had felt like heaven.

That reminded him, he’d have to make sure to repair the bench of the bathing pool soon. When she’d lightly bitten him, it’d taken all of his strength not to pull her onto his lap. The marble had suffered that strength.

Never in his life had he been touched with that kind of tenderness. Actually, no one had touched his markings after they’d blackened at all. When he was a child, he’d loved being touched. He remembered always asking to be held or hugged. Her closeness in the bath and the simple touch of her hands on his chest had drugged him with relaxation.

Losing himself, he’d unconsciously purred, something he hadn’t done in ages.

Could what she said be true? What if for a moment he let himself believe her story? Believe that she’d truly chosen him and that she liked his scars.

Before meeting her, he hadn’t recognized how lonely he was. If she was indeed the one female in the entire universe who wanted him, then she was a blessing. If he accepted her, he might know peace for a while.

Blanching, he thought back to how he’d treated her. Bellowing at her and trying to find ways to torture her. He’d likely ruined any chance he may have had.

Never being picked by a female had almost seemed like a relief to Theo over the years. He knew all too well that his aggressive and possessive nature wasn’t compatible with three-month-long marriages.

His mother’s people, the Traxian, were barbaric and vicious, but they also mated for life. That was one of the reasons his mother had chosen to stay with his father, even though the practice was highly unusual.

Theo could get by using the females who sought him out for sex rather than marriage. Jade was different, though. He found that he enjoyed talking to her, even when they were fighting. She had a sharp mind and a quick wit.

The few times he’d attempted to make her happy had caused him more contentment than any sexual encounter he’d ever had. Pride had spread through him when she’d complimented the food he’d chosen for her tonight.

He also enjoyed seeing her in his house. When he’d watched her walking around the living room earlier today softly talking to Cebo, she’d looked comfortable. Like she’d wandered his home a thousand times.

Allowing himself to accept her as his wife would break him in the long run. She wasn’t his mate and at the first opportunity, she would leave him.

If his enemies had sent her here to make him miserable, they’d succeeded.

He knew what he needed to do. No more trying to expose Jade as a liar. No more trying to outsmart her so she gave herself up. For his own sake, he needed to stay as far away from her as possible.

***

After Theo had stormed out of the bathing room, she’d been confused and more than a little ticked off that he’d yelled at her again. She sat back in the tub and cursed at a sharp, stabbing pain on the back of her thigh.

Investigating, she found that the marble of the underwater seat had been cracked in a few places, leaving jagged edges behind. Right where Theo’s hands had been.

Her eyes widened as she realized he must’ve done that with his bare hands. Because of her.

To keep his word not to touch me, she thought, a flutter in her stomach.

He must’ve left for the same reason.

“Do I care?” Jade said to no one.

“Yes,” she decided. The more time Jade spent with Theo, the more conflicted she felt.

Grabbing a towel and Theo’s abandoned shirt. Jade walked to her room. She looked at his door when she neared and muttered, “Should’ve picked dumb and pretty. Always pick dumb and pretty, Jade.”

When she entered the room, Cebo jumped down from her bed and greeted her excitedly.

“Oh, good. You’re here,” Jade said to Cebo. “I need your help figuring out what to do with your daddy.”

Cebo sat in front of her and tilted his head to one side.

She began to pace back and forth in front of the animal. Sometimes running through problems out loud helped to clear her mind. “He acts all tough and angry with me because he thinks I’m some kind of spy or something, but when he forgets that he’s supposed to hate me, he’s actually pretty sweet.”

Cebo plopped down, his eyes following her pacing.

“He hasn’t hurt me or forced himself on me. He’s been a little rough and grabby sometimes, but let’s not kid ourselves, Cebo.” Jade leaned down and spoke out of the corner of her mouth, “I like my men to be a little rough.

“He has you, and he has this wonderful house.” She gestured around her. “The two people I’ve met who seem nice say he’s great.”

Jade walked over to the fireplace, where a fire was burning brightly. She turned and looked at Cebo, momentarily distracted. “Are these always on? Is there some secret fireplace fairy I don’t see keeping the fires going?”

Cebo huffed but stood and padded toward her.

“Anyway,” she said, telling herself she’d contemplate the magic fires later. “All of his bad behavior stems from that one belief that I wouldn’t have chosen him on my own.”

Sitting in a plush chair, she gazed into the fire. “What if I could convince him otherwise?”

If Jade let go of her pride and decided to stop fighting her attraction to Theo, then eventually he’d see that it wasn’t an act. The physical responses she’d have during sex, for example, would be proof enough.

Cebo laid his head on her lap, and she absently stroked his ears. “If I can make him like me enough, maybe he’d let me stay for a whole year.”

An idea struck her. Maybe he’d even be able to help me get home.

If his job was to work undercover, then maybe he knew some folks who were underhanded enough to break the law and bring her home.

Jade had made up her mind. She needed to get as close to Theo as possible.

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