Choosing Theo: Chapter 32

“Where is that damn dress?” Jade hissed, rifling through her closet.

Asivva had told her she’d selected a dress for The Gathering when she’d delivered all of these clothes a few weeks ago, but Jade couldn’t remember where she’d put it.

It was no wonder Jade had trouble—her closet was stuffed full and she’d barely even looked through most of it, choosing instead to wear Theo’s comfortable shirts.

“Ah-ha!” she said triumphantly, reaching into the back of a deep alcove.

A shiver ran down her back. Theo was going to love it. It was risqué in all the best ways. She wanted to make sure she looked her best tonight. All morning he’d been acting strange, and she assumed he was nervous about The Gathering. It seemed like it’d be a great opportunity to mingle and make some new friends, a.k.a, Theo’s worst nightmare.

Her goal for the night was to dutifully ignore all other men except for him. She wanted to show him how smitten she was, and she wanted him to feel pride and not shame that they were there together.

After last night he deserved it. He’d been a man on a mission. They’d had sex three times and he’d kept making her come with his hands and mouth over and over until she’d finally had to tell him no.

He hadn’t accepted any reciprocation either, knocking her hands away each time she reached for him. It was as if he’d wanted to prove to her that he could master her body. Could make it do whatever he wanted. He’d succeeded.

She’d show him her appreciation tonight. If all went well, Asivva would give her some good advice, she would convince him to let her stay, and they’d live happily ever after.

Where was he anyway? Earlier today he’d said he had to go take care of some business and then he’d left, promising to be back in time to get ready and ride with her to The Gathering.

She’d burned to ask where he was going, but his odd calculating behavior had kept her from doing so. He’d looked like he was working through something, and she’d wanted to give him space to do so.

“What do you think?” she said, holding up her dress to Cebo.

He lifted his head and cocked it to one side.

“This is gonna kill, I’m telling you.”

Jade stood back and admired the dress again. The silky material was an inky black and glittered faintly. Asivva had told her it was unusual for females to wear black, but she’d chosen it for Jade anyway.

The obsidian color would look perfect next to Theo with his deeply tanned skin and black scars. Rather than wearing a brightly colored gown that’d appear incongruent next to Theo, she’d complement him.

Remember to thank Asivva.

The cut of the dress was simple. The cowl neckline exposed just enough cleavage to be sexy without revealing too much. The back, however, rode low, exposing the majority of her back. She could just imagine Theo running his warm palm over her bare back.

Now what to do with her hair? She knew Theo liked it to be loose but she thought an updo might work better with a backless dress.

“Over the shoulder it is,” she said and started haphazardly pinning her hair in place.

“I approve,” came a deep voice from the doorway.

Jade screamed, tumbling backward off the stool she sat on.

Theo laughed heartily, and she couldn’t help but smile at the sound.

Clutching her heart, she chuckled. “That wasn’t very nice.”

She returned to sit on the stool. “I don’t understand how someone who’s your size can move so quietly.”

He sauntered over to her, carrying a deep purple bag. “That’s my job, remember? If my targets saw me coming, I’d be out of work.”

Theo had always refused to talk about his job, and she’d learned not to ask questions. Why was he talking about it now? Did he finally trust her?

He crouched behind her, resting his chin on her shoulder and placing the small bag on her lap. “I have a present for you.”

She grinned at his reflection in the mirror and began rifling through the bag. She opened a small box to find the most stunning pair of earrings she’d ever seen. “They’re beautiful,” she said, holding one up in front of her.

The earrings were made of large, glittering green jewels more vibrant than emeralds. They were long and would dangle just above her shoulders when in place. A second strand of smaller jewels curved upward and would wrap around the edge of her ear from her lobe to her cartilage.

There was no needle on the end of the earrings but rather a very small magnet. All of Jade’s holes from piercings had healed in the magic tube weeks ago. Clecanians from Tremanta didn’t believe in those types of body modifications, or so Zikas had told her.

“I’m glad you like them,” he said, squeezing her arms.

“I love them. Is that what you went out to do today?” she asked, clipping one to her ear.

“Yes. I had to retrieve them from Asivva.” She gave him a questioning look. “They were my mother’s. A gift to her from my father. I never thought I’d have a wife to give them to, but Asivva convinced me to give them to her rather than sell them just in case.”

Jade eyes watered at the sweet gesture. He’d not only brought her a beautiful gift but a family heirloom. All her treasured belongings were still on Earth. He had no idea how much it meant to her to have a tie to a family now, even if she’d never met them.

Turning to look him in the eyes, her voice full of emotion, she said, “Thank you.”

He studied her face for long moments before rising. “We need to leave soon; I’ll go get changed.”

Jade dabbed at her eyes and continued to fuss with her hair. “Okay, I’m moving.”

He just keeps getting better, Jade thought as she finished getting ready and donned her dress.

As she hopped on one foot then the other, slipping on her sandals, she called out to him, “I’m ready!”

From just outside her doorway, he said, “There is no need to y—” His words died in his throat when he saw her.

She spread her arms. “You like?”

He gave her a predatory grin. “Your efforts weren’t in vain,” he joked.

“You haven’t even seen the best part yet.” She turned, watching him over her shoulder, and showed him the back of her dress.

His jaw slackened and he scrubbed a hand over his face.

Jade took in his formal attire. She didn’t know why but she’d been expecting a suit or a tux. The clothes on Clecania had been so normal for the most part. His outfit now reminded her that he wasn’t human.

His pants were black. The fabric like soft leather. His shirt was made out of the same silky material as her dress and flowed open at his chest. Hard charcoal plating covered the sides of his legs, arms and the tops of his shoulders. He wore a heavy cape, similar to those of Roman centurions, knotted at his shoulder. The outfit as a whole was sexy and dangerous and intensely alien.

“You look so handsome,” she breathed.

“We should go before you turn around again,” he said, grinning at her.

“Don’t wait up, Cebo!” Jade patted the annoyed-looking hound on his head and hurried to join Theo. “How far away is it?”

Theo guided her outside to a waiting floating vehicle. “Not far,” he said, gesturing for her to get in.

He sat opposite of her in the cab, reminding her of the first day they’d met. He’d been so angry and quiet then. Now he was angry and stoic. He sat stiffly and seemed to be lost in thought.

As the vehicle started moving, she crossed to sit next to him. Taking his hand, she asked, “Are you alright? Nervous?”

He glanced around, not meeting her eyes.

Maybe he is worried about me talking to other men.

“I probably won’t even be able to speak to most of them, remember?” She tapped the ear in which her translator had been implanted.

Theo gave her a tight smile. “I’m sure most if not all of the Tremantians attending have had their translators updated specifically to speak with you.” He glanced down at their joined hands and squeezed. “Others may not speak well of me tonight.”

“What will they tell me?” She grazed her hand over his jaw. “That you’re a brute?”

With a playful smile, she sat in his lap and kissed the corners of his mouth. “That you’re going to chase me down in the woods like an animal?”

His purring started, and she could feel the corners of his mouth lift in a smile.

“Will they tell me all about your temper and how at any moment you might rip off my clothes and have your way with me?”

He sucked in a breath when she reached down to stroke his length.

Sliding down his body to kneel between his legs, she continued in a mocking tone, “Beware, Jade! He may even force you into a bathtub with him.”

His hard cock sprang free when she released the odd fastening on his pants. She ran her tongue up his length then looked up into his eyes.

“Is there really anything they can say that will scare me away?” She sucked him in deeply, her cheeks hollowing. His head fell back, and he grated out curses under his breath.

It didn’t take long before she felt him stiffen and begin to shudder, roaring to the ceiling.

Lovingly she lapped up his seed and then re-did the fastening on his pants. She sat next to him again and grasped his face in her hands. “Don’t worry. I can think for myself.” Raising an eyebrow, she added, “Haven’t you learned that by now?”

He chuckled, his chest still heaving. “I may need another reminder tonight.” Theo wrapped his arm around her shoulders and held her close, resting his chin on her head.

They rode in silence, enjoying each other’s company until the vehicle gently floated to a stop. Jade frowned as she saw all the tension she’d just sucked out of Theo return in full force.

He exhaled, his shoulders slumping, then exited and held out a hand to help her.

The building before them was perfectly round. Climbing vines covered the high white walls. Jade gasped as she glimpsed the roof, which wasn’t so much a roof as a dome built entirely out of shimmering stained glass. She couldn’t tell from this vantage point, but she estimated the roof had to be the size of a football field.

Theo took her hand in his and tugged her toward the solitary door. “Let’s get this over with.”

When he ushered her through, she was temporarily blinded. Every inch of the walls and floor were plated in gold. Hundreds of people dressed to the nines were milling about. She shifted uncomfortably when she noticed that many of them were staring at her.

A small man began pushing his way through the crowd toward them, and she smiled when she recognized the man as Zikas.

“Zikas!” she exclaimed, releasing Theo and hugging the old man tightly.

Zikas blushed furiously, and Theo snatched Jade’s hand back, scowling. “I need to announce you,” Zikas said to Jade under his breath.

He turned to the onlookers and in a loud, booming voice Jade hadn’t realized he was capable of producing, he said, “Husband and wife of one month…Theo and Jade!”

Polite applause filled the room, and she could feel her cheeks reddening. She sidled closer to Theo.

He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze and then let go. He leaned down to whisper in her ear. “Come back to me when you’re finished.”

Before she could argue, he’d moved into the sea of onlookers and she lost sight of him.

“Where did he go?” she asked Zikas, annoyed Theo hadn’t bothered to mention they wouldn’t be together during this party.

“To sit with the other husbands while you mingle,” Zikas said nonchalantly. He started walking away and motioned for her to follow.

She tugged on his sleeve and said, “How long do I have to mingle for? When can I go stand with him again?”

“So, you’re getting along? That’s wonderful.” He beamed at her. “You must talk to anyone who approaches you, and once no one else does, you may return to Theo.”

Glancing around, Jade groaned. She could count at least ten men within a stone’s throw who were watching her as if they were going to approach any minute.

“Will they be able to understand me?” she asked, hoping her foreign language might dissuade some of the men from attempting to speak with her.

“Most of the guests were informed they needed to update their translators with your language if they wanted to speak with you.” Zikas motioned to a spot a few feet away and said, “I’ll be right over there if you need me.”

Jade glanced around, trying to locate Theo again, to no avail. There were too many people blocking her view.

Suddenly, a man stepped in front of her line of sight. She looked up into the handsome face of Fejo, the sexy pirate man she’d seen during The Viewing. His outfit tonight, with its extravagant embroidery, was just as ridiculous as it had been before.

“Hello,” he said in a deep, rumbling voice.

“Hello, um, Fejo, right?” She reached out her hand, preparing to shake his. When he just stared at it bemusedly, she made a fist and then lowered it again.

“Yes, indeed. I’m Fejo and your name is Jade, correct?” He gave her a dazzling smile.

“Yep,” was all she could manage.

“You look gorgeous tonight, though I’m sure you look beautiful most nights.” When she only nodded, he continued, “I was quite put out to learn you’d chosen me but then neglected to test me.”

Her eyes widened in surprise and she flushed. “You weren’t supposed to know who chose you. It was supposed to be anonymous.”

He shrugged and leaned down conspiratorially, “I have my sources.”

“Well, when I passed your room you seemed pretty preoccupied, and I didn’t want to interrupt.” Narrowing her eyes at him, she asked, “Aren’t you married, by the way? Shouldn’t you be in the husband area with Theo right now?”

Fejo’s eyes lit with amusement. “You’re a fiery one. I’m very sorry indeed that you didn’t choose me.” He sighed, looking out at the crowded room. “Alas, every year I come for a bride, and every year I’m tested but ultimately never chosen. Very few females want to be wed to a male who travels for work, and even fewer want to travel with me while I work.”

His attitude was relaxed, but she could tell that under all his swagger, he was disappointed.

“Maybe next time you could test me and tell me what I’m doing wrong.” He waggled his dark eyebrows suggestively at her, and she had to suppress a giggle.

Fejo was definitely a charmer, but something told her his carefree roguish persona was just that, a persona. A mass of long, dark hair had been knotted roughly at his nape, and the shadows under his eyes told her he hadn’t been sleeping very well. He spoke to her suggestively but there was no real feeling behind his words.

His intelligent eyes scanned the crowd over and over again.

Finally, she asked, “Why are you here?”

For a moment, his gaze shot back to her and became inquisitive. He promptly let a roguish grin spread over his face and ogled her. “To meet gorgeous females such as yourself.”

“Fine, don’t tell me,” she said, waving dismissively. “But don’t pretend to be interested in me, either.” Jade craned her neck, attempting to locate Theo, but the crowd before her was still too dense.

Fejo tilted his head and studied her. “You’re very perceptive, Jade. Are most human females like you?”

“I’d like to think my bullshit detector is better than most.”

“Bull? Shit?” He laughed heartily at that, earning sidelong glances from passersby. “Theo is a very lucky male.”

Jade arched a brow. “So I’ve told him.”

***

Fejo, she was speaking to Fejo. Theo ground his teeth.

The only thing that kept him from stalking over to her to interrupt was the fact that she didn’t look all that interested in their conversation.

So help me goddess, if he leans in to whisper to her one more time…

“Theo!” came a booming voice from his left.

Wrenching his gaze away from Jade, he found three males he’d never spoken to heading toward him. The leader of the three, the one who’d called his name, was Halas.

Halas was in charge of an ongoing research study meant to find compatible species for breeding. It made sense that he’d want to talk to Theo about Jade. The other two males who walked with Halas were unfamiliar to Theo.

Glancing back to Jade, he was relieved to see that Fejo had left. His relief was replaced with ire when he saw that two other males had taken Fejo’s place.

Halas clapped Theo on the shoulder. “Theo, congratulations on your lovely wife. How has marriage been treating you so far?”

“Very well,” he said, coolly eyeing the three males.

“Have you met Nedas and Yuvan?” Helas said, gesturing grandly. “Nedas has met your wife.”

Theo’s gaze, which had wandered to Jade, shot back to Nedas at the information. “Is that right?” he growled, eyeing the male in question.

Halas chuckled and elbowed Theo in the arm. “He was tasked with guarding her when she first arrived.”

Yuvan snickered. Nedas scowled but said nothing.

Halas continued, unaffected. “She struck him in the face when she tried to escape. His eye was black for a week before he finally got around to healing it.”

Theo smiled at that.

“Have you found her difficult to deal with?” Halas questioned curiously.

Theo turned and spotted her talking to yet more males. “She is…different, not difficult,” he said absently.

“I’d love to have you both come in for a meeting. You know my research deals with inter-species pairings. The more data I could gather, the better.”

“I’d prefer to keep my marriage private.”

Halas’ smile faded. He gave Theo a cruel smirk. “I understand. I’ll just wait until her next marriage to gather my data.”

Nedas snickered.

A muscled ticked in Theo’s jaw as the males walked away. He crossed his arms over his chest and glared in Jade’s direction. One of the males speaking with her reached out to touch her arm.

Theo seethed and began to stomp toward her, ready to rip off the male’s offending fingers. Asivva stepped in front of him and with a warning look, she shooed him back.

“Hello, brother. I see you are having a good night,” she said.

The male’s hand was gone from Jade, and she strolled away from the group. She hadn’t taken more than a few steps before her path was blocked yet again. How much longer was he meant to endure this torture?

“She looks very beautiful, Theo. You had to have known that many males would wish to talk to her.”

“Knowing and having to watch it happen are two very different things.” He shot Asivva a furious glare. “Couldn’t you have picked out a less revealing dress for her?”

She chuckled, ratcheting his anger. “She could be wearing a sack, and they’d still all want to speak with her.”

Theo crossed his arms again. She was right, of course. It didn’t matter what she wore, Jade was gorgeous. He’d be waiting here all night.

“How’s it going between you?” Asivva eyed him warily. “You seem quite possessive.”

“I already told you this morning.”

“You told me nothing this morning,” she snapped. “You said ‘great,’ took the earrings, and ran off.

“They look wonderful on her, by the way,” Asivva added.

Theo softened. They did look wonderful on her. “Her eyes grew teary when I told her where they were from.”

“Theo, talk to me,” Asivva urged. “I’m your sister. It may help. Besides, what else do you have to do? Torture yourself by mentally ripping apart every male who gets near her?”

Maybe she could help. Asivva would never approve of what he planned to do, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t give him advice as to how to broach the subject of extending their marriage with Jade.

“I want her to stay with me. I don’t think I can live without her. I’ve never felt this way about any female. When it comes to her, I have no control over myself.”

“Have you recognized her as a mate?” she asked thoughtfully.

Theo had considered this. If mates were still around, and he’d recognized Jade as his potential mate, then his intense feelings would make sense. There were old stories of males going insane when parted from their mates. But mates had disappeared and, in any case, Theo hadn’t shown any of the normal signs, beside extreme jealousy.

“That would explain your sudden possessiveness,” Asivva pressed.

He glanced at her impatiently. “Mates don’t exist anymore, and no. My eyes haven’t changed.”

“Are you going to tell her you wish for her to stay with you?”

“Do you think I should?” he asked, staring longingly in Jade’s direction.

“I can go speak with Jade if you like. I might be able to get an idea about how she feels toward you and how open she may be to an extension.”

He watched yet another male reach out to touch her earrings, no doubt in an effort to graze her skin accidentally. Through gritted teeth, he said, “Go speak with her now, Asivva, before I drag that male away from her.”

Without a word, she hurried off.

***

“How has Theo been treating you?” a tall, beautiful, turquoise-haired woman asked Jade.

She was getting really tired of that question. Jade had talked to at least twenty people already, and they all asked her that.

The men she’d met had all tried to sweet talk her and convince her she could find greater enjoyment with them in her next marriage. Although they were handsome and charming, she felt repelled.

On Earth, she would’ve let herself be flattered by these men, but Jade no longer wanted an easy good-looking man to shower her with compliments. She wanted her rough, poor-tempered, alien sex pot who rarely knew the right thing to say.

A few minutes ago, she’d retreated from the crowd into a portion of the large room filled with low comfortable couches. She’d hoped the Clecanians would pick up on her hint that she needed a break. No such luck. Not five minutes after she’d sat down and ordered herself a prosecco 2.0 from a very nice elderly man who couldn’t have been more than three feet tall did the blue-haired woman come to join her.

Women, like the one she spoke to now, asked about Theo politely, but she could tell they wanted juicy gossip. She continued to disappoint them.

“He’s been treating me like a queen,” she said to the women with a tight smile. What was her name again? Hessy? Hally?

“Hmm.” The woman leaned back to recline on the couch. “And his scars don’t bother you?”

Jade bristled and glared at her. “They don’t look like scars to me. I like them.”

“How interesting.” She studied her nails casually. “Whenever I visited Theo, I always made sure not to focus on them.”

A bolt of bitter jealousy shot through Jade. Hussy. That’s her name.

“It’s a good thing you don’t have to visit him anymore, then. In fact, I’d recommend you refrain from looking at him at all.”

Hussy sputtered.

Someone cleared their throat next to her, and Jade glanced over to find Asivva and the small waiter staring at them. Asivva was glancing between the two women with a worried expression. The small waiter looked amused. He nodded respectfully to her as he served her drink.

Hussy rose with her chin held high. “Good evening, Asivva. I’d steer clear of this human if I were you.” She said the word “human” with disdain.

Jade flipped her the middle finger. Although the gesture must be unfamiliar to her, she appeared offended and skittered away. The small waiter snickered and followed Hussy.

“Well, you and Theo make quite the pair,” Asivva said, seating herself across from Jade, who continued to stare daggers at Hussy across the room. “He’s on one side of the room scaring off every male who tries to talk to him, and you’re on this side scaring off the females.”

“I’d been perfectly polite until she showed up, thank you very much,” Jade said sourly. “What did he even see in her, anyway?” Was she beautiful and delicate and feminine? Sure. But she was also way too uppity. Was she really Theo’s type?

Asivva pressed a hand to Jade’s knee to draw her attention. “I can’t be sure, but I think he saw an available sexual partner and nothing more.”

Jade gave an annoyed grunt.

“I know for certain he likes you far more than he’s ever liked any other female.”

Jade fluffed her hair, slightly appeased. Get your head in the game, girl! You wanted to talk to Asivva, remember?

“I’m glad you’re here, actually. I wanted to ask you something,” Jade said, leaning forward.

Asivva nodded, indicating she should continue.

“Well, as it turns out, I do like Theo. A lot.” Heat tinged Jade’s cheeks, and Asivva gave her a knowing smile. “I was wondering how I would go about trying to stay with him instead of leaving in two months.”

“How long would you want to stay?”

Jade shrugged sheepishly. “For as long as he’ll have me, I suppose.”

Asivva’s grinned widened, displaying her even white teeth. “I’m so happy to hear it.”

Feeling vulnerable, Jade murmured, “Do you think he’ll want me to stay?”

Without any hesitation, she said, “Yes. He absolutely would.”

Jade’s heart leapt and relief flooded her. Theo did like her. His behavior couldn’t be chalked up to alien differences—he actually liked her and wanted her to stay with him. Suddenly she needed to be next him.

“Asivva, do you think I’m done here now? I’d like to go find Theo. He was nervous about coming here.”

“Yes, I think you’ve done your duty.”

Jade rose to leave, but Asivva stopped her.

“Can I ask you a question before you leave?”

Impatiently, Jade said, “Of course. What is it?”

“Have you noticed Theo’s eyes change color around you?”

“Yeah, it’s pretty freaky, right?” She laughed, looking through the crowd, judging her best route. “How they go all black like that.”

Jade noticed Asivva’s thunderstruck expression but had no time to analyze it. She wanted to get to Theo, settle this once and for all. She weaved through the dense crowd. From behind her she heard Asivva call to Zikas.

Excitement coursed through her, thinking about what their life together might be like.

She broke through a group of statuesque women and spotted Theo. She grinned widely when she took in his glowering face. He looked so handsome and comically unhappy in the glittering ballroom.

His head shot in her direction as though sensing her. When he saw her, his shoulders relaxed and the corners of his mouth lifted.

Jade began to move toward him but was blocked by a large male figure. Xoris stood before her.

“Hello, Jade,” he said, looking down at her with a frown. Xoris was an official of some kind. Recalling Zikas’ words from earlier, she decided she’d better let him ask his inane questions.

Jade stepped to the side of Xoris so she could keep Theo in sight. Theo was fuming, his glare fixed on the back of Xoris’ head. If looks could kill.

“How are you, Xoris?” she asked politely.

“I’m well,” he said in an unusually raspy voice.

Curious to the change in his tone, Jade glanced at Xoris and noticed that he was surveying her body.

“You look very beautiful tonight.” He said this more as a statement to himself then a compliment to her.

“Thank you,” she said, slowly crossing her arms in front of her body. Something about his gaze made her skin crawl.

“I was quite surprised when I heard your choice of husband,” he said, looking in her eyes again. “Theo is rather…jarring to most.”

“Not to me,” she countered.

As though she hadn’t spoken, he continued, “It’s his mixed blood, you see. His mother was Traxian. It causes him to be erratic.”

Xoris looked like he had a very bitter taste in his mouth when he talked about Theo’s “mixed blood.” Was he racist? Or a bigot? Did he have something against Theo?

Stepping closer to her, his eyes grew heated. “I intend to court you, Jade. You deserve an honorable man. Not an animal.” He ran his cold palm up her bare arm, and she recoiled.

She heard a low, dangerous growl from behind Xoris and knew who it belonged to.

“He isn’t an animal. He’s my husband, and I intend to stay with him for good.” She began laughing. “Did you think you could lure me away from him?”

Xoris looked enraged by her laughter. He grabbed her painfully by the nape of her neck, bringing his mouth close to her ear. “He’s Traxian filth, and soon you’ll realize you’ll be better off with me.”

Xoris was wrenched free in an instant. She saw his body fly across the room. Theo stood in front of her, his eyes black and his fists clenched.

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