Choosing Theo: Chapter 7

“A what?” she screeched, making Zikas wince.

“The Queen has made a very good compromise on your part. You’ll be allowed to choose your husband and you’ll become a bride.”

“In what world is that a compromise?” Oh yeah, she thought. This world. “I don’t want to be a bride!” Jade began pacing. This couldn’t be happening. She was not going to become some alien’s housewife.

“Our Queen is very wise,” Zikas said beseechingly while trailing her around the room. “She wouldn’t have decreed this unless she thought through all of the possibilities.”

She had to get out of here. Had to get away.

Her gaze fell on the door she’d come through. She remembered there was a long hall on the other side of that door. It had to lead to a set of elevators or stairs or something. She’d just have to run again.

Jade turned and paced away, attempting to lead Zikas away from the door with her. He was shorter than her but much burlier. She still believed that even as an older man, he could physically stop her if he wanted to. She felt her whole body vibrate with apprehension.

When she reached the far wall, she pivoted and sprinted. She was through the door before Zikas had comprehended that she was running.

As she flew down the hallway, she heard him yell after her. She punched the air in success when she reached the end and found a stairway. Looking down over the railing of the large stairway, she guessed they must be thirty stories up at least.

The stairway she ran down wasn’t like any she’d seen in a large building. It was a spiral staircase. One incredibly long, wide spiral staircase.

After a while, Jade lost count of how many floors she’d passed. Circling lower and lower, she started to become dizzy. Jade paused for a moment, righting herself. She looked over the rail once more.

Only a few floors to go. She started running again. Ahead of her, a door swung open and a burly uniformed man stepped out.

She didn’t slow her pace. The only way to get by a man like that was to take him by surprise.

When he spotted her, he raised his hands palms out in a gesture that said stop. His eyes widened when she didn’t show any signs of slowing.

When she was within arm’s reach, he extended his hands, hoping to catch her around the middle.

Bad idea, buddy. Always guard your face.

Balling her fist like her father had taught her when she was young, she punched him as hard as she could. Her aim was clumsy, but she managed to hit him in the eye. He let out a yelp of pain and stumbled back into the wall. She took the opening, dashing past him. She was almost there, only one revolution left.

Suddenly, the stairs beneath her moved, almost knocking her off balance. After her shock wore off, she saw that they were spiraling up. She continued to try and run down the stairs to the ground floor, but it was no use.

She was on a giant circular escalator, and there was no way for her to get off of it. Each door she tried to open on her ascent remained locked.

Turning around, she saw the now livid guard standing in a doorway with what looked like a remote in his hand. His left eye was already beginning to swell shut.

Up it is!

She began sprinting back up the steps, hoping she could dash past him once more. He was too quick for her this time, though. He grabbed her by the waist so hard that the air rushed from her lungs. Lifting her off her feet, he crushed her back to his front. His arms wrapped around her tightly, restraining her arms to her sides.

She started to struggle, but he squeezed her hard and with a yelp of pain, she stopped. He stepped onto the escalator from hell and stilled as they rode it up.

Jade recognized the door she’d come through as they passed it. Instead of leaving through that door, they kept riding higher and higher.

Finally, the escalator stopped. The guy carrying her stepped into a hallway and set her on her feet in front of him, blocking the exit.

“Move,” he grunted and pushed her forward.

She stumbled down the hallway with him at her back. It’s probably too late to sweet talk this guy. Gotta try anyway.

Plastering a smile on her face, she faced him. “You know, you could just let me go. I would be really appreciative.”

He frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “My translator hasn’t been updated.”

Her shoulders fell.

“From your tone, I can guess you’re asking me to release you.”

She nodded at him hopefully.

Leaning down, he growled, “Maybe if you’d asked me nicely earlier instead of striking me in the face, we could’ve come to an arrangement.” His eyes dipped to her breasts.

She let out a frustrated breath and turned to head back down the hallway. It’d be safer than staying here with him.

She heard him chuckle as he followed her. “This view is fine as well.”

She shot him a glare over her shoulder.

Zikas appeared in an open doorway. “Oh good, you’re back!” His smile faltered when he took in their appearance. “Is…Is everything alright, Nedas?”

“She—” Nedas motioned to Jade angrily, “—is a tiny feral guarsil.”

Guarsil? There wasn’t a direct translation provided to her.

“She hit me in the eye when I tried to stop her!”

“He tried to stop me,” she countered.

Clearing his throat and trying to force a demanding tone, Zikas said, “Well, don’t try anything like that again, Jade. Guards will be stationed around you at all times now to make sure you don’t run away.” With another glance at Nedas’ eye, he added, “And they’ll be made aware of your temper. Thank you for retrieving her,” Zikas said to Nedas, ushering her through the opened door.

Nedas grunted.

After the door closed, Zikas studied Jade for a moment.

Feeling irritable, she snapped, “What? Did you expect me to just roll over and do whatever you guys told me to?”

In an even tone, Zikas said, “Tomorrow you’ll participate in a coupling ceremony. There are three stages of the ceremony: The Viewing, The Choosing, and The Testing. You’ll be escorted to The Viewing in the morning by a guard. There, you’ll look at a group of males and choose the ones you like the most.”

“Like hell,” Jade hissed through clenched teeth.

“This will happen whether you want it to or not,” Zikas said firmly. “I’m sorry you are not more open to the idea.” Zikas moved toward the door to leave. “Get some sleep. If you’re unable, then I implore you to think on your situation. Even if you did escape, you’d be living your life out in the wilderness of an alien planet.”

“But I’d be free,” Jade countered.

“You’ll be free in one year whether you run away or not. You could spend the year in the wilderness, where you’d starve, freeze, and be attacked by animals you’ve never seen the likes of. Or you could trust us to treat you well. You’d spend the year being fed, sheltered, and protected from whoever tried to steal you in the first place.” He looked at her beseechingly. “We aren’t so bad. We haven’t done anything to harm you thus far, and we won’t.” Then he was gone.

The anger still burned deep within Jade, but Zikas’ calm, logical words had reduced her ire to glowing embers rather than the raging inferno it had been.

Guarded at all times?

Curious, she opened the door to her room and found Nedas blocking her path. Her temper had earned her a constant guard. Great.

Flipping him the bird, she slammed the door in his confused face.

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