Colleen Houck

“I took hold of that scourge -filled ship and crushed it between my limbs, hurtling it into the second sun, the red one that gave me strength. But I was too late." Terraformer

Colleen's blog

  • Hope

    January 14, 2014



    It’s official. 

    I’m an idiot.

    Ren left for Oregon weeks ago and it was all because I pretty much pushed him out the door.  So it was my own fault that they were together again and seemingly deliriously happy.  And how did I know?  Did he call?  Did she call?  No.  I was pathetically pressed up against Kadam’s door straining my ears to eavesdrop on their conversation.

    Most of the time, I pretended not to care about what was going on in Oregon.  Kadam usually told me the basics and I would listen and mumble or shrug as if I wasn’t dying to know what she was doing and who she was interacting with, but, in reality, I thought about her every day.  I wondered if she was safe or if she even remembered that I existed.

    The truth was…she was my hope.  The only reason I returned to being human at all was because she offered me understanding and kindness.  Kadam cared about me.  I knew that.  But I suspected Ren preferred me to stay in the jungle.  Kelsey was the first person other than my parents who seemed to like me for me.

    Switching to tiger form, I loped out onto the veranda and hopped up onto the swinging couch outside Kelsey’s room.  Her scent was still there.  It was weaker but if I found just the right spot on the pillow, I could press my nose there and still smell her hair.

    It was hard for me to let her leave, but Kadam insisted that she go.  Ren went crazy.  I’d never seen him act that way before and it bothered me.  The day she flew to Oregon he ran around the grounds as a tiger, bellowing plaintively to the sky.  After an hour or two, he went into his room and it was a full week before I saw him again as a man.

    Kadam began instructing me, giving me lessons on the modern world, and every day he asked Ren to join us, but the white tiger just gave us a look, rolled over, and sighed heavily.  It wasn’t until Kells started calling Kadam that he finally decided to make an appearance.

    I was padding along on my tiger legs to find a snack when I passed the open door of Kadam’s room and heard Kelsey’s voice.  Pausing, I crouched outside the open doorway, my ears flicked forward and my tail twitching slightly, as I listened to the two of them talk about the prophecy.

    The click of claws on the floor distracted me.  Ren turned the corner.  He had just slaked his thirst in the big fountain in the room behind the kitchen where Kadam kept our food and water.  We’d both taken great pains to keep the room hidden from Kelsey, mostly because neither of us wanted her to see us as beasts—animals that ate raw meat from the floor or delighted in licking the marrow from heavy bones.

    Water dripped from his mouth.  He yawned and stretched, then ran his tongue along his chops to catch any remaining water droplets.  I sniffed and caught no scent of meat.  He still wasn’t eating.

    As he approached, I rolled onto my side and snuffed then wiggled back and forth as if I’d merely stopped there because it was the best place to scratch my back, but soon his ears pricked forward and he heard what I did.  Kelsey’s voice.

    After that he made it a point to always join me when Kadam gave lessons and he spent every possible moment as a man learning everything he could.  The intensity with which he threw himself into his studies was remarkable.  He even had Kadam set up a computer with reading lessons in English and a large mouse he could use by pressing on it with his paw to turn the pages.

    If Kadam wasn’t around he wanted to spar.  Kadam had mentioned that he’d changed Kelsey’s birth records in all the computers to prevent Lokesh from using modern technology to find her.  I was still confused about how a machine would be used to track her down but Ren seemed to understand and that understanding made him fearful.

    He started eating, packing on muscle and weight so he would be strong enough to fight off any potential attackers.  Physical training was something I understood and excelled at so I was more than happy to get back my fighting skills.

    Still, Kelsey was in my thoughts and she was obviously still in Ren’s though he refused to talk about her.  If I wanted any information I had to ask Kadam.  I learned from him that she was alone in the world.  Kadam told me of her bravery in entering the monkey city and about facing down the Kappa.  How could I not be half in love with the girl?  She was a fighter and I respected that.  But, she was also warm and giving.  Everything I learned about her interested me, made me want to know her more.

    To me, she seemed perfect.

    Months went by and I was itching to be more, make more of myself.  I was toying with the idea of asking Kadam if we could visit Oregon.  Ren had heard through the phone that Kelsey was dating someone.  She had a suitor.  My thought was that we should go and take care of this man.  It wouldn’t take long to scare him off, I figured, but Ren reacted differently.  He became sullen and despondent again.

    He’d stay alone in his room and write volumes of poetry.  After two days of tolerating his behavior, I punched him.  I asked him why he was going to let a wild dog circle around Kelsey.  Wasn’t it our job to protect her?  Shouldn’t we go to Oregon and take care of the situation?

    He tried to tell me the modern human world was more complicated than the animal world but it didn’t make sense in my mind.  Our instinct as tigers was to scare off the other predators and any man who came sniffing around Kelsey needed to be made aware that this behavior would result in unpleasant consequences.  It was that simple.

    I argued that even as princes we took care of our people.  That a man with as many honors and titles as he had been given should act appropriately.  At the very least we needed to see this man for ourselves to determine if he was worthy of courting Kelsey.  He responded by saying that Kelsey asked him to give her time alone and that he wanted to honor her wishes.

    After informing him that I had no such limitations and that our parents would be ashamed of his cowardice, I told him that if he wanted to stay behind then I would go take care of the man myself.  Mocking my brother, I told him that Kelsey deserved a bold man, a conqueror, not a brooding frightened kitten who just sat in his room writing swooning love poems.

    Storming up the stairs with Ren hot on my heels and threatening to kill me, I sought out our advisor. Kadam agreed that it was time to reconnect with Kelsey but absolutely forbade any interference with her new “boyfriend.”  He claimed he understood the dilemma we faced but sided with Ren, saying that things were different in this century and that neither of us were to hurt the young man.  Ren readily agreed while I just folded my arms across my chest.

    Boyfriend.  I snickered at the term.  Clearly if this person designated himself a boy friend then he wouldn’t present much of a challenge.  Even for Ren.  Grinning, I imagined I could take care of him without even hurting him.  It was likely I could knock him over with just a flick of my tail.  If I roared the boy would probably urinate all over himself in fear.  He’d be shamed then and Kelsey could hardly consider him as a possible suitor after that.

    Kadam insisted that only one of us could go and when both of us offered, he chose Ren.  I fumed as Ren made preparations to go to America.  Before Ren left, Kadam suggested we send presents to Kelsey for Christmas.  After he explained the holiday, I went shopping with him and wrapped my own gifts for her.

    Every time Ren called from America, I listened with rapt attention.  Things seemed to be going well at first, Ren was able to dispatch the suitors fairly easily but then he began courting Kelsey himself.  Kadam tried to explain that they’d had feelings for each other for quite a while before I came along but I still cursed myself for falling once again for my brother’s girl.

    Soon it was clear that they were in love.

    I stopped listening in on phone conversations.  Now I understood Ren’s depression, though I’d get a hunter to shoot me before I got so bad as to write poems.  Each lonely hour that passed strengthened my resolve to return to the jungle.

    I’d been wrong.

    Kelsey wasn’t my hope.

    She wasn’t the girl I’d been waiting for.

    She wasn’t for me.

    I had been an idiot.  Why did I push Ren so much?  I should have kept my thoughts to myself.  So what if he was the eldest brother?  Who cares anymore about the line of succession?  I didn’t need his permission or his approval.  I was the one who wanted to go.  I should have just gone!

    But the truth was…I knew.

    I knew that he loved her.  That what Kadam said was true.  I even knew that Kells loved him.  What happened in the past with Yesubai still influenced me.  I’d handled it badly and I wasn’t going to make that mistake again.  Yes.  I wanted my brother’s girl but I wasn’t going to sneak around behind his back again.

    So as long as she wanted him and he wanted her, I’d do my best to leave them alone.  Even if it made me miserable, I’d let him have his shot.  I owed Ren at least that much.

    Tomorrow, I resolved. I’ll leave tomorrow.

    I’d let the tiger take over again.  The brief glimpse I’d had of the modern world, though interesting, wasn’t what I wanted.  If I was going to be alone, I’d prefer to give myself over to the beast.  The black tiger only wanted simple things.  He didn’t need a woman to offer him love and companionship.  He didn’t need machines that made money.  He didn’t need laced shoes or even a soft bed with comfortable pillows.

    He was content with what he had.

    And Kishan?


    Lying on the couch that swung lazily back and forth in the breeze, I half napped and let the faint scent of Kelsey circle around me when, suddenly, Kadam opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the veranda.

    Sitting across from me, he rubbed his hands together and gave me a long look.

    “Kishan?” he said, “They need you.  Kelsey’s in danger.”


    This entry was posted in Bonus Material, Tiger's Quest.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Author Bio
    Colleen Houck

    New York Times Bestselling author Colleen Houck is a lifelong reader whose literary interests include action, adventure, paranormal, science fiction, and romance. When she's not busy writing, she likes to spend time chatting on the phone with one of her six siblings, watching plays, and shopping online. Colleen has lived in Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, and North Carolina and is now permanently settled in Salem, Oregon with her husband and a huge assortment of plush tigers.