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

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  • Tiger’s Quest Deleted Scene-Ren & Kelsey in Oregon

    February 1, 2014

    Tiger’s Quest Deleted Scene-Ren & Kelsey in Oregon

    I really loved exploring Ren’s and Kelsey’s relationship right after she made her decision to finally be with him. Ultimately my editor thought I put in too many scenes of them enjoying their time together and several scenes were either cut or moved. Here is one of my favorite chapters in the series. This is from what was originally chapter 8 in Tiger’s Quest titled “Kishan.”

    Tiger's Quest Cover


    “Unfortunately, my time is almost gone for today.  So we’ll have to save our poem study for tomorrow.”

    I clutched his hand, “Will you still stay with me anyway?”

    “Of course, Chittaharini.”

    “You never told me what that word means either.”

    He smiled and kissed my fingers, “It means—one who captivates my mind.”

    And, Iadala?”

    “Dear one.”

    “Then you’re my Iadala, too.  How do you say, I love you?”

    “Mujhe tumse pyarhai.”

    “How do you say, I’m in love?”

    He laughed, “You can either say, asakta—which means you are becoming fond of or attached to.  Or you can say you’re kaamaart—which means you’re a young woman intoxicated with love or love-stricken.  I prefer the second.”

    I smirked, “Yes.  I’m sure you’d like to advertise that I’m drunk with love for you.  How do you say my boyfriend is handsome?”

    “Mera sakha sundara.”

    “Sundara…that sounds like sundari, which means beautiful, right?”

    “Sundari is for a woman and sundara is for a man.”

    “Oh.  We’ll have to practice.”

    “It’s time for me to change, Kells.”

    I felt a slight tremor go through his arm.  He set me on my feet, kissed me sweetly one more time, then morphed into his tiger form.  He walked over to the stairs, leapt up in two strides and headed for my bedroom.  I wasn’t really surprised that he knew where my bedroom was.  He made himself comfortable on the throw rug near my bed.  I changed into my pajamas in the bathroom and brushed my teeth then knelt beside him on the floor.

    Putting my arms around his neck, I whispered, “Mujhe tumse pyarhai, Ren.”  He started purring while I pulled my blanket over me and fell asleep on the floor, using his soft paws as a pillow.





    A sloppy wet tiger kiss woke me up before my alarm.

    Eww!  Ren!  Tiger kisses are not the way to get on my good side.”

    I stomped into the bathroom and washed my face.  He snuck in behind me while I was scrubbing it dry with a towel, wrapped his arms around my waist, and pulled me back into his chest.

    “How about regular ones then?”  He nuzzled my ear and kissed my cheek but I was still unhappy with him and tried to twist out of his arms.  He laughed and let me go.

    “I’m going to my house to take a shower and get dressed.  Join me for breakfast?”

    I nodded and pushed him out the door so I could shower too.  I found out peanut butter was something Ren liked on everything.  When I came downstairs, he’d made me peanut butter toast and shoved a glass of orange juice towards me.

    “Eat up…we’re gonna be late.”

    When we got home from school, he parked the Hummer and immediately came over to spend time with me.  We did our homework together.  He provided lots of insight into the plight of women in India and I helped him with his English assignment.  He was doing very well in school.  In fact, he was getting better grades than I was.  His reading had advanced considerably and he seemed able to sound out almost everything now.

    In the afternoon he dozed as a tiger with his head on my lap while I studied.  When I got tired of reading, I wandered into the kitchen to start making dinner.  He followed me and lay down on the floor with his head nestled on his paws, watching me while yawning sleepily.

    I waved him off, “Go finish your nap.   I can handle cooking by myself.”

    He didn’t budge.  I didn’t really expect him to.  He’s a very stubborn tiger.  I’d convinced him to stop at the market on the way home so I could grab a few things.  I wanted to make him a special dinner.  I pulled out everything I needed to make my mom’s famous stuffed shells.

    I put the salted water on to boil and sprinkled fresh sage and oregano into the sizzling sausage.  Ren watched me, his tiger nose twitching.  After I was done stuffing the shells with the cheese, sausage and egg mixture, I covered the shells with marinara sauce and popped the pan in the oven to bake.

    I made a small green salad and sprinkled parmesan cheese on top of some pre-made breadsticks and slid that pan in the oven, too.  I set my little dining room table and lit a candle, then pulled a cold bottle of sparkling apple cider out of the refrigerator.  Ren was sitting up now.

    When the food came out of the oven, I turned to him and said, “Dinner’s ready.  Er…how would you like to be served?”

    He changed to a man and kissed me on the cheek, “I’ll be right back.”

    He disappeared for a few minutes through our connecting door that now stood open all the time.  I took the food over to the table and pulled out a couple bottles of salad dressing.  He came back with his hair slicked back dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.  He pulled out my chair, then sat down across from me.

    He scooped up a giant portion of stuffed shells.  Bubbling cheese trailed from the pan to his plate and he twirled his fork around the loose strands so as not to miss any of it.  He speared a shell and chewed happily.

    He swallowed and said, “This is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  In fact, it’s only second to peanut butter.”

    “Ha!  Then you’re going to love dessert.”

    “Why?  What do you have in mind?”

    “It’s a surprise.  I’m glad you like the dinner.  It was one of my mom’s recipes.”

    “Your mom was a great cook.”

    “She was.”

    “Does she have any other recipes you’d like to try out on me?”

    I laughed, “Sure.  But we’ll have to shop at the store again, especially with the quantities of food you consume.”

    He was already scooping up more stuffed shells and was on his 5th breadstick.

    “Just order the food to be delivered.  Mr. Kadam set up a grocery delivery service so I wouldn’t starve while trying to get you to date me.”

    “You mean you weren’t really eating when you were staying in your house?”

    He shrugged, “I only know how to make popcorn and sandwiches.”

    “Ren!  That’s not good enough.  You need more calories than the average person.  If I would’ve known you weren’t eating, I would have cooked for you more often.”

    He reached for my hand and kissed it.  His eyes twinkled, “I don’t want you cooking all the time, Kells.  I can think of a couple better ways to keep you occupied.”

    I snorted, “I bet you can.  But I like cooking.  And you might change your mind when you taste dessert.”

    “Hmm…” he trailed kisses up my arm all the way to my neck and whispered, “then let’s clean up quickly so I can have my…dessert.”

    I shivered and goose-bumps rose on my arms.  He pulled back my chair and helped me clear the table and wash the dishes.  He kept finding reasons to touch me.  When he passed me to put away the salad dressing, he stroked my arm.  When he reached around me to put away a plate, he nuzzled my neck.  It got to the point where I started dropping things.

    Ren, you’re driving me to distraction.  Now give me a little personal space so I can finish making the dough.”

    He did but stayed close enough that I had to brush up against him a few times to put away the sugar and flour.  He grinned triumphantly each time.  I shaped the cookies and dropped them onto the pan, and placed it in the oven.

    “We now have fifteen minutes until they’re done.”

    He grabbed my arm and yanked me up against him, and the next thing I knew the timer went off and I jumped.  Somehow, I’d ended up sitting on the kitchen counter locked in a passionate embrace.  One of my hands was in his hair, his silky locks were twisted around my fingers presumably for the purpose of tilting his head to a better angle, while my other hand had apparently grabbed a fistful of designer shirt and was slowly mangling it.  His freshly pressed shirt was now crumpled terribly.  Mortified, I released my unruly grip and stammered, “Uh…sorry about your shirt.”

    He snatched a hand back, pressed a kiss on my palm and smiled wickedly, “I’m not.”

    I shoved him away and hopped down.

    Pushing my finger against his chest, I said, “You’re dangerous, Pal.”

    He grinned, “It’s not my fault that you’re intoxicated by me.”

    I gave him a look but it didn’t faze him at all, he was too pleased with himself.

    I took the hot cookies out of the oven, scooped them up with a spatula and set them on a wire rack to cool.  Pouring two glasses of milk, I turned to find Ren had already downed one cookie and was on his second.

    “Ren!  Aren’t those burning your mouth?  They’re still hot!”

    He mumbled, “Dnt cr, tyr dlicis!”


    He swallowed, “Don’t care, they’re delicious!  What are they?”

    “Double chocolate chip with peanut butter filling.”

    “They’re the second best thing I’ve ever tasted.”

    I laughed, “What’s the first? Pancakes?”

    “Nope, you.  But it’s close.”





    On Saturday, I woke up in my bed snuggled up with my stuffed white tiger.  Ren had spun a chair around so the back was facing the bed.  He was resting his head on his arms watching me.

    I groaned and threw the blanket over my head.

    He laughed, “Good morning, sleepyhead.  You know, if you wanted to sleep with a tiger, all you had to do was ask.”

    “I think I was sleeping with a tiger on the floor.  Why did you move me to the bed?”

    “You’ve been hurting your back on the floor.  The bed is much more comfortable.”

    He picked up the stuffed white tiger, “When did you buy this?”

    “The first week I got here.”

    He grinned, “So you missed me?”

    I sighed and smiled, “Like a fish misses water.”

    “It’s nice to know I’m so necessary to your survival.”

    He knelt by the bed and brushed the hair away from my face, “Did I ever tell you, you’re the most beautiful in the mornings?”

    I laughed, “No.  And you’re wrong, by the way.  My hair is a mess and I’m in my pajamas.”

    “I like watching you wake up.  You sigh, and start wiggling.  You roll back and forth a few times and usually mumble something, which nine out of ten times is about me,” he grinned.

    I leaned up on my elbow, “So I talk about you, huh?  Well, that’s embarrassing.”

    “I like it.  Then you open your eyes and smile at me, even when I’m a tiger.”

    “What girl wouldn’t smile when you’re the first thing she sees?  It’s like waking up on Christmas morning to the best present ever, but it happens every day.”

    He laughed and kissed my forehead.

    I pushed my covers back and sat up, “Now, why are you awake, dressed, and so chipper?”

    “I want to go see Silver Falls today so get your lazy bones out of bed, woman.  I’ll wait for you downstairs.”

    I dragged myself out of bed, showered, and threw on some clothes.  I French braided my hair, and selected a beautiful multi-colored ribbon from my ribbon box to tie around the tail.

    When I came downstairs, he kissed my forehead and slipped my light jacket over my arms.

    “Come on, we’ll get breakfast on the way.”

    We stopped at White’s in Salem on the way, which is a little diner that has been in business for decades.  I’d been there before but this was his first time.  He ordered a large mess which is their specialty and has all types of breakfast foods scrambled together in a big pile.  It includes hash-browns, eggs, sausage, bacon and gravy.  I’ve never seen anybody order the large mess and be able to finish it, but Ren polished it off and then stole my toast as well.

    We drove the winding road up to Silver Falls and Ren asked about the little trees all around us.

    “They’re Christmas trees.”


    “Yes.  Oregon’s the main supplier for Christmas trees in the United States.  Did you know that one acre of Christmas trees provides oxygen for 18 people?”

    He laughed, “How do you know that?”

    “I read an article on it somewhere.”

    The drive was beautiful.  Miles and miles of Christmas tree farms on both sides of the road led up into hilly forested country.

    We pulled into the park office where he paid the daily use fee and picked up a brochure.

    He wanted to hike for a while.  We parked and walked a short distance to see the South Falls first.  There were ten waterfalls in the area but he didn’t think we’d have enough time to see them all today.  We drove over to Winter Falls, parked the car there and then hiked the winter trail so we could see the Middle North Falls and another half mile past that, we were able to see three more.

    We held hands.  I’d forgotten my gloves and even though his hand was warm, my hands quickly became cold.  He immediately pulled a pair of gloves out of his jacket pocket and slipped them over my hands.  They were too big but they were lined and warm.  I thought back to my date with Artie and compared him with Ren.

    Artie had noticed me suffering without gloves and didn’t care except to criticize.  Ren was so different.  He gave of himself willingly and not just to me.  He was generous.  All his classmates liked talking to him.  He was a good listener and he cared about people.

    We’d been having a discussion about the difference between the forests of India and the forests of Oregon when I interrupted, “You’re too perfect.  Don’t you have any faults?  Seriously, it would be much easier on me if you could tell me about something you don’t do well.  Just give me something.  A tiny weakness.”

    He laughed, “You want to know my weakness?  Let’s see.  Okay.  You.  You are my weakness.”

    “I’m serious.”

    “So am I.  I’m extremely jealous.  I see red anytime someone else comes near you.  I go ballistic.  I can’t think straight.  I just want to rip the other guy apart with my claws.  Even if I like him—like Li.  And especially if I don’t—like Jason.”

    “Abnormally jealous, huh.  I guess that will have to do.”

    “Who said anything about abnormal?  I think it’s perfectly normal.”

    “Not when there’s nothing to be jealous of.  How could I ever look at another guy when I’m dating Superman?  There’s no reason for you to be jealous.”

    “I’m not, now.  Jason backed off and Li I owe a debt of gratitude to for finally getting you to admit your feelings.”

    “Yes, you do owe him for that.  By the way he said if you ever left me, he’d come looking for you.”

    He smiled, “It’ll never happen.”

    Passing a clearing, I noticed him stick his nose in the air.

    “What do you smell?”


    “Is it nearby?”

    “No.  It was recently but it’s gone now.”

    “Can you smell other things?  Other animals?”


    “Like what?  What do you smell now?”

    “Hmm…I smell bear, mountain lion, deer, several dogs, lots of squirrels, horses, fish, water, plants, trees, flowers, and you.”

    “Doesn’t it bother you to smell everything so powerfully?”

    “No.  You learn to tune it out and focus on what you want to smell.  It’s the same with hearing.  If I concentrate, I can hear little creatures digging underground but I just tune it out.”

    We arrived at the Double Falls and he led me over to a mossy rock that served as a lookout point.  It was cold now that we weren’t hiking anymore.  I shivered and my teeth started chattering even in my jacket and gloves.  He quickly whipped off his jacket and secured it around my body then he pulled me back against his chest and wrapped his arms around me.

    He leaned his head down next to my cheek and I felt his silky hair brush against my face.

    “It’s almost as beautiful as you, Priya.”

    I turned my head and kissed his cheek.

    He sighed, “As much as I enjoy being a man, there’s a part of me that wants to run free in the forest here.”

    I laughed from inside the deep layers of his jacket, “I can just picture the look on the park official’s face when hikers tell him they’ve seen a white tiger swimming by the waterfalls.  Of course, you shouldn’t swim here anyway, at least until the summer.  Oregon water will freeze your tail off, literally.”

    He smiled against my cheek, “I’ll try to remember that.  Let’s go home.  You’re cold.”

    “Aren’t you?”  I fingered the material of his sweater.  “This is pretty thin.”

    “Not really, the tiger in me must keep me warmer than normal.”

    “You should take your jacket back.  I’ll be warmer now that we’re hiking again.”

    I started to take it off and he growled quietly, “Keep it on, Kells.”  But then softened it with a, “Please.”



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

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    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.