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 Quotes

    March 30, 2017

    Tiger’s Quest Quotes

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    Tiger’s Quest

    Why was grandfather allowing Kelsey to leave? She was the chosen one after all. It surprised me that the prince allowed it. #Nilima

    I watched the sky. The plane taking Kelsey to the other side of the world passed overhead. How did Ren mess this up so badly? #Kishan

    I too was saddened to see her go, but now that she had it was time to give the princes a crash course on living in the modern world. #MrKadam

    Running through the trees I raced alongside the car and then stayed hidden in the treeline as she boarded the plane. #Ren

    When the plane was a tiny speck, I realized that I could still feel her. Her heart spoke to me across the distance, echoing my sorrow. #Ren

    Grandfather was adamant that I return immediately after Miss Kelsey was settled. The poor girl looked so lost when I left. #Nilima

    We began with the computer. I modified the set up so the mouse could work with tiger paws and the monitor could be easily seen. #MrKadam

    Ren’s punishing himself. He paces staying in tiger form, doesn’t eat or sleep & ignores Kadam’s lessons. I’ve never seen him like this. #Kishan

    A long week went by. Kadam made no headway with Ren & I was thinking about returning to the jungle. That’s when we heard her voice. #Kishan

    Kadam was frustrated. I snuffed at his latest lesson & headed out the door but then he got a call. I froze when I realized it was Kelsey. #Ren

    Turning the corner, I crouched & listened to their entire conversation. When she didn’t ask for me, I crushed the tiny seed of hope. #Ren

    After Ren left I cornered Kadam & asked, “How is she?” He answered, “A bit lonely, I think.” Ren’s an idiot for driving her away. #Kishan

    The instructor had me call the roll and as I did, I put a little checkmark next to the names of the freshman girls most likely to say yes. #Artie

    I hope I made the right decision in returning Miss Kelsey to Oregon. The prince has become despondent without her. #MrKadam

    I thrummed my pencil as the teacher assigned us partners. Luck was on my side; my partner was not only smart but cute too! #Jason

    Kelsey seems different. She’s doing what a normal girl her age should but I feel like she’s biding her time, waiting for something. #Sarah

    Settling at my desk, I opened my planner to the list of required characteristics for my future bride & checked off the ones Kelsey had. #Artie

    Borrowing Kelsey’s new Porsche & taking Sarah out tomorrow. I wish I earned enough to give my wife the things she truly deserves. #Mike

    Kadam wiped Kelsey’s records from computers & destroyed all of her paper trails. He said modern hunters can track her this way. #Kishan

    Kelsey & Kadam spoke of cars. I growled, imagining car windows lowering as men tried to meet her. I asked Kadam to teach me to drive. #Ren

    I worried about Kells being on her own so I suggested to Kadam to make sure she gets some basic training. I’m relieved she agreed. #Kishan

    Today is the day Kelsey Hayes gets lucky. Timed asking her out perfectly so that her class starts right after I seal the deal. #Artie

    Why on earth did I sign up to take a Wushu class? I’m already sweating from just sitting on the floor and stretching. #Jennifer

    I checked out the new students in the adult only class. Among the soccer moms & the Jackie Chan wannabes there was this…girl. #Li

    She tried to cancel. Shy girls are often intimidated by my magnetism so I knew how to handle it. I simply wouldn’t take no for an answer. #Artie

    Asked Kelsey to the game. She seemed sad & I thought she’d turn me down but she said yes. She was quiet for the rest of class. #Jason

    Our instructor, a handsome young man with an amazing build, likes my practice partner. Wushu class just got interesting. #Jennifer

    I asked Kelsey if she would go out with Li & she seemed hesitant. No Wushu romance? That will never do. Time to step in. #Jennifer

    Waiting until everyone else left, I took a deep breath & approached her car. She said yes to game night. Next step, saying yes to me. #Li

    Some good advice is to show your date that you’re highly sought after & have much to offer. I think its safe to say Kelsey is jealous. #Artie

    After wishing Miss Kelsey luck on her date & hanging up I was cornered by two very livid princes who wanted to know every detail. #MrKadam

    I knew this was going to happen. A girl like Kelsey would not be left alone for long. Ren was fuming about her date. Good. He deserves it. #Kishan

    I was frantic about Kelsey dating other men. My normally calm demeanor shifted from panic to grief to seething rage to utter despair. #Ren

    I’d orchestrated the date so the first kiss would occur directly following the movie but it appears Kelsey enjoys playing hard to get. #Artie

    Kelsey makes me nervous but in a good way. She’s an interesting mix of confidence and vulnerability. My goal is to make her smile. #Jason

    Why? Why reject me and then freely entertain these other suitors? I listed possible reasons but knew immediately, it was the cursed tiger. #Ren

    The date didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. Apparently, she’s not much into football and I screwed up royally when she spoke about her parents. #Jason

    Before I left to meet Kelsey I warned my friends to behave. This girl was special, different, & I didn’t want them to blow my chances. #Li

    My game was off. First, I didn’t hear her pull up or see her until she knocked on my window. Second, I almost missed opening her door. #Li

    Kishan struggled with driving. I’d been around cars before but the closest he’d come to maneuvering something of that size was an elephant. #Ren

    How does Li end up with all the pretty girls? Maybe I should ask for a job at the studio. Nah, then I’d have to actually work out. #Wen

    Li’s date seems like a good girl. Still, would it kill him to bring home a nice Chinese girl? At this rate my great grandchildren will be blonde. #GrandmaZhi

    What has grandfather gotten himself into? What has he gotten me into? Now that the princes are home I practically run Rajaram industries. #Nilima

    The date went well despite the fact that my friends constantly teased me in Chinese. Kelsey was really cool about it & seemed to have fun. #Li

    Sometimes in Wushu I just stare at Kelsey & forget that I’m teaching. She’s a natural. If she’d started younger she could be really good. #Li

    How lucky can a guy be? I’ve finally found a beautiful girl who appreciates martial arts. The guy who broke up with her was an idiot! #Li

    Ren tried again to coax Kadam to talk more about the men surrounding Kelsey. I say we stop talking and do something about it. #Kishan

    He seems broken. Not at all like the brother I knew. It’s like he’s completely given up now, relinquished himself to a tiger’s life. #Kishan

    She’s better off. I realize that now. What could I offer her? She deserves to be happy and have a normal life. I have no right to hope for more. #Ren

    Li asked why Kelsey was keeping him at a distance. I said I’d help him figure it out. Time to put on my matchmaker hat & get serious. #Jennifer

    I invited both Li and Kelsey to Thanksgiving. Seeing how they relate outside of class will help me figure out the problem. #Jennifer

    After recruiting my husband to keep Li occupied, I cornered Kelsey in the kitchen so I could ask her what was going on. #Jennifer

    I’m fed up with his moping. After pummeling him & getting no response I told him he was no longer worthy of being father’s heir. #Kishan

    Dhiren wants to go to Oregon. He still needs training. It’s doubtful I can convince him to wait longer than a few weeks. #MrKadam

    Poor Li. Kelsey is obviously still in love with someone else. All she’ll say is the relationship is complicated. Maybe if Li is patient. #Jennifer

    I told Kelsey we’d go slow and I meant it but I still played every guy’s trump card—a wedding. Romantic atmosphere at its finest. #Li

    Each second of delay was excruciating. After deciding to go to her the tiger bucked and strained against the distance separating us. #Ren

    As Ren prepared for his trip, his face lit with a mix of determination and hope, I wondered if I looked that way when I fell for Yesubai. #Kishan

    The wedding date went very well, except for the part where I’m going to kill the guys for monopolizing my date on the dance floor. #Li

    Lectured Li about how unromantic his gift for Kelsey was but then thought if she got him an identical gift it would be kismet! #Jennifer

    Nilima watched as I nervously paced the cabin of the plane as a tiger. I’d had the cage removed. I’d never willingly go into one again. #Ren

    The house was quiet with Ren gone. I continued my studies halfheartedly; unsure if there really was a place for me in this modern world. #Kishan

    Kishan seems distracted. Admittedly, I was too. I wonder, was it a mistake to keep Ren’s travel plans a secret from Miss Kelsey? #MrKadam

    I clutched two addresses—one to Kelsey’s home and one to her foster parents’ house. Closing my eyes, I sensed she was at the latter. #Ren

    Standing on the porch, I hesitated while steeling my resolve to leave her if she was happier without me. Then, I knocked. #Ren

    The door opened & my heart stopped. I took in every detail—her scent, the length of her hair, her soft exhale. How did I ever live without her? #Ren

    I’d wanted to appear casual, unaffected, but I trembled with the need to touch her. I brushed my fingers across her cheek and was utterly undone. #Ren

    Holding her I felt centered, whole, like I could defeat any enemy, overcome any obstacle…the first of which was meeting her foster family. #Ren

    I sat in the plane shuffling through paperwork as I waited for the call from Ren. I hoped for his sake that Kelsey would allow him to stay. #Nilima

    Kelsey had a secret—A tall, dark, & handsome, charm-your-socks-off kind of secret. I didn’t believe for a second that she simply forgot to mention him. #Sarah

    Kadam’s grandson seemed a lot like his ancestor, a little intense and tight lipped, but still a nice enough guy despite the fact that he was obviously rich. #Mike

    Sarah kept kicking me and announced we needed to go for a run. I love my wife but running on Christmas? I deserve the husband of the year award. #Mike

    I bought Kelsey two Christmas presents—DVD’s if things were still going slow & a bracelet if, like I hoped, she was ready to move on. #Li

    As I read to the children, I tried to mask my insecurities. Would she laugh at my attempt to read? Has she moved on? Would she ask me to leave? #Ren

    Kadam insisted that I stay behind. I consoled myself with the knowledge that Ren would at least clear out the jackals circling Kelsey. #Kishan

    The mere inches between us on the couch felt like miles. I reached out and she moved closer, fitting her body snugly against mine. #Ren

    Being close to her again, touching her, melted away my insecurity. I knew, knew in the deepest part of my soul that she still loved me. #Ren

    Kelsey’s phone must be broken. She probably hasn’t realized it yet & thinks I dumped her. When she figures it out, I’ll be waiting. #Artie

    I suddenly understood why she left. The feelings between us were so intense, our bond so unbreakable, she must’ve been overwhelmed.  #Ren

    Kelsey’s feelings for me and her role as our liberator were likely all jumbled together. I needed to take a step back and let her choose. #Ren

    The movers had just left when Ren called to say he was on his way. I headed back to the plane wondering if he’d be staying long. #Nilima

    I checked my hair one more time before heading out to pick up Kelsey. All the lights were green, a good sign. Change was coming. #Li

    I drove up the mountain slowly while practicing what I would say. Hopefully, she’d at least hear me out. Kelsey can be pretty hardheaded. #Ren

    Sitting across from her, I began to lay out my heart. From a distance I could sense her emotions, but up close I often confused them with mine. #Ren

    Still no word from Ren. I wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Kadam says we should wait a few more days to call him. #Kishan

    When she put her arms around me, the wild tiger I was quieted at last. I was home. At that moment I vowed never be apart from her again. #Ren

    Everything was going perfectly. I was holding her in my arms and we were talking about reading a new play when there was a knock on the door. #Ren

    I couldn’t help but notice the mistletoe she’d hung over the door frame. Was she sending me a sign? Was she ready to move on? #Li

    I knew she was dating but when I realized one of them was at the door, I had to bite back a snarl. My body trembled, wanting to shift form. #Ren

    She returned and sheepishly smiled. For a brief moment my heart thrilled as I assumed she’d returned to me, but then she picked up a present. #Ren

    Kelsey left with him. I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t even realize how close I was to losing control. The tiger was spoiling for a fight. #Ren

    Kelsey seemed different-like she was nervous or something. I wimped out & didn’t give her the bracelet. I just felt that she wasn’t ready. #Li

    When she left & I’d had time to cool off, I realized that though I claimed I would accept being just her friend, I had expected more. #Ren

    She’d been willing to leave so I could explore the world, have the freedom to make my own choices. I needed to let her do the same. #Ren

    However, I also had to show her that I still wanted more than friendship. Otherwise, she’d move on with another & I’d end up her pet tiger. #Ren

    Switching forms, I rested on the couch. My tiger form chaffed, especially as I dwelled on the possibility of becoming Kelsey’s pet. #Ren

    Kelsey was in another world. She’d never been this distant before. I wasn’t sure if her mood was because of us or something else. #Li

    When I dropped her off, I teased her about the mistletoe. I was shocked but ecstatic when she kissed me. Maybe I misread her. #Li

    Lifting my head, I listened to them draw closer to the house. It took all my self-control not to rip holes in the couch when they kissed. #Ren

    Purposely, I forced myself to relax and remember my resolve to give her the freedom to choose the man she wanted to be with. #Ren

    When she walked in, she looked lost, and when the tears came, all my irritation dissipated. Above all I didn’t want to cause her pain. #Ren

    As she wept on my shoulder I realized I’d been a fool. I thought the right thing was to leave her alone. I should have come after her. #Ren

    When she confessed she’d been dating other men, I had to tamp down the jealous rage and acknowledge the fact that this was my fault. #Ren

    Ren called. He was staying. I should’ve taken advantage of their separation and gone to her. If I had, things might be very different now. #Kishan

    I warned Ren to tread carefully. Miss Kelsey clings loyally to those she cares for and loves without reservation, but she is easily bruised. #MrKadam

    She agreed to my courting her. Since mauling my rivals to death was out of the question, I’d have to find another way to eliminate the competition. #Ren

    A Roman poet once said, “Always toward absent lovers love’s tide stronger flows.” I applied this concept, hoping to turn Kelsey’s thoughts to me. #Ren

    But, avoiding her when I knew she was right next door was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Her intoxicating scent nearly drove me insane. #Ren

    Lounging as a tiger, I saved my hours and waited for our date. If she had said she wanted to watch the grass grow I’d have been happy. #Ren

    Went to Japan & saw my new office at Rajaram headquarters. I didn’t have the heart to tell Kadam I’d been considering a return to jungle life. #Kishan

    Though I believe Ren more suited to running a large corporation such as Rajaram Industries, Kishan also has much to offer. #MrKadam

    Not only did grandfather make an appearance in the boardroom, something he’s never done, he also introduced Kishan as his heir. #Nilima

    Straightening my tie, I tried to squelch the queasiness in my stomach as the company advisors Kadam introduced me to sized me up. #Kishan

    The board was shocked that I did not name Nilima as my successor. She handled their reaction with aplomb and confidence. #MrKadam

    Grandfather apologized for not naming me his heir. I know he feels strongly about leaving the princes their legacy. I’m proud of him for that. #Nilima

    Our trip to Japan taught me that I don’t belong in this time. It seems a man’s power is no longer determined by the strength of his arm. #Kishan

    As we flew out over the city, I briefly altered my form and gazed out the window at the sea of buildings. The world has changed so much. #Kishan

    I believe Kishan felt overwhelmed by our trip. Perhaps it was too early to introduce him to the world of steel and concrete but I felt it necessary. #MrKadam

    Grandfather took Kishan home and the prince seemed much more comfortable boarding the plane this time. It must be so strange for him. #Nilima

    Wanting to at least look like I fit in to the modern world, the human world, as much as possible, I dressed in the latest fashion, copying the model. #Ren

    As I waited for Kelsey to come to the door, I shifted, realizing I was nervous. This was the start of our official courtship & I didn’t want to mess it up. #Ren

    I’ve given speeches to ambassadors, dined with the wealthy, ridden into battle with powerful foes, yet I am more frightened of losing this girl. #Ren

    When the door opened, she stood there, sweet, innocent, and lovely. I found all my fears slowly quieting & the rightness of being with her settle into my soul. #Ren

    I handed her the single rose I’d had delivered that day and thought a woman such as her deserved to have a house filled with them. #Ren

    Hoping to impress her, I spoke of all I studied while we were apart. I wanted her to know that I was willing & able to adapt to her world. #Ren

    We had an interesting discussion on wealth, power, and influence. Only in rare circumstances in this century does royal blood equal position. #Ren

    I like the idea that men are self-made. That a wise & industrious man like Kadam can rise to become a leader despite the circumstance of his birth. #Ren

    Women too have more opportunities. I’d always respected my mother’s counsel. Kelsey was very like her—soft, but with veins of steel. #Ren

    I was by no means an expert on modern courtship but as Kelsey settled in my arms & talked openly, I thought I must be doing something right. #Ren

    Feeling it was wrong to manipulate her emotions, I took a vow, hard as it might be, not to kiss her again until she was sure of me. #Ren

    Kadam was more worried about Lokesh resurfacing that he’d previously let on. He explained modern recordkeeping & said Kelsey needed to be hidden. #Kishan

    With a plan of action in place in case of emergency I felt more at ease. Ren & Kishan don’t understand it fully but when it comes to Miss Kelsey they are vigilant. #MrKadam

    Meanwhile, I will utilize all my resources to track him down. Nilima must shoulder the full burden of running Rajaram Industries so that I may fulfill my duty. #MrKadam

    I caught Kelsey snooping on my laptop and wondered if she’d scrolled through Kadam’s emails. Neither of us wanted to worry her unnecessarily. #Ren

    Kelsey asked me bluntly if I was hiding anything from her. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Should I share my possibly overblown worries of Lokesh? #Ren

    My parents shared everything, ruled together, and yet, there were times my father spared her from knowing the true danger of what her sons faced. #Ren

    How could I do otherwise with Kelsey? If Lokesh came we’d be prepared. There was no need to burden her with the details of a “What if?” scenario. #Ren

    She asked for a royal oath. I hedged and promised that there was nothing to worry about. There wasn’t. Still, I wondered if I was doing enough to protect her. #Ren

    My heart started beating faster when Kelsey came into the studio and it had nothing to do with exercise. I really like this girl. #Li

    She seemed distracted in class and I have to say I was preening a bit thinking I had something to do with it but then she said we needed to talk. #Li

    From the way she did but mostly from the way she didn’t talk about him, I knew her former boyfriend still had his hooks in her. #Li

    When she said he wanted to let her date us both and choose, my initial surprise quickly turned to suspicion. Whoever he was, this guy was smooth. #Li

    I paced back and forth in woods, growling loudly enough that passersby would hear me. I hated the idea that she was with someone else. #Ren

    Hearing hikers, I headed back in and wandered over to Kelsey’s side of the house. It was the only place I truly felt at home in Oregon. #Ren

    I tried to work on a poem but ended up writing love quotes instead. I taped my favorite to a bottle of juice in the fridge & headed back to my side. #Ren

    After she got home, I half expected, half hoped, she’d come bursting through my door, but she didn’t & I spent half the night wondering what she’d told him. #Ren

    She said the man agreed to let me come to a class but she was angry. Didn’t she know that at the very least I needed to make sure he was worthy of her? #Ren

    Kelsey walked into the class with the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen. Did he get lost on the way to a modeling gig? Was he a cousin of Li? No! #Jennifer

    The beautiful man took off his jacket and I think the blood literally froze in my body. Even my brain could only form the thought, “Humina Humina.” #Jennifer

    Drool checked, I began to notice little details, the way he touched her elbow, how his eyes never left her face, how he angled his body as if to protect her. #Jennifer

    He wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The way he moved spoke volumes. Danger radiated from him in a cool, controlled way that irked me to no end. #Li

    I cursed my luck that this was the guy I was competing with. Still, I’d never give Kelsey up without a fight. Immediately, I began scanning for weaknesses. #Li

    From the moment I walked into the room, Kelsey’s suitor eyed me. I bowed my head imperceptibly, indicating that I accepted his silent challenge. #Ren

    My body trembled, spoiling for a fight. I tried to calm myself but my jealous feelings kept me on edge. It wasn’t safe for me to spar with anyone but Kishan. #Ren

    Li and Kelsey’s ex, who she ridiculously under described, glared at each other in a way that made the room feel hotter than a forest fire in Arizona. #Jennifer

    Li said I’d have to partner with Kelsey’s Ren. My mouth went dry, my knees went all jiggly, and I got a serious case of the nervous giggles. #Jennifer

    I was guiding my partner through a move, when Li picked Kelsey up and slammed her against the matt. I almost lost control of the tiger. #Ren

    The fact that I merely threw him across the room showed a great amount of self-control on my part. I wanted to break him in half. #Ren

    Ren said, “Excuse me, ma’am,” made sure I was secure on my feet, and then leapt towards Kelsey like a knight in battle. I almost fainted. #Jennifer

    I regretted what I’d done instantaneously. I knew I hadn’t put enough force into the move to actually hurt her but before I could even ask, he was there. #Li

    The raw power that this guy channeled was stronger than anything I’d ever experienced but my pride was soothed when I saw Kelsey lecturing him. #Li

    Kelsey’s friend was spoiling for a fight & the tiger wanted to give him one, especially as I gave in to thoughts of how Kelsey would be better off with a man like him. #Ren

    I thought I was solidly Team Li but then Ren walked in the room. I love Li but when Ren told Kells he wanted her to date both & choose, I switched to Team Ren. #Jennifer

    Li’s first question after class was unexpected. He didn’t ask me why we parted or why I’d left her alone all these months, he asked, “Do you love her?” #Ren

    When he told me he loved Kelsey, Ren visibly transformed. He still reminded me of an ancient Samurai but the raw emotion and vulnerability overshadowed the power. #Li

    At that point, I was no longer worried about Kelsey. This guy exuded honor. Danger was there too, hidden beneath the surface, but it was cautious and controlled. #Li

    He spoke to me about rules of engagement, defined turf boundaries, and determined procedures regarding courtship. It was like negotiating with an ancient warlord in a game. #Li

    I got the impression that Li thought I was playing a game. When it comes to Kelsey, I am deadly serious. I hoped, for his sake, that he wouldn’t find out how deadly. #Ren

    Ren finished by saying that above all else, Kelsey’s feelings should be highly regarded. I agreed & as he walked out, I thought this guy plays games wayyyy too much. #Li

    As I headed out to the car to meet Kelsey I thought I could understand why Kelsey had been dating Li. Despite my jealous feelings, I liked him. #Ren

    Li took Kelsey out on a date. Curled up in tiger form, I flicked my tail & growled softly as I listened to the crunch of their footsteps, Li’s complimentary words, & Kelsey’s soft laugh. #Ren

    The next night, it was my turn. I took Kelsey to a bookstore where we sipped cocoa and perused the shelves. I bought her so many books the manager had to help load them. #Ren

    On our 2nd date since Ren’s return, Kelsey greeted me & gave me a bag of books that she and Ren had picked out for me. The guy was playing dirty by being nice. #Li

    On one of the martial arts books, he’d even made notes on certain moves I did that he thought needed some work and offered suggestions. I was insulted but, then I thought, he’s right. #Li

    I have never been so excited to go to Wushu class. Li and Ren ignored Kelsey but tag teamed me. They took turns teaching me moves trying to one up each other. #Jennifer

    Kelsey wanted a movie night. She laughed so much she cried when watching Ghostbusters. I didn’t understand why saving the world was funny but I found her laugh endearing. #Ren

    My favorite was a film called Star Wars though I would argue that there is no war in that movie at all. The sabers of light were interesting but their duel lacked power & strength of arm. #Ren

    I pondered on the idea of The Force for quite some time. Kelsey assures me this is fictional but there have been times when I “feel” a way to overcome an opponent. #Ren

    Kelsey came downstairs & I froze in place. She wore THE dress, the one I’d bought especially for her—a filmy blue confection that swirled around her legs. She was breathtaking. #Ren

    For her it wasn’t a declaration, but seeing her in my colors evoked two strong feelings—exhilarating pride & the fierce need to possess. My hands shook & I dropped the popcorn. #Ren

    When she said she was going out with Jason, the tiger almost ripped his way out of my body. If Jason had been standing at the door just then, I would have killed him. #Ren

    The very large man behind Kelsey pinned me in place with his eyes. My mouth went dry. I couldn’t blink or swallow. That she was comfortable in his presence was amazing. #Jason

    He told me to take care of his girl and I knew two things instantly—Kelsey was off limits & he was going to find a way to kill me, most likely in a slow and painful manner. #Jason

    I helped her into her coat & contained my extreme jealousy until they were gone. Then I ran into the forest, roared loud enough to disturb wildlife for miles, & destroyed a tree. #Ren

    Kelsey glared at him & he backed down but I wasn’t fooled. That guy was like an attack dog just waiting for the order to bite. When I asked if she felt safe around him, Kelsey laughed. #Jason

    I nodded off but fortunately Kelsey didn’t notice. She was absolutely engrossed. Most girls were, which is why attending a play was my go to move with skittish girls. #Jason

    The thing was, as much as I liked Kelsey, I was getting a skittish feeling too, and, as much as I hated to admit it, tall, dark, and kill-you-with-my-eyes guy was a big part of it. #Jason

    We were walking to the car when Kelsey darted out into the street. I didn’t even see the old lady until Kelsey was on the ground. I’d just helped her up when a flash went off. #Jason

    I told the magazine rep who snapped the picture that Kelsey was a hero and that of course I was proud of my date but then I turned around to see Kelsey limping off. #Jason

    Taking her arm, I helped her into the car, & said we should go to the hospital. She refused but accepted the tissue I found in the glovebox & pressed it to her bleeding elbow. #Jason

    I babbled about nonsense on the drive back to fill the silence. Her shoe was broken, & her dress torn & all I could think about was the inevitable beating I’d get when I dropped her off. #Jason

    When we pulled up, I sat in the car half expecting the guy to burst out of the door and strangle me from the window. Instead, Kelsey broke up with me. #Jason

    I let the curtain fall back and paced in front of the couch. What were they doing that was taking so long? An idea stopped me in my tracks. If he was kissing her, I’d kill him. #Ren

    It occurred to me that Kelsey might love Samurai warrior guy. I asked if there was someone else and her face transformed. She was crazy about him alright. #Jason

    I said I’d be around, and I would. The guy scared me and until I could trust him, I was going to keep an eye on her. I couldn’t take him down myself but my older brother was a cop. #Jason

    I’d had men searching for months using an image I’d created from memory. If this girl existed in the modern world, I would find her. It was only a matter of time. #Lokesh

    Anxiety and jealousy chased away sleep. I’d hoped that she’d come and talk with me after her date or at least say good night. The closed door between us reminded me of my cage. #Ren

    I’d read that breakfast in bed was a romantic gesture but I soon discovered that I was out of my league. My breakfast machinations were more clown-like than prince-like. #Ren

    To my credit, that I attempted it at all should have meant something. As a prince I’d never prepared meals myself. At the palace & on military ventures we had cooks. #Ren

    I was so distracted by my sorry attempts to feed Kelsey that I didn’t even notice the bruises on her skin until we had begun eating. #Ren

    She didn’t appreciate my attempts to evaluate her injuries and when she explained what happened, I began making plans on how I would deal with Jason. #Ren

    Kelsey was upset with me, not Jason. If a guard neglected the queen to point of injury, my father would have had him severely beaten if not exiled. A punishment was just. #Ren

    I was about to argue further when she said that she’d terminated the relationship. Perhaps seeing Jason’s negligence firsthand made her finally recognize that he was a bad choice. #Ren

    My favorite thing about movies is the music. Sometimes it distracts me from the story because I focus on it so much, but this movie was all about the music. I especially liked Edelweiss.  #Ren

    I knew a little bit about the warlord called Hitler. When a country is at war that’s all the people speak of, even around a tiger. Kelsey was able to fill in some of the gaps. #Ren

    Playing the song I wrote for Kelsey was not my intention. I wanted it to be perfect, to be finished, before she heard it. But somehow it felt right to play it at that moment. #Ren

    The thought occurred to me that maybe we were finally ready to move on from the place where the song ended. Perhaps we were nearing a happy ending. #Ren

    Kelsey moved closer and it soon became very obvious that she wanted me to kiss her. When I told her I wouldn’t, she was insulted due to my inept explanation. #Ren

    In truth, it wasn’t her weakness I feared, it was my own. Kissing her would make me feel even more possessive. Perhaps even to the point of killing the competition. #Ren

    My intense feelings surprised me. I was not a blood thirsty man. Despite my good intentions, I’d lied when I said I could live with whatever she chose. It would be the end of me. #Ren

    I like how whenever I try to be the good guy, Kelsey always makes me out to be the bad guy. If I wasn’t crazy in love with the girl, I’d throttle some sense into her. #Ren

    After she had a few minutes to cool off, she changed tactics. I wasn’t fooled by her attempts to play the seductress. I’m not saying I wasn’t affected, I just wasn’t fooled. #Ren

    Still, her simple touches ignited emotions I wasn’t sure I could control. She branded me with her fingertips until I thought I’d be consumed in the heat between us. #Ren

    It was all I could do to remember to breathe. Then she headed upstairs and I was able to get myself under control enough to put some distance between us. #Ren

    I was hoping that she’d given up on driving me crazy but, when I picked her up, instead of the sweet, loving Kelsey I’d come to know, I got the femme fatale version. #Ren

    Holy moly. There was some serious romantic tension going on between Ren and Kells tonight. It was nail-biting-gallon-of-ice-cream-call-your-girlfriends worthy. #Jennifer

    Did she think I was made of steel? Teeth, claws, and fur, yes. But, steel? Definitely not. How am I supposed to protect her when she purposely tries to draw my attention? #Ren

    Was I supposed to just ignore the looks they were giving each other? I’d never lost anything before. Not if it was something I really wanted. And I wanted Kelsey. #Li

    Seeing them together chafed and stung my pride but, at the same time, I had to acknowledge that there was something about them being together that clicked. #Li

    The intervention I tried didn’t work. I spouted something about tigers being patient, but the truth was she’d almost broken me down. Kissing her was all I could think of. #Ren

    I tried every romantic thing I could think of. I took her on a picnic lunch to Silver Falls, I sent her flowers, we even went horseback riding, but I sensed I was losing the game. #Li

    The longer Ren was around the more distant she became. What really irked me was that the longer Ren was around the more I actually liked the guy. #Li

    When I found the kissing poem in my bag I decided that was it. I wasn’t going to wait any longer. She was mine and I needed her. The time for teasing was over. #Ren

    I was distracted by the notion of confronting Kelsey once and for all after class, so distracted that I didn’t recognize the fury in Li’s eyes. The man was spoiling for a fight. #Ren

    Li was an enemy to the tiger, and as much as I liked him, the tiger wanted to rip him open. I tried to get Li to back off but he wouldn’t have it. #Ren

    Oh, no he didn’t! HOLY WOW! Li and Ren are going to fight. OVER KELSEY! If I knew exercise could be this exciting, I would have signed up for classes a long time ago. #Jennifer

    I felt like a kid ready to pump my fists in the air and scream, “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” I should have brought a fan to class cause Ima ‘bout to die from the heat! #Jennifer

    Looking into the eyes of my opponent was a habit of mine. I could recognize confidence or fear, a calculating man or cunning, but in Ren’s eyes I saw only resignation and pity. #Li

    I was no stranger to sparring, but this time felt different. I was hyperaware of Kelsey’s disapproving look and her obvious fear that I would do something idiotic. #Ren

    My tendency was to let my opponent strike first, & then use his own momentum to throw him off balance, but I had a terrible need to teach Ren not to pity me, so I was the first to attack. #Li

    Li struck first which was what I’d been hoping for. If I was to regain Kelsey’s favor after all was said and done, at the very least I could argue that I hadn’t initiated it. #Ren

    At first, I tried to restrain myself from using my full strength, but it quickly became obvious that not only was he a match for me, but he had techniques I’d never encountered before. #Li

    Li was a very good fighter for a man who had never been in real combat. What held him back was the purely modern notion that endangering the life of his opponent was a bad thing. #Ren

    I pressed him with every arsenal at my command and still he thwarted me. For every move I made he countered with an even more powerful, more effective one. #Li

    Even during training, our soldiers walked away with bruises, scars, swollen hands, & an occasional broken bone. Modern martial arts curbed the use of anything potentially deadly. #Ren

    Even when he grabbed my elbows, effectively incapacitating me, he was carefully controlled and I realized he wasn’t using even half of the strength he was capable of. #Li

    The idea that he was holding back with me enraged me even more and I became sloppy, more like a tornado than the precise machine I prided myself in being. #Li

    Though I didn’t want to acknowledge it, a part of me knew that I was losing Kelsey to Ren, & so I absolutely would not concede the fight. My pride couldn’t take it. #Li

    It stung when Li accused me of walking away from Kelsey. Though she was the one who left me, I’d let it happen. Kishan was right. It was a mistake to let her go. #Ren

    The longer I fought Li the harder it was to reign in the tiger. At one point I actually snarled at him like a tiger defending its kill. I hissed more beast than man, “She’s mine!” #Ren

    Despite appearances, I was desperately trying not to kill Li. It took unwavering control and extreme concentration. If he didn’t yield soon, I feared what would happen. #Ren

    Can a person die from swooning? Ren shouted that Kelsey was his & I almost fainted. Ren was like #scottishlairdswashbucklingpirateanddevilishdukeninjawarrior all rolled into one. #Jennifer

    After being in the humiliating position of landing face down on the mat with Ren’s hand keeping me there, I turned into a wild thing that only wanted to cause pain. #Li

    Li’s scent changed from aggressive to desperate and that switch helped me reign in the tiger. The tiger knew he’d beaten Li and now it was just a matter of finishing him off. #Ren

    Glancing up at Kelsey, I saw nothing in her eyes except pity. I realized Ren had the upper hand and not just in the fight. In moving against him I’d set myself up for failure. #Li

    A few minutes later, Li called off the fight. He dismissed the class and refused to talk to anyone, even Kelsey. Kelsey sat stubbornly silent on the whole ride home. #Ren

    I begged her to speak to me that night but she refused. The next few days she remained polite but distant. I despaired thinking I’d ruined the fragile thing that had grown between us. #Ren

    When Ren first showed up, I’d wanted to hate him, but he was nothing like I imagined. He was like an ancient sensei I’d once met & admired—perfectly controlled with ancient eyes. #Li

    Li wanted to speak with Kelsey after class & said he’d take her home. I agreed and left despite the jealous tiger trying to rip his way out me. One way or another this needed to end. #Ren

    Before I did something indescribably noble yet stupid I asked her why she left him. She started babbling about how she wasn’t good enough for him & I couldn’t help it. I got mad. #Li

    At first I believed he was responsible for making her feel this way and my heart lightened. I thought maybe I’d given the guy too much credit and I could help her get over him. #Li

    But then, I understood. She loved him. More than she even knew. And she thought he’d change his mind about her. Kelsey was afraid of commitment. #Li

    I’d sensed this from her when we’d been dating. I never understood how someone could be so loving, so giving of themselves, yet push away love from others. #Li

    Ren, however, was the definition of commitment. Determination—unwavering. Self-doubt—not in his vocabulary. He was a man who knew what he wanted and he wanted Kelsey. #Li

    What’s more, there was nothing about Ren that made me think he didn’t deserve someone like Kelsey. And knowing she loved him really gave me no option. So, I let her go. #Li

    She protested half-heartedly but I could tell that she wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea. Above all else, I could be her friend. A little nudge in Ren’s direction was all it took. #Li

    I dropped her off thinking, “Li, you’re an idiot & too damn noble for your own good.” I knew I’d deserve the smack upside the head I’d get from the guys for letting a girl like that walk away. #Li

    I heard the rumble of the engine long before Li’s car turned into the drive. Over the past few weeks I’d memorized its unique sound and I’d grown to hate it. #Ren

    The impulse to watch them from the window was strong but I controlled it. What I couldn’t control was my need to eavesdrop on their conversation. #Ren

    I intended to confront Kelsey about our relationship which was why I was waiting for her in her side of the house but I still had no idea how to start the conversation. #Ren

    Not knowing Kelsey’s feelings was driving me crazy and the tiger was becoming more agitated every day. If she was going to choose Li I needed to get away. Far away. #Ren

    What was taking them so long? The engine had been shut off for at least ten minutes. Maybe he was kissing her goodnight. My fists clenched and unclenched as I waited. #Ren

    Finally I heard the car door open and Li got out. They hugged and I strained to hear what Li said to her. “Tell him, Kelsey,” Li encouraged. Tell me? Tell me…what? #Ren

    Dozens of possibilities swirled in my mind of what Kelsey could possibly need to tell me and not one of them was good. Her slow footsteps confirmed her hesitancy. #Ren

    The least I could do was not face her like a coward. Opening the door, I stepped outside and braced myself as best I could. How would I live without her? #Ren

    I wished I could despise her for the choice she’d made but instead I wanted to take her into my arms and kiss the worry from her brow. My heart was breaking with love for her. #Ren

    When she said nothing, I prompted, “Tell me what, Kells?” She stammered nervously at this, probably wondering what else I’d overheard. Then she said she’d made her choice. #Ren

    She put her arms around me and I tried to resist her pull but then I decided that if this was going to be the last time I held her, then I’d relish her closeness until the last possible second. #Ren

    Picking her up, I held her tightly and felt a hot emotional sting at the back of my eyes. Though her weight was next to nothing, my body shook at the thought of letting her go. #Ren

    I was so focused on the idea that she was saying goodbye that I almost missed her saying she chose me. It wasn’t until she said we could finally be together that I understood. #Ren

    My pulse raced as she kissed me and hope burst through the heartache, making me feel more alive, more known, more loved than I’d felt in three hundred years. #Ren

    A fierce, riveting desire took over me. Kelsey was mine. The heady awareness was uncontainable. I locked her in my arms & kissed her with a wild, savage abandon. #Ren

    Ardently, she returned my embrace and her unrestrained fervor served to help me reign in my own. Soon stinging passion gave way to soothing promises. #Ren

    How many weeks, months, had I denied myself the sweetness of her lips? Her soft, supple form trembled in my arms like a fragrant blossom in the breeze. #Ren

    My heart, both the man’s and the tiger’s belonged to Kelsey & now she’d entrusted hers to me. I vowed to forever be worthy of the gift. #Ren

    The rightness of our being together struck me anew & all the insecurities and jealousies seemed suddenly ridiculous. That we belonged with one another was transparently clear. #Ren

    Despite my over active jealousy where Kelsey was concerned, deep down I’d always known she loved me, even if she didn’t. I vowed then to let nothing else ever come between us. #Ren

    Without even being conscious of it, I snatched her close and carried her into the house like a tiger guarding his prey. If Li had come back, I think I would have slashed his throat. #Ren

    She was a precious gift that I couldn’t get enough of. The smell of her skin, the taste of her lips nearly drove me out of my mind. I even growled and fought to rein in the need to possess. #Ren

    Her laugh was heady, addicting. As she caressed and teased, I found I was as fascinated with the woman I’d captured as a cat would be by a mouse. If she wasn’t careful, I’d devour her. #Ren

    Hesitantly, Kelsey ran her hands over my shoulders & through my hair and like a beast tamed by beauty, the tiger in me settled at last, soothed and reassured. #Ren

    I regretted it almost the instant I pulled away but I was also comforted by the fact that I knew her heart wasn’t mine. It never had been really. I’d just stubbornly ignored the fact. #Li

    I ripped the article from the magazine and crushed the periodical in my hand as I perused her face. At last, I’d found her. Immediately, I began imagining various ways to kill her. #Lokesh

    The dream of wrapping my hands around the girl’s slender throat was pleasurable but it was interrupted when I heard the dinner chime. My hunger would not be sated tonight. #Lokesh

    When she said she loved me, all was right with the world, and I knew I would go through anything, suffer anything, deny myself anything, to keep hearing those words. #Ren

    The time came when I had to change back into a tiger, but she stayed beside me, stroked my fur, and talked to me as if I could answer in return. She made me feel human. #Ren

    Following her all day, I nipped at her heels like an oversized housecat and contented myself with just being close all the while planning what I’d do each moment I was a man. #Ren

    When she announced she was making me dinner, I settled on the floor to watch her work. Cooking seemed to give her great contentment and I wished I had her ease in the kitchen. #Ren

    She hummed our song as she stirred our meal and it made my heart soar. Kelsey was clever enough to be a queen and yet she worked hard at any task placed before her. #Ren

    Kelsey was truly special. I’d never come across anyone who understood me on so many levels. That we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle was undeniable to me. #Ren

    Finally, finally it was nearing time to eat and I wanted her to know I was appreciative of the efforts she’d made so I took precious time away to dress and groom myself appropriately. #Ren

    Sitting across from her at the table, holding her hand while dining, and talking with her made me feel liberated. She’d saved me and in more ways than one. #Ren

    Being with her made me feel young, handsome, and alive. Like the man I’d once been. And yet I knew I was now more than the prince I was. Was I enough for her, though? #Ren

    The future seemed like something to strive for instead of something to dread. The idea that we could have a life together filled my thoughts and hope overshadowed all my trials. #Ren

    I couldn’t seem to keep my hands off her. The craving for human touch was something I spent centuries without and even now the long hours separated by my curse seemed endless. #Ren

    Finally, the work was done and I could wait for her no longer. I pulled her into my arms and lost all sense of caution, teasing her with caresses and touches I’d thought about all day. #Ren

    I hadn’t intended to get carried away but I wasn’t sorry I did, either. Knowing that she was just as affected by me as I’d been by her made it all the sweeter. #Ren

    After she was asleep, I quietly prowled the surrounding forest. I wasn’t being as vigilant as I knew I should be. I’d die before letting anything to happen to Kells. #Ren

    There was nothing awry in the forest or around our home but I stayed outside until long after the moon dipped over the horizon. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were being watched. #Ren

    School became a burden. There wasn’t enough free time to spend with Kelsey and do homework as well. I loved learning but I loved Kelsey more. #Ren

    I found her hugging a plush toy this morning. It was a white tiger. Once again I cursed myself for leaving her on her own for so long. How I wished I could have been here for her. #Ren

    I told her I wanted to see the waterfalls that her parent’s took her to which was true but what I didn’t say was that as a tiger I craved the jungle and freedom. #Ren

    We’d arranged the home so that I could wander freely on my own, but I was often plagued by nightmares & woke expecting to still be at the circus or a zoo. #Ren

    Captivity is the one fear I think will haunt me all of my days. I’m ashamed to have a weakness like that. Kelsey doesn’t really know how bad it gets sometimes. #Ren

    Being outdoors has a calming effect on me. The tiger is soothed and when he is comfortable I can almost forget how he prowls just beneath my skin. #Ren

    Even in a park in the middle of Oregon I was on high alert, but there was nothing but the smell of humans and the local wildlife which was fortunate since I was constantly distracted. #Ren

    The way she tucked loose hairs behind her ear, the curve of her neck, the way she delicately shivered even when wrapped in my coat, all fascinated me. #Ren

    Touching her frequently was a way to prove to myself that she was real and that I was still human. I was like a giant housecat seeking attention but she didn’t seem to mind. #Ren

    Her heartbeat was the sound I constantly sought out. It called to me even when we were apart and my heart always responded to it. #Ren

    She mentioned that she wished we could have a normal relationship and it was like a well-aimed kick to the belly. It was selfish to deprive her of that but I just couldn’t let her go. #Ren

    She insisted upon falling asleep on my paws so I saved a precious minute every day so I could move her to the bed. The hardest part for me was returning to the cold floor. #Ren

    Though I harbored no hard feelings towards Li and felt Kelsey still needed training, I agreed that we would forgo the classes for the time being. #Ren

    Ren called. He said that he’d taken care of all Kelsey’s so-called suitors. There appeared to be only one who was a serious contender but still, Ren bested him easily. #Kishan

    Why Kelsey would be interested in a man who wanted to be a doctor was confusing to me. Kadam said that doctors were often the most sought after mates in the modern era. #Kishan

    Perhaps women become ill more frequently now. In that case I suppose it is logical for them to give preference to a man who can cure disease. Still, Kelsey is healthy. #Kishan

    I cannot believe Kadam’s claim that today men wage war with their minds and not the strength of their arms. How can a man protect his home and family if he is a weakling? #Kishan

    Kadam trains my mind with a picture box. It shows images of people from every place in the world. When I cannot abide what I see, I change the image to the planet of animals. #Kishan

    Perhaps I am not meant to join this modern world. It is loud. It is too busy. Terrible tragedies happen to the people I watch on the picture box. Where are the joyful moments? #Kishan

    Exposing Kishan to bits and pieces of the modern world is difficult at best. He is not adapting well. Perhaps Nilima will have a few ideas on how to help him. #MrKadam

    Nilima took me to the market today. The vendors aren’t like the people on the television but are much like the people of my time. The difference is that they do not come to my home. #Kishan

    Kelsey quit wushu. Li puts on a good show but I can tell he’s depressed about the whole losing Kelsey thing. Class is boring without Ren and Kells. #Jennifer

    Every time I head to class, I end up staring at the hole that used to be Kelsey’s spot. I hope we get some more students soon. A new distraction would be nice. #Li

    I can even describe how frustrating it is not to be able to talk to Kelsey when I’m trapped in tiger form. I can sense she’s frustrated too. There’s so much I want to tell her. #Ren

    She loved movies but my favorite thing to do together was read. She started a new play today, Othello. Iago was like Lokesh—a villain who masqueraded as a friend. #Ren

    Othello was a good warning for me. He destroyed the woman he loved out of jealous misunderstandings. I needed to work on tempering my jealous tendencies. #Ren

    Kelsey’s pale skin reminded me of a pearl that had been presented to my mother as a gift. I was inspired to write a poem, something I hadn’t done in a very long time. #Ren

    The promise I’d made with myself to try and temper my jealousy was sorely tested when we came across a man who had taken Kelsey on a date. I’d come across men like him before. #Ren

    I saw Kelsey walk into the study lab with one of those gym freaks who were all muscle and no brains. It always amazes me that women seem to swoon over those types. #Artie

    Despite the dumb jock sniffing around her, I decided to throw her a life preserver. Not that she deserved it, but young girls often needed the guidance of a real man. #Artie

    Unbelievably, she rejected my offer for a date and then the Neanderthal spoke up. He actually thought I was insulting her. Idiot. I’d actually been doing her a kindness. #Artie

    From all appearances the man badgering Kelsey seemed innocuous, but if being a tiger had taught me anything, it was to recognize a predator. It was all I could do not to attack. #Ren

    It was very fortunate for the man that Kelsey was present. Her touch soothed me enough that I was able to control my instincts and walk away. #Ren

    I made light of the confrontation later and Kelsey seemed to accept it, but on the drive home I thought about how close I’d come to ruining everything. #Ren

    Amara, a girl born in the United States but with parents who immigrated to Kelsey’s country sat uncomfortably close to me in class. She asked if I had a girlfriend. #Ren

    After class she followed me out to the car, a very aggressive move that I respected and yet I was also inexplicably terrified. She launched into the idea of meeting her parents. #Ren

    I didn’t want to offend her. As a diplomat, I’d been trained on how to answer requests in such a way as to promise nothing and yet have the petitioner leave happy. #Ren

    In this case, she had no sensitivity for diplomacy. She demanded a straightforward reply. When I said I was already committed to another, she said my commitment was meaningless. #Ren

    Amara told me that a dalliance with a girl such as Kelsey was common but that when it was time to settle down, I should choose someone with a common cultural background. #Ren

    How could I explain my connection to Kelsey? My absolute certainty that we belonged together? That her touch brought me a kind of peace I’d never known? #Ren

    I told her that what Kelsey and I shared surpassed cultural differences and that there never could be and never would be anyone for me but her.  #Ren

    When the girl stormed off, I lifted my head, sensing Kelsey was near. She sat on the steps nearby. I moved towards her but then stopped when I saw who she was with. #Ren

    Kelsey sat by herself watching her boyfriend in a serious conversation with a very attractive girl. Hoping to cheer her up I handed her the article I’d been saving. #Jason

    I’d intended to keep it to use in a class essay but when I saw her boyfriend coming with a murderous expression on his face, I decided to leave it with her. #Jason

    I tried to reign in my jealousy and smiled though the skin on the back of my hands itched. The tiger wanted to confront the boy and bat him around for a while. #Ren

    She asked about the girl with an edge to her voice. I felt guilty to be found with another, no matter how innocent the exchange, but also exhilaration at seeing Kelsey jealous. #Ren

    Kelsey’s jealousy was delightful at first but then I started wondering what I’d done to make her doubt my affections. Didn’t she know I was completely hers? #Ren

    The conversation turned to arranged marriages and Yesubai. Now that I’d met the one I was destined to be with, the thought of what my past life might have been was sobering. #Ren

    I wondered then if Kishan had come to truly love Yesubai in the same way I felt about Kelsey. A new kind of sympathy bloomed in my heart for my brother. I should call him soon. #Ren

    Kelsey asked if my parents would have liked her. I miss them. My father, for all his outward insistence on politically advantageous matches, was also a romantic at heart. #Ren

    My mother would have wanted me to be happy but she was a good judge of character. I think she would have quickly found that inner spark Kelsey has that makes her utterly unique. #Ren

    My blood ran cold when Kelsey handed me the article with a close up picture of her. Kadam had warned me explicitly about the need to keep her as far away from the media as possible. #Ren

    When Ren called me to warn me about the article, I immediately brought it up online. Her name and the college she attended were listed beneath the image. Dread filled me. #MrKadam

    Ren admitted that he’d been less vigilant than he should have been and that various men of questionable motives seemed to constantly surround Kelsey. #MrKadam

    When I suggested sending Kishan to help, he hesitated but ultimately agreed that having a second set of eyes would be a good idea. I texted Nilima to have the plane readied. #MrKadam

    My claws left jagged marks on the leather couch. I’d been eavesdropping on Kadam and I was livid. If my brother had been standing there, I would have punched him. #Kishan

    Kishan cornered me the instant I hung up the phone. I assured him there was nothing to worry about yet but he wanted to leave immediately. #MrKadam

    In truth, I was glad that Kishan would be joining them. He’d been despondent these last few weeks. This was the first time in a while that he showed interest in the outside world. #MrKadam

    I’d wanted to keep Kelsey in the dark about hiding all of her records. Knowing would only give rise to fear and panic and truthfully we weren’t even sure Lokesh was seeking her. #Ren

    The plane couldn’t get there fast enough. All the way to Oregon I thought about how my lovesick brother was endangering Kelsey through his negligence. #Kishan

    When I mentioned it to Nilima, she reminded me that I wasn’t so different. That I’d put my family and my whole kingdom at risk once in the name of love. #Kishan

    By the time we landed, I’d calmed down enough not to immediately storm off. I resolved to keep Kelsey from harm. I’d do for her what I couldn’t do for Yesubai. #Kishan

    As I waited to escort Kelsey to dinner and the dance, I felt nervous like a groom awaiting his bride. I constantly tugged on my collar to loosen it & smoothed my hair. #Ren

    Too eager to start the evening, I didn’t even put on my jacket but threw it over my shoulder and went to her door. After debating if I should knock or just enter, I run the doorbell. #Ren

    My nerves went away the second I saw her. She was lovely. She was perfect. And she was mine. We belonged together. The warm contentment of just being with her filled me. #Ren

    I gave her the precious earrings that had once belonged to my mother-a gift I’d brought with me when I came to Oregon and she surprised me by insisting I should’ve gotten her socks. #Ren

    I didn’t tell Kelsey that the earrings were the very same pair my mother had worn when she married my father. Seeing her wearing them now just felt right. #Ren

    She seemed overwhelmed by my choice of dining. I want to lavish Kelsey with every beautiful thing she deserves but perhaps those gestures only serve to remind her of our differences. #Ren

    Of all the gifts, it was the poem that moved her the most. In fact, she got up and moved around to my side of the table. I made immediate plans to write about a million more verses. #Ren

    I had half a mind to just take Kelsey home after dinner and spend the evening alone but then I remembered dancing with her in India before she went home. #Ren

    After helping her into her coat, I whispered, “I can’t wait to wrap my arms around you on the dance floor.” She shivered and as I guided her to the car, I couldn’t stop smiling. #Ren

    Nilima took me by the house and let me in. Ren and Kelsey were gone. It was only after I returned from a frantic search of the surrounding woods that Nilima mentioned a dance. #Kishan

    I insisted on going to the college to find them though Nilima kept trying to talk me out of it. She refused to take me so I took the truck, found a gas station, & asked for directions. #Kishan

    Kishan either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care that Ren and Kelsey are on a date. I don’t believe there is an immediate danger but there’s no telling him that. #Nilima

    At least he looks more animated than he has in the past few months. He’s been so still at the house that I often enter a room & start working not knowing he’s in there. #Nilima

    It took me the better part of two hours and no less than a dozen stops to find to the university. Once there it was easy to find the dance. I just followed the music. #Kishan

    The dance was in some kind of museum. My nose twitched as I scented very old artifacts. As I scanned the happy, young people around me, I couldn’t help but feel my age. #Kishan

    Then I caught her sweet scent and followed the trail only to find Ren dancing with her. He was a smooth a dancer as he was a diplomat. My hands involuntarily clenched into fists. #Kishan

    I watched the two of them together as long as I could tolerate it and made it until the end of the song which was pretty impressive all things considered. #Kishan

    Ren finally noticed me after the next song began which immediately told me he was right in asking me to come. He’d grown lax. #Kishan

    If I could go undiscovered in plain sight for a full five minutes, imagine what Lokesh could do. Just a moment of inattentiveness like that could cause another tragedy. #Kishan

    Kelsey finally noticed she no longer had Ren’s full attention so I decided it was time to say hello. #Kishan

    She actually seemed genuinely happy to see me which was more than I could say for Ren. He must’ve been desperate to actually ask me to tag along as he courted Kelsey. #Kishan

    Ren kept his hand settled protectively at Kelsey’s waist, unwilling to let her move away for even a moment. #Kishan

    It irked me that I needed Kishan. The way his eyes lit when he spoke with Kelsey irritated me to no end. I trusted him to keep her safe but I didn’t trust him with her heart. #Ren

    She was happy. They were happy. It was written all over her face. I tried to resign myself to the fact that Ren once again was going to come out the winner. #Kishan

    When she showed me the earrings, I was shocked to see them. They were a favorite pair of my mother’s. She must have been wearing them when we went into exile. #Kishan

    The earrings must be worth a small fortune now. I wasn’t surprised that Ren had given them to Kelsey. I was only disappointed I hadn’t thought of it first. #Kishan

    I loved my mother but she and Kishan had a special relationship. They spent more time together and I was often out with my father. Perhaps I should have let him keep the earrings. #Ren

    I asked Kelsey to dance and Ren bristled defensively. His tiger rippled just under the skin. Perhaps the poet had grown a backbone. #Kishan

    Leaving the lovebirds to their courting, I headed back to Kelsey’s house happy with the fact that at least I’d gotten under my cool, calm, and collected brother’s skin. #Kishan

    Kelsey tried to reassure me that it was me she loved not Kishan but all I could picture was how easily he’d stolen Yesubai away. #Ren

    Kishan had a charm about him that women seemed to find irresistible. The more moody and brooding he was, the more mother’s widow women plied him with sweets. #Ren

    I would not allow what happened with Yesubai to happen again. Kishan needed to understand that Kelsey was mine. #Ren

    When Kelsey said she felt sorry for Kishan, I groaned inwardly. He’d try to twist her sympathy for him and manipulate her emotions. #Ren

    Kells pulled me close, reminding me that Valentine’s Day is the time to express our commitment and devotion to each other. I didn’t think about Kishan again until we got home. #Ren

    How long was he going to stand outside rubbing it in my face? He knew I could hear them. If it wouldn’t upset Kelsey, I throw open the door and punch the jerk in the face. #Kishan

    In fact, after standing outside the door with Kelsey wrapped in my arms, I forgot I even had a brother until my tiger hearing picked up his quiet but snide sarcastic comments. #Ren

    Kishan had wasted no time settling himself in at Kelsey’s house. Every bag of food in her cupboards was opened and mostly consumed. Including the cookies she’d made me. #Ren

    The moment Kells headed upstairs, he lit into me. Like it wasn’t bad enough he got the girl, apparently he thought the home and all the food in it belonged to him too. #Kishan

    His Lord of the Manor attitude set me off. Ignoring him, I let the tiger take over and headed outside to do a perimeter check. #Kishan

    When he left I swallowed my anger and let gratitude for my brother slowly replace my jealousy. I reminded myself that he was here to protect Kelsey and I needed him. #Ren

    Kelsey brought up our physical relationship, something I was hesitant to talk about. I knew we needed to get everything out in the open but I was afraid to hear her response. #Ren

    Kadam had very specifically cautioned us before I left India. He said it was imperative that we proceed in a manner appropriate to our upbringing regarding our relationships. #Ren

    Then, just in case we misunderstood, he clarified his meaning, saying that we should keep our hands and/or claws to ourselves until the curse was lifted. #Ren

    She asked if I would wait for her. I’d been waiting for Kelsey for hundreds of years and if I had to wait hundreds more, I’d consider the time well spent. #Ren

    Kadam told her too much. It wasn’t even my idea to break into the Queen’s Bath. Once we agreed it inevitably became a competition with Kishan. A competition I won. #Ren

    I’d have to intercept Kishan before she asked more questions about it. No doubt he would relish explaining exactly what happened at the Queen’s Bath. #Ren

    I was surprised to see Ren’s white hide flash between the trees and he soon caught up to me. We slunk through the cold forest for hours but I tracked nothing but rodents. #Kishan

    When we got back to the house, he told me to rest while he put in a few more hours. He actually thanked me for coming, apologized, and said I could eat whatever I wanted. #Kishan

    He didn’t return until the early morning and then shoved his nose in my face where I dozed before leaping up the stairs to Kelsey’s room #Kishan

    The next morning over breakfast, a smiling Kelsey asked me about what happened at the Queen’s Bath. Ren hunched over his meal, scowling. #Kishan

    I told her nothing much occurred. With my luck she’d probably admire the fact that he arrived first. By the time I stumbled in Ren was surrounded by very needy, beautiful women. #Kishan

    Watching Ren attempt to train Kelsey in self-defense without throwing up or outright beating him down was a major achievement for me. #Kishan

    They were like two little birds fluttering around each other, darting in for a peck now and then. At any time I could have grabbed both of them and smacked their heads together. #Kishan

    At least Kelsey had some common sense. I was clearly the better fighter and would be a much better teacher than Ren. Of course he intervened the moment I touched her. #Kishan

    Kishan was right. I wasn’t thinking clearly regarding Kelsey. It made sense for him to train her. He was the best fighter Kadam ever taught. I had to tamp down my jealousy. #Ren

    Kelsey’s a natural. She seems to instinctively know how to move, even against a stronger opponent. To see her take Kishan down was one of the best moments of my life. #Ren

    I was so delighted over Kelsey beating Kishan that I didn’t notice she’d been hurt until she staggered against me. #Ren

    She kept insisting she was fine but the bump on her head swelled despite the ice and I worried about a possible concussion. Her injury was a reminder of how fragile and mortal she was. #Ren

    I can’t even describe the levels of panic I felt over her. How easy it would be for someone to hurt her, to snuff out her life. Even punching Kishan didn’t take away the worry. #Ren

    Despite my fears and Kishan’s flagrant disregard for my feelings, we continued to train Kelsey, but every time she fell I cringed. Every time he bested her was a rock in my gut. #Ren

    I tried to keep my panic hidden from her but I confided in Kishan who assured me we were doing the right thing in teaching her, in fact, he advocated to extend her training. #Ren

    Kelsey was doing well for a mortal girl but I knew if Lokesh made an appearance she’d get taken down almost immediately. Ren is so anxious about her he can barely function. #Kishan

    Ren insisted on patrolling every night even though he had school. I could at least nap during the day or when he was with Kelsey but he was hardly sleeping. #Kishan

    I called Kadam to discuss the situation and he suggested that forming an evacuation plan might help. Ren did relax a bit more but his concern bordered on obsession. #Kishan

    Kishan thinks I’m overreacting but something’s coming. I can feel it rippling under my skin. We’re in danger. Kelsey’s in danger. No matter what, I will not lose her again. #Ren

    After a training session, I handed Kelsey a bottle of water and turned to find Ren fast asleep. Deciding to let him rest, we sat together, backs against the wall and talked. #Kishan

    Kelsey has a strength that Ren doesn’t seem to see. Her determination and drive is impressive. It’s a rare trait and I find that the more I learn about her the more I like her. #Kishan

    I’d rather have a physically weak soldier with a strong will than an untrustworthy and cowardly one. I could easily imagine Kelsey protecting my back and fighting alongside me. #Kishan

    In many ways, she reminded me of my mother. Kelsey was kind, clever, brave, a quick study, and absolutely loyal. Her only downfall was her absolute devotion to my brother. #Kishan

    I’m not sure Ren even knows how fortunate he is to have found her. Kelsey has accepted who and what we are and offers understanding and love without reservation. #Kishan

    I think of Yesubai often and wonder if the feelings I’ve carried with me these centuries were more imagined than real. Her ghost still haunts me but Kelsey makes me wish for more. #Kishan

    Is it even possible that there could be another person out there for me? Someone that could find in me what Kelsey seems to see in Ren? Perhaps my chance for that has passed. #Kishan

    I was awake for the last part of their conversation. I sympathize with Kishan but not enough to hand over my girl to him. Is it possible he would betray me again? #Ren

    When Kelsey suggested a beach trip, I immediately said no. Kishan, however, agreed. Seeing the way he looked at her when she hugged him put me in a dark mood. #Ren

    When Kishan tried to jump into the front seat with her, I sunk my claws into his back and leapt over him tearing open his flesh as I did. Hopefully, he got the message. #Ren

    Once we arrived and Kelsey left us to change, I growled a warning before changing and dressed quickly to meet her. He took his time to follow. A wise choice. #Ren

    I scanned the store the minute I walked in, scenting for danger. A clerk was eyeballing Kelsey and I was keyed up enough to sink my teeth into his leg if I’d been in tiger form. #Ren

    Kelsey was friendly with Kishan who was acting reserved for a change. He even subtly moved aside when she pointed out ice cream flavors he might like. #Ren

    I’ve never seen Ren act like this before. I know he doesn’t trust me but I can’t change the past. The truth was that Yesubai’s death should have affected me more than him. #Kishan

    I know he’s worried about more than just me. He thinks Lokesh is going to kill her like he did his daughter. I’d sacrifice myself before I allowed something like that to happen again. #Kishan

    When I mentioned the sales clerk making eyes at her, she didn’t believe me. How could she not be aware of how beautiful she was? #Ren

    I rolled my eyes when Ren waxed poetic about what flavor ice cream he was going to pick. It must’ve killed him not to hear himself talk for three hundred years in tiger form. #Kishan

    Besides, Kelsey smelled much better than the ice cream. Her scent was richer, deeper. I realized at that moment I was dangerously close sticking my nose in her hair. #Kishan

    Ren climbed into the front again on the way to the beach. The confidence he exuded when he reached for her hand across the seat was irritating. I scowled for the rest of the drive. #Kishan

    He shoved the blanket and the wood towards me so he could keep his arm around Kelsey’s shoulder. I grit my teeth and followed the lovebirds out to the beach. #Kishan

    The setting was beautiful. It was perfectly, breathtakingly romantic. The only problem was having my brother tag along. #Ren

    Kishan looked at Kelsey like she was a fresh bowl of cream set out just for him. We were about ready to come to blows when she brought up the subject of training. #Ren

    Soon we were having a heated conversation about martial arts and fighting technique. It irked me that Kishan was more knowledgeable than I was. #Ren

    Needing to put some distance between me and my brother, I asked Kelsey to walk with me. Away from Kishan I was able to relax and just enjoy being with her. #Ren

    I was enjoying my time with Kelsey so much that I nearly forgot Kishan was there. She gently reminded me that he’d been alone too long. #Ren

    I knew that she was talking about more than just the time we’d left him alone on the beach. She was right, as usual. Mending my relationship with Kishan would require effort. #Ren

    When I challenged him to a race, I saw a familiar gleam in his eye. I was happy with my gesture until he suggested the winner got to kiss Kelsey. #Ren

    In suggesting a kiss for a prize, I’d only been trying to illicit a response from Ren, to show Kelsey how controlling and paranoid he really was. #Kishan

    Despite his gentlemanly behavior on the outside, I could see the animal lurking within. If there was one thing I knew, it was that I made a much more intimidating beast than him. #Kishan

    He must’ve been desperate to win. And he nearly did. I had to cheat to beat him. He’d never cared enough to even attempt to best me before. #Kishan

    Cheating wasn’t something our mother would have condoned but sometimes it’s necessary to get what you want. Clearly, I wanted to win more than Ren. Perhaps that meant something.  #Kishan

    She kissed me on the cheek and I was going to let it go at that but I wanted to teach him a lesson. Whether it was getting the girl or keeping her safe, the end justified the means. #Kishan

    When he grabbed her and forced her to endure his kiss, I went crazy. The only thing that prevented me from attacking immediately was the fact that he held Kelsey in his arms. #Ren

    I was seething with rage. He needed to learn a lesson and that was that he would never, NEVER take what was mine again. I would kill him first. #Ren

    The man who attacked me was a far cry from the sad, pathetic version of him when he’d been in India. Being with Kelsey seemed to bring out the best and the worst in him. #Kishan

    Luckily for me, he was really no match for my skills. Otherwise, I think he would have actually hurt me. #Kishan

    The anger was quickly spent when I realized I was wasting my time fighting with my brother when what I really wanted was to be with the girl I loved. I’d teach him his lesson later. #Ren

    Ren couldn’t help bringing up the fact that Kelsey’s foster family would be safe. Of course he conveniently forgot to mention it had been my idea. #Kishan

    I had advocated the leave immediately plan but Ren thought returning to the house held little risk. He was wrong. The scent of strangers was redolent on the property. #Kishan

    At least Kishan held back his opinion until we got into the house. He acted like I wanted to put Kelsey at risk. Whoever was in the house was clearly gone. #Ren

    We’d planned for every contingency. It was very unlikely any spies would be able best both me and Kishan even if they happened upon us. #Ren

    He accused me of putting her at risk just because I was too prideful to acknowledge he’d been right. It wasn’t that. Well…I guess a part of it was. #Ren

    At the heart of it though I didn’t want her to worry. I thought if she knew exactly how much danger we’d put her in. She’d walk away. I feared that more than anything. #Ren

    He wouldn’t hear me out as usual. I insisted that the minute Kelsey changed we head out the back towards the truck to buy us some time. #Kishan

    Kishan insisted the house was being watched. I didn’t sense anything but he was better at knowing those things than I was. I tapped my foot impatiently, waiting for Kells. #Ren

    There was no talking Kishan into taking the Hummer. He wasn’t as familiar with driving as I was. Stalking through the underbrush felt safer to him. #Ren

    I knew I’d have to help Kelsey. If there was anyone out there, she’d make noise. She didn’t know how to move soundlessly like we did. #Ren

    Ren handed me weapons. They were of modern construction and though I’d trained in their use with Kadam I still preferred my old sword. #Kishan

    We’d only been in the forest a few minutes when we both realized we had a hunter on our tails despite our efforts to be silent. We decided to run. #Ren

    It wasn’t long before I heard Kishan’s quiet curse. Our pursuer had been driving us like cattle and we’d played right into his hands. Kishan attacked. #Ren

    I kept Kelsey close to me but still kept an eye on my brother to see if he needed help. He didn’t. To watch him in action always caused me to feel both jealous and proud. #Ren

    Once he got Kelsey out of the way, I turned to face the mob. I didn’t expect Ren to come back. It was stupid that he did but a part of me was grateful just the same. #Kishan

    We dispatched the first wave with only some minor scrapes that quickly healed. They had been no match for us. It was too easy and that made me nervous. #Kishan

    I closed my eyes and listened. The forest was quiet. Too quiet. There were others. It was just a matter of time until they found us. I told Kelsey we needed to move. #Kishan

    Kishan recognized the sound before me. He had been shot at with darts but he’d never been hit before. I, unfortunately, had plenty of experience with them. #Ren

    It was time to throw them off. They were hunting people. Now I was going to give them something else to hunt. I tossed Ren my weapon and morphed into tiger form. #Kishan

    The plan was for me to distract them while Ren got Kelsey to the truck. When I came upon the first group and leapt out of the trees they were unsurprised to see me. #Kishan

    The fact that they were expecting us as tigers was disconcerting. I dispatched a half dozen men and dove into the underbrush seeking another group. #Kishan

    There were men everywhere. I led off as many as I could and headed back to Ren and Kelsey. We were not far from the truck when we were ambushed again. #Kishan

    Everything had conspired against us. Only Lokesh could have been this prepared. When they dove from the trees I fully expected him to make an appearance. #Ren

    I went ballistic when they took Kelsey. After switching to a tiger, I tore through them with teeth and claws, feeling not a drop of mercy for those I killed. #Ren

    I’d never seen Ren so enraged. There was a point where I thought we were winning. I answered Ren’s triumphant roar with one of my own. #Kishan

    I’d just incapacitated two men at once when a third came from behind and jabbed me with something that hurt worse than a thousand knives. #Kishan

    My tongue swelled and my fur stood on end. My limb seized and it was all I could do to remain upright as my muscles healed from the strike. #Kishan

    Fortunately for me, my body healed quickly. Unfortunately for my attacker, he wasn’t much of a fighter without his lightning stick. I left his broken form and moved on. #Kishan

    The taste of blood filled my mouth. It was sticky, sweet, and abhorrent but I relished the taste knowing each man I killed made Kelsey that much safer. #Ren

    Ren roared in frustration as man after man came between him and Kelsey. I tried to get around those I fought to get to her myself but there were just too many. #Kishan

    As I leapt in the air to take down another enemy fighter, I saw Kelsey fight off her captors. I was so proud I would have screamed a war cry if I was in human form. #Kishan

    I saw Kelsey go limp and nearly fall as she was struck by the man holding her. I vowed in that moment to tear his limbs from his torso just before eviscerating him. #Ren

    I had nearly made my way to Kelsey. Only two men blocked my path when dozens of fresh fighters poured out from the trees. #Kishan

    The new soldiers brought dart guns. One hit. Kelsey was suddenly at my side, free from those holding her. I changed to human form and shielded her with my body. #Ren

    More darts hit. I could feel the effects. I could barely move my leg. Though my body fought it off, I knew that it would only take a few more to render me unconscious. #Ren

    I was going down. I could feel it. I was surrounded by dead bodies and the ground was slick with blood. I staggered as I tried to calculate the number of men in the trees. #Ren

    I wasn’t sure how many darts Kishan had taken but those with guns hadn’t surrounded us yet. It was possible he hadn’t yet been hit. #Ren

    We’d dispatched nearly all the soldiers who’d been brave enough to take on a tiger in hand to claw combat. As I took care of the last few, I saw the second wave waiting. #Kishan

    Something happened. I wasn’t sure what it was at first. All I saw was fire and screaming. I thought Kelsey had been hit that they were using a flamethrower on her. #Kishan

    Forcing my eyes to open, I thought for a moment that I’d died. A beautiful fiery goddess stood before me exorcizing her wrath upon our enemies. #Ren

    When I blinked and staggered to my feet I realized that the goddess was Kelsey. A dart hit her arm and then a second. She fell into my arms as men charged. #Ren

    Ren took out two fighters while holding Kelsey even though his torso was impaled with darts. I’d been hit only once and my shoulder was still numb. #Kishan

    Ren spun and I knew what he wanted before he even said anything. He kissed her as I changed. I reached for Kelsey as he nodded his thanks. #Kishan

    Giving Kelsey to my brother was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do but I knew it was the only way. I needed her to be safe no matter the cost. #Ren

    My body was so numb I could even feel my lips as I pressed a kiss against her cheek. I wondered if that was going to be the last time I’d ever see her. #Ren

    Leaving my brother behind was the hardest thing I ever had to do but I knew if our roles were reversed, I’d want the same thing. #Kishan

    I winced when I heard his roar. In it I heard all the sorrow, frustration, and anger a man could have. He didn’t deserve to go out like that. #Kishan

    Kelsey was out before I even made it to the truck. I whispered a prayer of thanks that they hadn’t discovered it. We’d finally caught a break. #Kishan

    Kishan called and I knew before he’d even said anything that disaster had struck. All of our careful preparations had been for nothing. We’d lost Ren. #Nilima

    When he carried her aboard my heart broke for her anew. Kishan’s body was burning off the tranquilizer but even he staggered and collapsed on a bed. #Nilima

    While they slept, I called Kadam. Lokesh had surprised us. We weren’t ready. We promised each other that we wouldn’t be caught so unawares again. #Nilima

    I hung up the phone and then threw it against the wall. I’d failed my prince. He’d been captured, perhaps even killed. How could I have misjudged Lokesh again? #MrKadam

    I woke to find Nilima seated next to Kelsey. She squeezed her fingers with one hand and bit her perfectly manicured nails on the other. #Kishan

    Kelsey’s breathing was deep and even. Taking her wrist, I felt her pulse & found it strong and steady. We were lucky. One too many darts, & we might’ve lost her too. #Kishan

    I felt the pull and knew I need to take tiger form. I’d used up most of my time at the beach. What a waste. I hoped to be able to talk to her when she woke. #Kishan

    Finally she started coming around. I tried to get her to drink but she seemed disoriented. I motioned Kishan to come help. I thought his presence might comfort her. #Nilima

    It broke my heart when she called for Ren. She didn’t seem to remember leaving him. Turned out I was a poor substitute for what she needed. #Kishan

    Despite Nilima’s thought that I’d help, it seemed I was only a reminder of what she’d lost. She probably blamed me for leaving him. I’d blame me if I was her. #Kishan

    The last thing I remembered after Kishan left was being surrounded. My eyes grew heavy and though I lashed out with my claws I wasn’t sure I actually hit anything. #Ren

    I didn’t dream. I felt pain. Jostling. Anytime I fought my way to consciousness, I felt a series of pinpricks between my shoulder blades. #Ren

    I had kept myself busy taking care of Kelsey but after she woke and began crying, I felt the weight of grief crush down on me. Tears filled my eyes. #Nilima

    Somehow I found a few stolen moments and shifted to human form. I tried to explain that we’d had no other choice but she had a hard time accepting it. #Kishan

    She wasn’t the only one who found leaving Ren difficult. I constantly ran through scenarios trying to figure out how we could have done it differently. #Kishan

    I told her that I believed he was still alive. I wasn’t lying. If Lokesh had wanted simply to kill us, he could have set off a bomb. No. He wanted us as prisoners, not dead. #Kishan

    Kelsey thought Lokesh would trade Ren for the amulet. I knew the idea had no merit. He wanted the amulet alright. But he also wanted revenge. #Kishan

    Lokesh meant to teach us a lesson. We’d eluded him. Yesubai had been right to fear her father. He was monstrous & much more powerful than we believed. #Kishan

    I told Kelsey about how we’d barely gotten on board when carloads of guys pulled up at the airport. They tried to flag us down but Nilima was ready. #Kishan

    I held her while she cried for Ren. She was so small and fragile. She trembled in my arms. I told her we’d find him but I knew it would be a hard promise to keep. #Kishan

    I kept trying to bring Kelsey dinner or at least something to drink but Kishan waved me away each time. When I tried a fourth time, he finally nodded. #Nilima

    When my shirt was thoroughly drenched and the pull of the tiger became unbearable, I hugged her soft form close one last time & wiped the tears from her eyes. #Kishan

    Her heart was breaking and yet there was a core of strength there that still shone through. Kelsey’s unshakable hope was something I clung to though she didn’t know it. #Kishan

    Nilima called me from the plane. I was monitoring all flights in and out of Oregon, checking for any connection that might end in India. #MrKadam

    As much as I wanted to give Miss Kelsey good news when she landed, I had found nothing. My failure plagued me but I vowed not to give up on Ren. #MrKadam

    When Miss Kelsey asked if Ren could still transform while captured I was stunned at the thought. Why had we never tested that before? #MrKadam

    Kadam wanted to test me to see if I could transform while captured so I entered the never before used cages he’d installed outside. #Kishan

    The cages were for appearances only. If anyone ever visited and saw a tiger, Kadam could inform them that we had the proper facilities to house big cats.#Kishan

    Kishan went into the cage and I locked it. He proceeded to transform before my eyes. I sighed knowing we would be unable to test the theory fully & let him out. #MrKadam

    It was possible the limitations on Ren only applied to actual captivity or it could be Ren specific but I held the theory that finding Miss Kelsey had done away with it. #MrKadam

    Kelsey put her hands on the bars of the cage and gave me a sad smile. I knew she was thinking about Ren. I wrapped my hands around hers & just stood there with her. #Kishan

    Seeing that Kishan and Miss Kelsey needed a moment, I pressed the key into her hand and headed back to the house. #MrKadam

    As we stood quietly together, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if it had been me she’d met in the cage at the circus. #Kishan

    Would we have been a couple by now? There’s no way I would have handled things as badly as Ren had. First of all, I wouldn’t have let her leave India. #Kishan

    And there’s no way I would have sat idly by and let three other guys come sniffing around her. I would have tracked them down and told them how things were. #Kishan

    I went outside to call Kishan and Kelsey in for tea and saw the way he was looking at her. She didn’t seem to notice but it was obvious to me. #Nilima

    When I shared my observations with Kadam he listened in the way he does like he’s analyzing every word and then told me he already knew of Kishan’s feelings. #Nilima

    Miss Kelsey asked me to train her. I’d already been planning to suggest something but not at the level she wanted. #MrKadam

    I assessed her form as I would any student. She was soft and young but she had a warrior’s gleam in her eye. I’d often found that quality the most important. #MrKadam

    Kadam asked me to come up with a training regimen for Kells. When I suggested some hand to hand work, he raised an eyebrow. A flush crept up my neck. #Kishan

    Kelsey told me of her new power. I didn’t share with her how it concerned me. Did Lokesh know of this? If he hadn’t before, he did now. #MrKadam

    What she described was nothing like the powers I’d seen Lokesh use. Perhaps it was what made her the chosen one destined to save the brothers. #MrKadam

    The more she talked the more I recalled an ancient story, a myth, of the goddess Durga. A particular phrase regarding a “countenance like lightning” came to mind. #MrKadam

    I’d have to research some texts regarding lightning abilities. Perhaps something I’d find would explain what was going on and lead to answers. #MrKadam

    I was both happy and sad to hear of her love for Prince Dhiren. His feelings for her had been quite obvious to me. I must find a way to bring them together again. #MrKadam

    Even though I wasn’t nearby, I heard Kelsey’s declaration of her love for my brother. I already knew how she felt, of course, but hearing her say it was tough to swallow. #Kishan

    Did Ren even know how lucky he was? He had someone willing to walk through fire just to be with him. I’d thought Yesubai felt the same but now I wasn’t so sure. #Kishan

    I found Miss Kelsey’s concern regarding Ren dating outside of his culture charming. She felt deeply and had a sensitive nature about others. #MrKadam

    It was what made her perfect for Ren. It was all too easy to picture her as his queen. She had a lot in common with Deschen in fact, the same fire lit her eyes. #MrKadam

    At the same time, her heart was kind and she always considered others before herself. I imagined this was why the princes gravitated towards her. She loved easily. #MrKadam

    Kadam wants to train her. Do they plan to send that slip of a girl into battle? They ask too much, I think. I worry they’re going to push her to the breaking point. #Nilima

    I assured her that Ren couldn’t hope to find anyone who loved him more or was willing to risk as much. It wasn’t a lie. Miss Kelsey was a woman to admire. #MrKadam

    I lost track of time telling Miss Kelsey about Ren’s grandfather. How could so many years have passed and yet I remember my life from before as if it was yesterday? #MrKadam

    I brought in refreshments for Kelsey and Kadam and found him waxing nostalgic about the past, something he did often. To her credit, Kelsey paid close attention. #Nilima

    The first day I met Deschen, I was smitten by her beauty. When I discovered her ability to wield a sword, I thought there would never be a more perfect woman. #MrKadam

    Rajaram was just as smitten as I was and soon I realized every soldier in the kingdom felt the same way. We all were lovesick over our new princess. #MrKadam

    We all would have given our lives for her had it been necessary. I often wondered if I’d ever find a woman I could admire as much as her. #MrKadam

    Fortunately I did, and I was briefly lost in the memories of my dear wife. She was a quiet, peaceful woman but there was a strength in her I prized. #MrKadam

    The love I felt for Deschen changed over the years, morphing into a deep love and respect for the entire Rajaram family. Especially concerning the young princes. #MrKadam

    I’d never heard the story of how Ren and Kishan came to Kadam first as tigers. Something about Miss Kelsey made him open up and share things he never used to. #Nilima

    I can’t imagine what it must have been like, trying to convince the royal family that their sons now lived under a curse. How heartbroken Deschen must’ve been. #Nilima

    When Rajaram saw his boys as tigers, he was shocked to the point of inaction. It was his wife who rallied quickly and began making plans. #MrKadam

    Everything changed for Rajaram then. He lost everything. His throne. His kingdom. His plans for the future. He would have killed Lokesh if he could. #MrKadam

    The curse affected all of them certainly, but Rajaram never recovered. He was happy with his family but I always believed he departed this life too quickly. #MrKadam

    Rank, filthy water was thrown on me. I was so exhausted I didn’t even know if I was in human form or my tiger form. How could they be at it again so soon? #Ren

    Rolling over, I tried to fall back asleep. I’d been dreaming of Kelsey. Her arms wrapped around me her fingertips stroking my neck. #Ren

    Kelsey’s soft touch burned. I jerked awake hearing the sizzle of my own skin. A fiery brand was pulled through the bars of the cage as voices in the darkness laughed. #Ren

    How could I begin to describe to Kelsey the guilt I felt over leaving Kishan in the jungle? I’d been entrusted to care for the princes but I left him. #MrKadam

    Certainly Kishan understood and encouraged me to leave but my failed attempts to rescue his brother made me question my abilities. #MrKadam

    That I married and had a family while Ren was in captivity and the brothers remained cursed was another guilt I carried for a long time. #MrKadam

    When Ren and Kishan returned, we talked about this. The princes not only understood but insisted I’d made the right choice in trying to have a life. #MrKadam

    That’s why when I learned of Ren’s love for Kelsey, I encouraged him to do everything he could to live and love as fully as he was able. #MrKadam

    Perhaps I had failed Ren in the past but I would not fail him again. We would recover him & I’d do my best to prepare Miss Kelsey for what lay ahead. #MrKadam

    I spoke with Kishan about training Miss Kelsey and asked for his help. He was the better fighter of the two princes & I’d grown old despite the amulet. #MrKadam

    Training Miss Kelsey reminded me of training with Deschen, even though their initial skill levels were very different. #MrKadam

    How do I teach a girl of the modern age the importance of fighting to kill? Could she bring herself to do it? Did I really want her to? I knew it would change her. #MrKadam

    She kept to herself after training and during dinner. I wanted to talk to her but it didn’t feel right to interrupt especially when she went into Ren’s room. #Kishan

    I paced outside his door wondering if she needed me. Was she hurting? Crying? How could I tell her I’d be there for her without seeming intrusive? #Kishan

    Even when she returned to her room, I stood outside for several long minutes mustering the courage to knock. When had I become so nervous around women? #Kishan

    I finally managed to knock and found her in better spirits than I imagined. I knew it helped to have a goal. Kadam had been able to give her that. #Kishan

    I wanted to tell her that I knew how she felt. That I’d spent long years pining for someone I’d lost but when the moment arrived, I couldn’t give voice to my thoughts. #Kishan

    Instead I fixated on the glassy-eyed replica of Ren and wondered if the tangible reminder would ease her pain or prolong it. #Kishan

    I knew Lokesh. He was a man without mercy. He’d find a way to torture, if not kill Ren. Despite this, and the unlikelihood of success, I assured her we’d find him. #Kishan

    She asked what Bilauta meant. She thought it was because I deemed her soft. It wasn’t the reason. I called her kitten because of her claws. Kelsey was tough. #Kishan

    Not even removing his heart could kill him. His…longevity is fascinating and he doesn’t even wear the amulet. I think more experimentation is warranted. #Lokesh

    He calls out to her in his dreams. I wonder if his strength comes from their bond or if the amulet’s power can be gifted to another in that manner. #Lokesh

    I jerked awake, gasping, as if I’d been underwater and hadn’t breathed in hours. My body hurt, everywhere. And my chest…was whole. He’d torn it open. #Ren

    I could have sworn I’d heard Kelsey’s voice. Obviously I was delusional. I grabbed the bucket of water. It was rank but I didn’t care. I swallowed every last drop. #Ren

    I held out no hope of rescue. He’d already had me moved at least three times already and those were only the times I’d been aware of. #Ren

    I smelled jungle now, but the days, the weeks bled together in a never ending pattern of fiery pain bookended by bouts of mental insensibility and unconsciousness. #Ren

    Kelsey seems to feel more comfortable being around me when I’m in tiger form than when I’m a man. She treats me a bit like a pampered pet. #Kishan

    Normally, I’d chafe at such a thing but, there are certain perks that I get as a tiger, like the absent-minded stroking of my ears or neck, or the warmth of her nearness. #Kishan

    I could comfort her as a tiger in ways she wouldn’t allow me to as a man. When she cried, I’d transform so she could wrap her arms around me and weep into my fur. #Kishan

    She also liked talking to me as a tiger and I found she opened up to me much more frequently when I sat unblinking at her feet, tail twitching. #Kishan

    I half listened to the prophecy as Kelsey and Kadam speculated about this or that bit of text. Books were Ren’s thing, not mine. #Kishan 

    Looking back, I regretted not going on the quest to Kishkindha when Kelsey asked. If I had, I’d be more prepared now. #Kishan 

    As much as I enjoyed discussing various aspects of the prophecy with Miss Kelsey, the fact that I was endangering her was always on my mind. #MrKadam 

     Kells got that far away look in her eyes that meant she was thinking of Ren. I wished more than anything that I could take away her sadness. #Kishan 

    They both got excited over some piece of the puzzle they’d discovered. Frankly, all the talk made me want to curl up in the sun to take a nap. #Kishan 

     Kadam worried that seeking Durga’s help again in the temple wouldn’t work without Ren. I was a part of this too wasn’t I? I guess it’s time to prove it. #Kishan 

     When Kelsey suggested I might prefer to stay home, I pretty much lost it. Is that what she thinks of me? That I take the easy way out? That I’m a coward? #Kishan

    Of course she does. I refused to go on the quest before and never told her why. Back then I didn’t want to break the curse. I deserved what happened. #Kishan

    Kishan chafed at the idea that he might not be as willing to go into battle with Kelsey as Ren. If anyone leapt at the opportunity to prove himself, it was Kishan. #MrKadam

    Both Ren and I understood why he’d distanced himself. He blamed himself for Yesubai. He wouldn’t allow himself a fragment of happiness because of it. #MrKadam

     The truth is that Miss Kelsey brought him back to life. Even if we accomplished nothing else, at least I had my princes, my…sons with me again. #MrKadam 

     And I would have them both back. We’d find Ren. I knew it in my soul. This was not the end of his life but the beginning. We would rescue him. #MrKadam

    It was pleasing to watch Kelsey working in the dojo on the moves I’d taught her last. This was my girl. The bookworm version of her belonged to Ren. #Kishan

    My girl was a fighter and it felt like the more I could hone her skills, the safer she’d be. Ren might have started this progression but I was going to finish it. #Kishan

    When the workout was over, she looked at me and lowered her water bottle. I wondered if she could read all the feelings she’d awakened in my heart. #Kishan

    Instead of stroking her face and kissing her like I wanted to, I chucked her under the chin and said something stupid like, “Good workout. You do me proud.” #Kishan

    It was almost unbearable to watch her leave. I wanted to spend more time with her, so I tossed her over my shoulder like a barbarian would and carried her off. #Kishan

    Kadam had said I didn’t need to help with her afternoon practice but I had to see what she was capable of. What I saw was awe inspiring. #Kishan

    When Miss Kelsey obliterated the hay bale, I had to work to control my surprise. In truth I was a bit frightened by what she could do and what it might mean. #MrKadam

    She was worried about hurting Kishan but both of us knew that there was very little that could hurt him at least physically. #MrKadam 

    Short of removing his head, something I vehemently refused to do, Kishan appeared to be indestructible. He’d tested his healing ability despite my protests. #MrKadam 

    Kelsey kept herself busy enough that her dark worries about Ren only surfaced at night. Even then, most nights she was too tired to dream. #Kishan 

    I dreamt of Kelsey again. In it, she was calling my name and searching for me. What scared me the most was the possibility that the dream could be real. #Ren 

    Thinking of her was what kept me sane. In my weak times I longed to be rescued. To lay my head in her lap and take comfort in just being near her again. #Ren 

     But then I remembered what Lokesh was capable of. As much as I wanted to see her again, the last thing I wanted was for her to be taken prisoner. #Ren 

    Miss Kelsey finished her classes and then filled her remaining hours with research and training. She slept only fitfully and wasn’t eating well. #MrKadam 

    Kishan has watched over her and admitted that he fears for her health. We must find something else for her to focus on. She needs to feel as if she is making progress. #MrKadam 

    Kelsey! I woke up in a cold sweat. In my dream she’d been standing at the bars of my cage. Lokesh was behind her but she didn’t see him. #Ren 

    I knew her. She was stubborn enough to risk herself for me. I could only hope that Kishan and Kadam would be sensible enough to keep her far, far away from this. #Ren 

    What was I thinking? I wasn’t, I suppose. Kelsey caught me with my guard down. I’d just woken from a very nice dream about her when she suddenly appeared. #Kishan 

    I started running my mouth off about Yesubai. I’d intended to tell Kelsey that I wasn’t going to lose her like I did Yesubai. That I wasn’t going to make the same mistake. #Kishan 

    I’d wanted to say that if I’d known there was someone like Kelsey in my future I would have made different choices. I was a different man now than I’d been back then. #Kishan 

    In hindsight, Yesubai would have made Ren a better partner. She was beautiful, demure, poised. Now I know I need someone a bit more raw around the edges. #Kishan

    Kelsey’s fighting spirit is what I admire the most. She’s brave and fierce. She reminds me of my mother in many ways. Kells wasn’t meant to be a diplomat’s bride. #Kishan

    Unfortunately Kelsey misunderstood. It wasn’t her fault. I just wasn’t as good of a smooth talker as my brother. She thought I still harbored feelings for Yesubai. #Kishan

    What I’d intended to say was that I knew what I wanted now. I had been naive concerning Lokesh’s daughter and had gone into the situation with blinders on. #Kishan

    Now the blinders were off. I’d lived a long time and had years to think about my choices. Kelsey was young and is as inexperienced as I’d been back then. #Kishan 

    Perhaps if she had enough time to think about it, she’d realize that Ren isn’t her only choice. That heading off with the first tiger she met might not be what’s best. #Kishan

    At least I felt buoyed when she admitted that she thought me sweet and charming. Perhaps there was hope for me after all. I just needed to give her time. #Kishan

    I almost laughed when she said that falling in love couldn’t be a bad choice. It absolutely could. The timing could be wrong. The feelings unechoed. #Kishan

    This time love would be purposeful. I’d be smart. Patient. Sure of the result before I moved. I’d waited centuries to find the right person. I could wait a little longer. #Kishan 

     Two things were certain. One-I’d never let my heart be so unguarded again. And two-This time my brother wasn’t going to stand between me and the girl I loved. #Kishan

    When Kelsey asked me about school and dating, I paused for a heartbeat and thought through all the possible outcomes. Then I took a bold step and told her how I felt. #Kishan 

    It became quickly obvious that she had never thought of me in that way. I backpedaled and muttered something about Ren winning as usual. That’s when she hugged me. #Kishan 

    I hadn’t planned to draw out the hug but once she was in my arms, it felt so right and so perfect that I had a hard time bringing myself to let her go. #Kishan 

    By the time she extricated herself and started going on about how dateable I was, I felt disgusted with myself and could only wonder why I ever left the jungle. #Kishan 

    Then she tugged on her braid nervously and talked about my being a hero. If only she really saw me that way. The truth was I’d do anything for her. #Kishan 

    I left her with the phrase “let’s be friends” running on repeat in my head. I tried to drum it out by taking tiger form and hunting but the game, like Kells, eluded me. #Kishan 

    I’d gotten to know the black tiger pretty well in the last months and I’d never seen him so melancholy. The long looks he gave Kelsey were part of the reason I suspect. #Nilima 

    Miss Kelsey was getting stronger but she was nowhere near the level she’d need to be to face Lokesh and the trials awaiting her. #MrKadam 

    In truth no amount of preparation would make me feel entirely comfortable sending her off on her own. The worry over her plagued me constantly. #MrKadam 

    The only thing that gave me pause in considering continuing the quest was her newfound lightning ability. She’d been blessed by the gods. The question now was why? #MrKadam 

    Kadam wasn’t sleeping. Neither was I for that matter. Nilima gave us the evil eye every time she caught us awake late at night pouring over research. #Kishan 

    Perhaps I had over prepared. Miss Kelsey teased me about all the packages for our upcoming trip. I knew gloves and coats would do little to protect her. #MrKadam

    And yet, being as ready as possible for any contingency was the only thing I could control and I refused to do less than my best regarding Miss Kelsey. #MrKadam

    When I found the reference to Shangri-la I couldn’t wait to show her. Kishan was less than interested. Though, to be fair, I had gone on about it for several hours. #MrKadam

    I caught Kadam giving me strange searching looks as he planned the trip. Was he trying to tell me something? Did he not want me along? #Kishan

    Maybe he didn’t want me to go for some obscure prophecy type reason. There was no way I’d let Kelsey go on her own. How could he even think it? #Kishan

    Knowing that Shangri-la was supposed to be a paradise should have offered me some consolation but I was too much of a pragmatist to deceive myself. #MrKadam

    Kelsey mentioned seeing the quest through to the end for my sake even if we couldn’t save Ren. That was not something I’d ever allow. Her life wasn’t worth the risk. #Kishan

    Being a tiger for half my life didn’t bother me as much as it did Ren. Now that I could take human form part of the time, I was content with my lot. #Kishan

    Actually, the idea of eradicating the tiger half of me completely left me a little uncomfortable. The black tiger was a part of me. It would difficult to let him go. #Kishan

    Kelsey wasn’t entirely comfortable around me since I confessed my feelings. She’d reach out to pet me and then pull her hand away with a guilty expression. #Kishan

    I loved her and a part of her loved me back. I knew it. Who knew what the future would bring. Maybe there was a chance for us if I was bold enough to take it. #Kishan

    Miss Kelsey missed Ren terribly. I hadn’t found anything and the hours and days that passed with my attempts ending in futility ate away at me. #MrKadam 

    She bested me, actually took me down to the mat during practice. She’s picking up fighting faster than I thought a modern girl with no training would be able to. #Kishan 

    She teased me that I was getting soft like an old spoiled house cat. I loved her smile. It had been a long time since I’d seen it. #Kishan  

    Then she rushed up the stairs and asked if I was hungry but the name Ren slipped out. She froze in place and the smile was gone. #Kishan 

    Kadam didn’t like the way I packed the Jeep. In fact, he unpacked everything I’d thrown in, catalogued it and carefully repacked the entire vehicle.#Kishan 

     I knew I was annoying the prince. There was a time when I’d bark an order and he’d jump to obey. He probably thought of me as an old curmudgeon now. #MrKadam

    I just didn’t want anything out of place. Miss Kelsey’s life might depend on an item too far out of reach. We couldn’t afford to be careless. #MrKadam 

    The drive to Nepal would have set me on edge even if I wasn’t packed in with everything in the back seat. A tiger isn’t meant to be in such a tight space.#Kishan 

     At least Kelsey kept me distracted enough with stories that I was finally able to sleep, even if my muscles did cramp. #Kishan 

    By the time we got to the hotel, I was stir crazy but there was nowhere for me to go. I told Kelsey I’d sleep but I paced the room until they returned.#Kishan 

    At least I got out for dinner. I used to love the variety of dishes when I was a prince but the tiger had changed me. Vegetables and rice no longer satisfied me.#Kishan 

    I inhaled deeply when we came upon the temple but couldn’t scent anything dangerous. Not that I could really tell a human’s intentions by scent.#Kishan 

    In the jungle danger was a tickle of nerves along your spine. The smell of blood or of another predator. The smoky scent of gunpowder or metal.#Kishan 

    To protect Kelsey properly, I’d have to tap into my long dormant skills as a soldier. I’d been relying on the strength of a tiger for far too long.#Kishan 

    Kelsey asked about werewolves. I explained that a lone wolf posed absolutely no threat to a tiger. Even a pack could be taken down if the tiger was smart.#Kishan 

    I didn’t like being surrounded by so many people. Without Ren guarding our backs I felt our vulnerabilities as if we carried signs begging nefarious souls to attack.#Kishan 

    Kadam wasn’t much help. When had he gone soft? He was about as alert to our surroundings as a wizened grandmother.#Kishan 

    I put my arm around Kelsey and grimaced as Kadam went on about hats, partially to reassure her I was on duty and partially to apologize for Kadam’s scholarly lecture. #Kishan 

     She actually scowled at me. Didn’t she realize I was only protecting her? Sure. I’ll admit I liked the way she felt tucked up next to me but that wasn’t the primary reason. #Kishan 

    Finally, Kadam got down to business and we scoped out the temple and all the possible ways to enter and exit. This was the Kadam I remembered. #Kishan 

    Then I saw him turn to Kelsey. He switched easily from shrewd man-at-arms mode back to his storytelling grandfather version and I finally realized why he did it. #Kishan 

    He was protecting her in his own way. Every time he went into battle mode or spoke of Ren, Kelsey’s heartbeat raced and she wrung her hands.#Kishan 

    Boring Kelsey with little facts and stories of the past was his way of settling her nerves. It worked too. His calm reassurance gave her confidence. #Kishan 

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Climbing the steps to Durga’s temple, my main concern was if it would work with me being Ren’s substitute. All my life I’d been the second best choice.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Even if I wasn’t her first choice or Durga’s or Kadam’s, I was all Kelsey had. No matter what happened next, I’d be ready.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I knew she couldn’t see as well in the darkness so I offered my hand. I knew she was only taking it for security but I had a hard time remembering that.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I listened to Kelsey ask for the help of the goddess and it wasn’t just for Ren that she asked but for me. Kelsey was something special. Even Ren didn’t deserve her.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Kishan expressed reservations about his being a part of Miss Kelsey’s journey. Personally, I never doubted that he was supposed to be a part of it.


    #TigersQuest #MrKadam For some reason Kishan doubted himself. He never considered himself Ren’s equal though neither I nor his parents agreed with that assement.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam In fact, the only time Kishan seemed completely at ease was in battle. Self-doubt never entered his mind when he was on the field.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I never intended to share my feelings so…openly in front of Kelsey. I’m not sure if it was the magic of the place or if it was just being around her that caused it.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I took tiger form, my fur instantly bristled. Something dangerous, something magical was happening. I wanted to drag Kelsey out of there immediately.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Then I remembered it was what we’d been hoping for. I hated the feeling that I was no longer the most powerful creature in the room and nudged Kelsey towards the wall.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I knew it was bad when Kelsey knelt down next to me and hugged me close. I dug in my claws and tried to tamp down the strong desire to take her and get out.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan The temple was vastly changed after the storm. Proof of the magic Kelsey described before. Watching the goddess come to life was in indescribable experience.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan There was something strange about the tiger. He had no scent. It was…unnatural. The way he looked at me wasn’t even remotely tiger-like.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Then the goddess spoke and I was transfixed. She was more than beautiful. She was…luminous. I felt the sudden urge to kneel before her.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I wasn’t particularly zealous when it came to religion but I could have easily been converted to the worship of Durga at that moment.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When the goddess asked who I was, I immediately stepped forward and announced that I was a tiger like Ren. I don’t know why she needed to know that, she just did.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan The goddess seemed genuinely sad that Ren had been captured yet I sensed she knew more than she was telling us too.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When she handed me the diamond teardrop, we made eye contact and there was a spark of something in her gaze. In a flash it was gone.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan We were to help all of India? How exactly were we to do that? I wanted to take the goddess’ arm and wring the truth from her. I loathed subtlety.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When another person materialized in the room, my hackles rose. I’d never seen the old woman before but something was…off about her.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Something was off about the entire situation. I don’t know how Ren could handle all of this…double talk. Then again, he was the diplomatic expert in the family.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t want her to touch the fabric but she seemed unable to stop herself. It reminded me of the fairy tale Kelsey read me about the princess and the spinning wheel.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan The woman mumbled something about the fabric this and the threads that. It made no sense to me but Kelsey gave each word weighty consideration.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan The weaver woman said that Durga knew everything. I made immediate plans to take hold of her, goddess or no, and demand that she tell us what game she was playing.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan But then, when we faced her once again, she gave me look, one that told me she knew what I was thinking, that she was five or five hundred steps ahead of me.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I was going to confront her when she held out the bow. She assumed that the bow was what I was after. I narrowed my gaze at the goddess.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan That she did not, in fact, know my every thought was intriguing. Perhaps she was not as all powerful as she would have us believe.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan The wily goddess was up to something. I turned up the charm, hoping to distract her and perhaps glean more information before she disappeared.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan She gifted me with a weapon and I took her hand as she did so. I felt her pulse beneath her wrist as I kissed it. The powerful Durga was flesh and blood.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I looked up, our eyes locked and I could have sworn she wanted to tell me something. This woman had secrets. The tiger shifted and I broke eye contact.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan She sucked in a quick breath and answered Kelsey’s questions even as she turned to stone but before she did, she looked at me one last time with regret.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey seemed upset with me after the encounter and I quickly realized she thought I was flirting with the goddess. Was it possible she was jealous?

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I managed to carry a conversation with her all while I was replaying in my mind the things I’d learned from the goddess. There was much to consider.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I felt eyes watching us from the shadows of the temple and couldn’t get Kelsey out of there fast enough. I took her hand to hurry her along.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam They returned quickly and as Kishan described what happened I realized that there was a time discrepancy when the goddess appeared.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I sensed Kishan had more to add to the facts that Miss Kelsey relayed, but he did not wish her to know his thoughts for some reason. Interesting.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I spoke of the goddess, Kelsey became irritated again. I exaggerated everything about the goddess to test her reaction. She was definitely jealous.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Kishan was falling for Miss Kelsey. The last thing any of us wanted was to repeat the past. Still, I deemed it best to leave young love to work out itself.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I knew the depth of her feelings for Ren but the truth was we didn’t know if we’d find him alive. Perhaps she wasn’t jealous but she did love Kishan in her way.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Both princes needed someone to love, to be their true companion. I didn’t know which one Miss Kelsey was destined for but she was a worthy choice for either.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I waited to talk with Kadam until Kelsey was asleep. He determined that next time he would accompany us to meet the goddess.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam It did indeed sound as if there was more to the goddess than meets the eye. Kishan and I spoke until the late hours of the night as I asked question after question.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam When we were done, I adamantly insisted that Kishan not push Kelsey regarding their relationship. She had enough to deal with without adding emotional turmoil.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Miss Kelsey was a tender-hearted girl and betrayal was not in her nature. She would blame herself should anything happen to Ren either physically or emotionally.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I kept my distance the next morning but it felt…wrong. There was something between us even if she couldn’t accept it. Maybe if I was patient.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When she finally spoke, she gave me permission to fall for a goddess. She needed to know right away that falling for Durga was the last thing I’d ever do.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I told her flat out that I wanted her to be jealous. It was petty, but I wanted her to feel just a little bit like I felt every time I saw her and Ren together.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan At least she admitted that there was a bond between us too. She promised me a happy ending. Honestly, there was only one ending I could envision where I was happy.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I curled up next to her as a tiger. I didn’t mind being in tiger form, especially since it was obvious Kells was more comfortable around that version of me.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I drifted off with Kelsey’s fingers running through my fur and massaging my neck and realized I was as close to being content and happy as I’d ever been.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kadam played up the tourist version of our trek but I knew he was concerned about politics and who was trustworthy. We’d have to be very careful.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan It was interesting to hear Kadam share his past with Kelsey. She asked questions I’d never thought to ask. He’d never been so forthcoming with us.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Now that I thought about it more, it made sense. He still treated us as if we were his sovereigns, when in fact, our kingdom had long since vanished.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When she pressed him about what he owned, he was quick to remind her that any wealth he had belonged to us. There was much we owed this man.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan If I hadn’t been in tiger form at the time, I would have told him that there was nothing on this earth to equal what he’d done for us.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Our parents had been right to trust this man implicitly. If our own father could not be with us, then at least we had Kadam. He embodied loyalty and love.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When Kelsey announced she was sick, I empathized. Any time I took human form I felt the same way. Luckily the tiger half of me handled it better.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I felt remiss when I realized I had not shared all the information I could have with Kishan. But how do you condense years of life into a few months?

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Since Kishan’s return, I’d been focused on keeping Miss Kelsey safe, and dealing with Ren. Kishan had been left on his own far too often.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam It was no wonder he wanted to understand the world through Miss Kelsey’s view. I, too, saw our situation differently when she was close.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam She affected all of us in that way. She gave us a taste of peace and helped us see the wonders of the magic that touched us. She changed a curse to a blessing.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t like seeing her sick. I felt helpless and inept. My mother would know what to do. Kadam insisted that she would recover quickly.

    #TigersQuest #Ren My head throbbed. Lokesh must have used my skull for hammer practice. Closing my eyes, I inhaled and caught the scent of freshly picked peaches.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan She was hurting. It was bad. I kneaded the back of her neck and her scalp. It had been so long since my mother taught me but I was still able to find the pressure points.

    #TigersQuest #Ren Fortunately, I was left alone and the headache soon subsided. My stomach roiled with hunger but there was nothing but rancid meat. I wasn’t desperate enough yet to eat it.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When she asked about the tiger, I almost didn’t tell her. I thought sharing how I truly felt about that version of me would scare her away.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan That she not only listened but understand made me feel grateful and guilty. Grateful that she was now a part of my life. Guilty for not helping earlier.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I tried to explain how difficult it was to regain my humanity but I don’t think I did a good job of it. The tiger was easy. The man was much more difficult.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey thought Ren had it easier being around people but I think being stuck in a cage would have made me insane.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Being only a few feet away from what you couldn’t have, looking at it every day, was a torture all its own. That was something I had intimate knowledge of.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan But as difficult as it was being lovesick over my brother’s girl, again, having this time to be with her was worth it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Thinking of Ren made me wince. Here I was making eyes at Kelsey when he was suffering somewhere. In a cage. Again. He didn’t deserve that. I did.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan If I could have traded places with him I would have. When I left her side and tried to sleep I dreamed of Ren. His body was bruised and broken.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Despite the obvious pain that twisted his form, his eyes glittered from the hollows of his eyes as he accused me with a look. He was right to harbor ill feelings.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Then the flint in his eyes disappeared and I thought it might mean he forgave me, instead I saw the light leave them. He’d been killed while I stood helplessly by.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Ren’s eyes changed from blue to lavender and gathered the body of the young woman I’d once loved and cradled her close. I brought pain to everyone I loved.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I woke with a start and saw that I’d scratched long grooves into the wooden floor. It would be best if Kelsey stayed far, far away from me.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I stayed in tiger form for the next few days. I needed to think about how I was handling Kelsey. If I caused the death of another woman I loved, I couldn’t live with myself.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Kishan told me about his dream. I don’t know if it was a vision or if it was merely his mind showing him things that were of concern.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam It bothered me that he continued to blame himself for Yesubai. All of us were at fault for that. Deschen even felt as if she was the cause.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Truthfully the one I held accountable was the girl’s vile father. How such a blossom could spring from such a foul swamp, I did not know.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I tried to teach Miss Kelsey chess. Kishan hated the game. Ren enjoyed it, but the most challenging foe I’d ever faced was Deschen.

    #TigersQuest #Nilima Kadam checked in. They were moving ahead as was to be expected. He told me about the goddess at the temple. I wish there was more I could do to help.

    #TigersQuest #Ren I dreamt of Kelsey again. She stood overlooking a lovely blue lake, her hair blowing in the breeze. I reached out to touch her shoulder but then frowned.

    #TigersQuest #Ren The hand that touched her wasn’t mine. It was Kishan’s. She turned to me and smiled but I couldn’t smile back because I knew it wasn’t meant for me. It was for Kishan.

    #TigersQuest #Ren Sometimes the world was black, sometimes hot and full of pain, but sometimes it was full of softness and whispered wishes. I lived for these times.

    #TigersQuest #Ren She was so close in my dreams I felt like I could reach out and hold her, bury my face in her hair, and forget all about my dungeon of horrors.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam It was fascinating to me that the weapons were heavy in my hands. I kept thinking that would change somehow. That the goddess would find me worthy.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam We toured Tibet. My purpose was to distract Miss Kelsey from her upcoming ordeal. Also, the tension eased when it was just the two of us.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam We couldn’t afford to have her upset. Being around Kishan upset her. Not that he was less than a gentleman. I’d taught him too well for that.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I wasn’t with Kelsey, I paced in our hotel room. It was unsettling not knowing where she was. How could I protect her from a distance?

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kadam was a formidable soldier in his time but he was older now. Lokesh was dangerous. There wasn’t much he could do on his own.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan In my nightmares I saw Lokesh killing Kelsey as easily as he destroyed Yesubai. Each time I was frozen in place, unable to move to help her.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan That wasn’t going to happen again. I wouldn’t allow it. I insisted that we spend less time touring and more time training. Kadam finally agreed with me.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Honestly, Kelsey surprised me. Her strength and natural ability when wielding Durga’s weapons was something I’d never seen before.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan That’s when I came to suspect something supernatural was at play. Sure, Kelsey trained but it would take a soldier years to accomplish what took her minutes.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t like the idea that the gods or magic influenced us. It didn’t sit comfortably with me. I preferred relying upon the strength of my own arm.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan With supernatural forces at work, anything could happen. Any outcome was possible. As much as we prepared our fates were already decided.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kadam said that if that were true, then I should feel a modicum of peace knowing that it wasn’t my fault that Yesubai died, that her father hunted us even now.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t want to think of the world that way. That Yesubai was supposed to die, that Ren was supposed to be Lokesh’s prisoner, that Kelsey was born to save us.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam The chakram was beautiful. It was worth a fortune if I’d assessed it properly. A part of me flinched knowing such a gorgeous weapon would be used in battle.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Like the gada, the chakram was heavy. I strained to lift it, let alone throw it. Kishan wielded it as if it weighed nothing.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I purchased the board game more to draw out Kishan than anything else. He used to love it. He hadn’t played a game since Yesubai died.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam That he was willing to play both surprised and delighted me. I sensed the change in him had come more from his association with Miss Kelsey than anything else.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam He reminded me then of the young man he used to be. Oh, Deschen. How happy you would be to see him like this again. I’d forgotten how I loved his laugh.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam As I left the young people alone, I overheard Kishan saying how good it was to see her smile again. It was ironic that I’d been thinking the same of him.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I wasn’t kidding when I told Kelsey I’d dreamed of Ren threatening me. I wasn’t sure if my dreams were coming from my guilty subconscious or my brother.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Either way I loved being around her too much to back away completely. Nothing else existed when I was near her and I craved being near her, every waking moment.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Even when I was in tiger form, I sat as close to her as possible and lived for the moments when she stroked my head or patted my back.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I listed to Kadam talking about karma and wondered if stealing Yesubai meant I was now destined to be alone for the rest of my life.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan It didn’t seem fair. Yes, technically, she’d been engaged to Ren but he didn’t love her. Not like I did. Why was I the one being punished?

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Maybe I’d had my chance. Had my chance and screwed it up. Kelsey was Ren’s chance, not mine. It would be better for me if I tried to keep that in mind.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan It was interesting to me that I felt extremely uncomfortable, even trapped, in the offices of the Dalai Lama. I much preferred the outdoors now.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Of course, that had been true even when I was merely human. Ren walked the path of a diplomat. I relished the life of a soldier.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan During most of the interviews I had nothing to offer. I felt out of my league, as if everyone in the room knew a secret except me.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan I could tell we were banging our heads against the wall. We weren’t getting anywhere. Not until I mentioned the tigers on the medallion.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan They moved Kelsey to a different area of the building. I could sniff her out if I had to but it bothered me to have her room be so far away from ours.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Miss Kelsey didn’t sleep again. It worried me how often she dreamed of Ren. I knew it happened much more frequently than she admitted.

    #TigersQuest #MrKadam That’s when I began to wonder if her special connection to Ren was deeper than the love they shared. Perhaps there was more going on under the surface.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher How could the little slip of girl standing by the yogurt bowl be the chosen one? The one we’d been waiting centuries to meet? She seemed so…ordinary.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher How thrilling though that this should happen in my lifetime. The others watched and waited but I was the one to see it come to pass.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher As I studied the young woman across the table, I sensed that sharing my story of how I was found might help her to find herself.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher In fact, both young people needed help in finding themselves. Now that I looked closer, I saw such gleaming potential lying just beneath the surface.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher The older gentleman, however, struck me and being very much comfortable in his own skin. Still, there was something…more. Something hidden.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher Above all else the mystery of the tiger’s quest intrigued me. I’d spent countless hours happily studying all the information left to us.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher When the young man transformed before my very eyes. What an unexpected delight! Suddenly, things began to fall into place.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher The young man called his condition a curse. I knew then why I was the one called to help. He needed to see what he was as a blessing, a gift.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan Always prepared, Kadam pulled a notebook from his pocket to record the Ocean Teacher’s words. I couldn’t help but growl softly when the man approached Kelsey.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan He spoke to her about happiness. I frowned thinking that wasn’t something I could guarantee her. I knew better than anyone how loss could affect a person.

    #TigersQuest #Kishan When it was my turn, the man said I would be the rock others could cling to. What he forgot is that rocks sink and end up dragging everyone else down with them.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher I spent quite a few hours talking with them. In truth, I was reluctant to have them leave. How I wished I could have followed them on their journey.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher But each person must focus on their own feet and learn to appreciate the unique path they are on. I was fortunate that mine crossed theirs, however briefly.

    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher There is something different about the man who travels with the tiger and the girl. I sense there is more to him than meets the eye.
    #TigersQuest #TheOceanTeacher I hope this Mr. Kadam does come to visit. There is much knowledge we might be able to share with one another.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam How exciting to learn of these spirit gates. My mind took hold of the possibility of pathways into other worlds. The gates in Japan were of particular interest.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I was disappointed but unsurprised that I was not to be allowed entry through the gate. It was probably a good thing. I would have only slowed them down.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam But how I longed to accompany them on their journey. Perhaps the goddess would someday permit it. 
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I could feel the fear coming off Kelsey in waves. Every time Kadam mentioned a path to the gate, she cringed. She wasn’t built for adventures such as this one.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan She was a lot like Ren in that regard. He preferred the bookish life. Hearth and home were where he was the happiest. Kelsey was the same.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan As usual, I was the odd man out. I loved being home with my family but my soul often itched for adventure. I wanted to see the world. Discover all its secrets.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Perhaps Kelsey and Ren were more suited toward each other, but then I remembered Kadam telling me that opposites attract. Similarity would breed boredom.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I admired her for wanting to break the curse despite her inner voice telling her to stay home where it was safe. She was a brave girl.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey laughed when I suggested roping a harness to my back so I could carry supplies as a tiger. It irked me that I couldn’t share her burden.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan As soon as we hit the mountain and I could shift back to a tiger, I felt at ease. Being alone with Kelsey in the wild was comforting to me.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan She dutifully climbed and I often wished I could help her. Once I flicked my tail hoping she’d grab on so I could pull her up but she either didn’t understand or refused.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan The scents of wildlife were everywhere. The tiger longed to hunt but I was hesitant to leave Kelsey’s side, even when the terrain evened out.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan We finally made camp when I found the shelter of rocks large enough to protect us, at least somewhat, from the wind. I trailed her as she gathered wood.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Her hands shook as she tried to warm them by the fire and when she finally crawled beneath her sleeping bag and still shivered, I pressed my nose on her cheek.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Her reluctance was short lived. I knew she was more comfortable with my tiger half than with my human side which was proved when she snuggled into my fur.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t mind being treated like a beloved pet. That she showed affection for me at all soothed me and I soon fell into as sound of a sleep as she did.
    [3:56:11 PM] colleen  houck: #TigersQuest #Kishan Each day that we spent exposed to the elements sapped more of her energy. The longer this took, the more we endangered her life.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam I set up camp at the base of the mountain and kept vigil. I only wish there was more I could have done to prepare them.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Each little fact I researched by campfire, each new discovery, was something I had not had a chance to tell them before they departed.
    #TigersQuest #MrKadam Small details like these might prove inconsequential but I knew that these things could mean life and death to Miss Kelsey. I couldn’t afford to overlook anything.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I was proud of how well she handled the climb. She couldn’t have done it before I trained with her. Still, every night she fell into her sleeping bag exhausted.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan The snow got deeper. I forged ahead, using my body to create a path and tamping down the snow with my large paws. She lagged behind.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan It was early but I searched for shelter anyway. Kelsey needed to rest. The cold was sapping all of her energy. I’d finally found something when I heard the roar.
    [4:12:50 PM] colleen  houck: #TigersQuest #Kishan I raced back to her as quickly as I could, my body tumbling awkwardly as I hurtled downhill. How could I have left her alone for so long?
    #TigersQuest #Kishan The blood chilled in my veins when I saw the bear. It was a powerful creature, not to be regarded lightly, but I knew he’d be no match for a tiger. My roar echoed.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I smelled the blood on the snow before I saw it. Kelsey lay face down. Was she dead? Was I too late? This was my fault. Ren wouldn’t have let this happen.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I roared again. Praying that she was still alive, I attempted to lure the creature away from her but he seemed determined to defend his prey from the tiger.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey’s soft moan was a relief. She was alive. I attacked the bear, determined to drive him off as soon as possible.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I bit the bear just as his claws raked my back. Fiery pain raced down my spine. I’d been careless. If I’d been a normal tiger, the bear might’ve taken me.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Fortunately, I wasn’t a normal tiger. The pain dulled to a throb as my body healed and I sunk my teeth into the bear deep enough to draw blood.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan When the creature bit down on my head, I had no choice but to dig my claws in and roll him. He was surprised by the move. Predators never bared their stomachs.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan It took me a moment to realize why the bear pulled away. It was Kelsey, as weak as she was, who defeated him. I raced to her side heedless of the retreating animal.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I knew the moment I saw her injuries that they were serious. They’d need to be cleaned and sewn together. Even then, she’d be at risk of infection.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Getting her back to Kadam was paramount. He’d know what to do. I’d been trained in battle wounds but I knew modern technology was much better.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan A hospital was what she needed. The quest could wait. Ren could wait. I knew he’d agree with me if he knew the seriousness of her condition.
    [4:31:32 PM] colleen  houck:
    #TigersQuest #Kishan The problem was, we’d come so far and in her current state, she needed to be carried. I could only do that as a man and my hours were limited.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I tried to play it off as if her wounds weren’t that serious but they were bad enough to make me worry. Every moment I spent as a tiger was a moment lost.
    #TigersQuest #Ren Kelsey appeared to me in vision. I’m not sure if it was a true vision or not. She came when I was being whipped so it’s possible I passed out during the process.
    #TigersQuest #Ren She was going to attack Lokesh. I could see it in her eyes. Before she did, I concentrated, pushing her as far from my mind as possible. I heard a scream.
    #TigersQuest #Ren When I opened my eyes again, Kelsey was gone. Lokesh stared into the darkness with a confused expression but soon he turned his attention back to me.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey attacked me in her sleep and when I shook her awake, she began to cry, begging me to continue the quest.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Everything in me said I needed to take her down the mountain as quickly as possible. She finally listened to reason and fell into a fitful sleep.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan When the storm hit, I cursed the gods, the mountain, the Ocean Teacher, and even Ren. Her wound was definitely infected. She needed immediate attention.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan The storm turned me around so badly, even my tiger instincts only told me to seek shelter and wait it out. I knew waiting wasn’t possible for Kelsey.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan Kelsey became feverish and stopped eating. It was all I could do to pour fluids down her throat and most of that dribbled down her chin and froze on her shirt.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I would not let her die. A fierce determination burned in me but every time I felt the pull of the tiger, I wonder if that would be the last time I held her as a man.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I talked to her. It seemed to comfort and distract her from the pain. I spoke of random things, told her stories of battle, and, when she slept, the things of my heart.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I stumbled upon the spirit gate, I thought it was a mirage in the snow. It couldn’t be that when things were most desperate, we found the thing we sought.
    [4:46:05 PM] colleen  houck: #TigersQuest #Kishan Reluctantly, I set her down so I could investigate the gate. I wanted to get the scent of the place so I could find it again after she was healed.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan When I found the handprint, I almost didn’t tell her. But then I decided that I didn’t want to take away her choices. We’d decide together.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan She insisted we try like I knew she would. I gave in considering the extra moment it would take might serve to show me a way out of the situation we were in.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan I reconsidered when I saw how weak she was. She couldn’t even summon her inner power. We tried one more time. It worked.
    #TigersQuest #Kishan When the portal opened, I thought only of warming her. If we could regroup enough, I could take her down the mountain and we could return. I stepped through.
    #Kishan I didn’t consider the fact that I wouldn’t be able to leave after we went through. We were trapped until Kelsey summoned the strength to reopen it.
    #Kishan I kept vigil and was amazed twofold. Her wounds healed almost as quickly as my own and the pull to take tiger form never pressed upon me.
    [4:54:35 PM] colleen  houck: #TigersQuest #Kishan Despite my desire to remain awake, exhaustion overtook me. I carried her to water and then, after making her as comfortable as possible, slept beside her.
    #Kishan When she woke asking for chocolate chip pancakes, I knew the worst was behind us. The goddess had healed her. For now she was safe.
    #Kishan I would have preferred to take a day for recuperation but Kelsey was all business. She pulled out her notes and began working.
    #MrKadam When the storm beat upon the mountain, I feared the worst. Forecasts said it would last for several days.
    #MrKadam Wind whipped the canvas of my tent. If it was this bad where I camped, it must be unbearable higher up on the mountain.
    #Faunus We knew it the moment they entered our realm. I sent the fairies to watch their progress and they reported back that the ones we’d waited for were on their way.
    #Kishan I knew we were being followed. Animals watched us from behind the leaves of bushes and from darkened tree trunks. It was unnerving.
    #Kishan Several times, I felt a pair of eyes on my back and the fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, but when I turned, nothing was there.
    #Faunus I could feel the hum of excitement coming from the village as we neared. My people had been waiting for this moment for a long time.

     #Faunus I was glad the two visitors couldn’t understand the fairies. The tiny creatures were horrible about keeping secrets and we had a few that couldn’t be shared.

    #Faunus Truthfully, I didn’t need to summon anyone as they were all waiting in the wings, as it were, but it was tradition to musically announce visitors.

    #Anthracia The poor thing was exhausted. I looked back and forth between the two of them. They made such a handsome pair. How exciting that I should be her guide.

    #Phiale By the time we were done, she looked just like the queen we’d expected. How odd that a mere mortal girl had such a destiny ahead of her.

    #Deiopea I had to bat away some pesky fairies that keep tugging on her hair, trying to whisper in her ear about the future. Fairies liked to mess with fate.

    #Anthracia She seemed uncomfortable with the idea of a wedding. Perhaps we misunderstood, but I was certain the man’s feelings had been clear.

    #Phiale Deipopea was the most familiar with human customs. She recovered from our error quickly and our guest relaxed visibly. It would not do to upset her.

    #Faunus While our guests bathed, the feast was arranged. In truth, we’d been preparing it since the moment they stepped into our realm.

    #Faunus Our queen, Dryope, herself oversaw the preparations. We wanted to make sure everything was accomplished in just the precise fashion.

    #Dryope The tiger was happy. I could see it in his expression. I watched him carefully during the feast pondering over all that I knew and all that would be.

    #Dryope They seemed pleased with our preparations. As I studied the girl, I could see why he loved her. She was kind and beautiful, but, more than that, she had a fire inside.

    #Faunus How interesting to note that the outside world knew of the ark and the animals. The stories she shared were fascinating if slightly skewed.

    #Faunus Lying goes against our nature but we had no choice when they asked of the tree and the omphalos stone. They had to sleep in the Grove of Dreams first.

    #Dryope To have a child born on the exact same day that our long awaited visitors arrived was much more than a coincidence. I closed my eyes and sent out my thanks.

    #Dryope I wasn’t sure my prayer would be heard but when I held the newborn in my arms, I felt a tingle in my veins and knew the source immediately.

    #Dryope My family tree was old. We weren’t sure it was still capable of creating offspring. I cuddled the small babe who would take my place on the throne.

    #Kishan Seeing Kelsey touch the head of the newborn touched a place in my heart I thought had disappeared. She was so gentle, her smile so soft, so perfect.

    #Kishan Faunus let us to this starlit grove where fairies danced and showed us a flowery bower. Kelsey patted the bed and turned to me all aglow. I froze in place.

    #Faunus I sensed the discomfort both of them felt and though I was curious, especially with knowing their being there was absolutely necessary, I headed back.

    #Kishan Kelsey must have figured out something was wrong with me because her expression changed. I sucked in a determined breath and made my choice.

    #Kishan I wished more than anything that I could have done what my heart wanted to. I didn’t want to be the self-sacrificing noble prince. Not this time.

    #Kishan As I considered it, I didn’t think it would take much convincing on my part. I could make her forget. I was fairly confident she wouldn’t turn me away.

    #Kishan Instead, I chose a different path. I told her I’d sleep on the ground. I was rewarded by her insistence that I join her. Sure, there was a reason, but I’d take it anyway.

    #Kishan Interesting. I got further with Kelsey the more I resisted my impulses. I insisted on sleeping back to back and she relaxed even more.

    #Kishan The more I groused, the more comfortable she was. Instead of worrying about Ren and how he would feel, she laughed and settled down.

    #Kishan Her scent was intoxicating. It was all I could do not to roll over, pull her against me, and bury my nose in her hair. The experience was maddening.

    #Kishan Kelsey quickly fell asleep which was a blessing. I finally got myself under control. She didn’t know how close she’d been to getting mauled by a tiger.

    #Kishan My dreams were tormented. I saw the omphalos stone first but then the dreams shifted and morphed into nightmares.

    #Kishan I raced into the jungle a woman on my back. Her thoughts were foreign yet familiar. We faced down a horde of demons wanting to kill us.

    #Kishan The dream shifted. I was kissing Kelsey and enjoying every second of it but then when I looked up her eyes turned green and her hair dark.

    #Kishan The girl’s eyes changed again to violet and they stared blankly back at me as I screamed. Then my veins lit on fire and I fell to the floor as spasms wracked my frame.

    #Kishan Next, I was on the deck of a ship looking down at Ren and Kelsey. His back was stiff and he ignored her tears as she begged him not to leave her.

    #Kishan Not in a million years would I ever believe my brother could do such a thing to anyone, let alone Kelsey. It didn’t make sense.

    #Kishan Then on the same boat I watched Ren and Kelsey dancing in the candlelight, but when they turned I saw it wasn’t Ren. It was me!

    #Kishan Could I be seeing a dream of the future? Was Kelsey destined to be mine in the way I’d dreamed? Would Ren actually leave her?

    #Kishan Then I was on a snow covered mountain holding Kelsey in my arms. Her head hung back and I wasn’t sure if she was alive or dead.

    #Kishan Kadam and Phet and Lokesh all made an appearance in my dreams too. There was death and battle and swords and magic.

    #Kishan I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t. Finally, my dreams settled into something pleasant. My head rested in a woman’s lap as she stroked my hair.

    #Kishan She ran her fingers through my hair and hummed a strange song. She smelled of roses and sunshine and night blooming jasmine.

    #Kishan I can’t even describe the feeling of peace and contentment as I listened to her. I didn’t even realize until I thought about it later that I’d been in tiger form in my dream.

    #Kishan I woke slowly. Everything in my world felt right and whole. I just wanted to bask in that feeling and hold the woman I loved close.

    #Kishan When Kelsey demanded to know what I was dreaming about, I didn’t even know how to begin. There were so many images flashing through my mind.

    #Kishan Then I wondered how much I should say if anything. What if telling her changed the future? I didn’t want to risk it. To risk losing the happiness I’d seen.

    #Kishan The hairs on my neck prickled and stood on end as the dark closed around us. The air smelled of death and decay. How had Ren survived being locked in a cage?

    #Kishan Kelsey didn’t seem to share my concern. I suppose, all things considered, she’d been in far worse situations than being trapped inside a giant tree.

    #Kishan My instincts told me we were being watched but I saw no evidence of people. Of course that didn’t mean much. All kinds of creatures had eyes.

    #Kishan It was interesting when I automatically reached for the chakram instead of summoning the tiger. I’d been a tiger so long that fighting as one was almost a way of life.

    #Kishan Breaking the gourds almost became fun. It was like playing a game. That is until Kelsey caught a disease. Frantic and reckless, I sought a cure. Luckily one materialized.

    #Kishan My hands shook as she drank. Twice, I’d almost lost her. Had Ren had such a hard time keeping her alive? Death waited around every corner trying to catch her.

    #Kishan Despite the danger, Kelsey maintained a constant upbeat attitude. Being with her made me feel carefree and lighthearted. Her enthusiasm was infectious.

    #Kishan I often found myself laughing about things that I wouldn’t naturally find funny. Being with Kelsey was like surrounding yourself with sunshine and pouncing kittens.

    #Kishan The next room we came upon contained people. I could hear their voices echoing down the stairs before we even approached. The weird thing was, their scent was off.

    #Kishan The minute I opened the door and saw the beings on the other side, I knew they were dangerous and yet I didn’t care. They wove a powerful spell over us.

    #Kishan The spell was so powerful, the fact that Kelsey wasn’t with me didn’t even enter my mind. Every time I tried to break out of it, one of them would start singing.

    #Kishan Somehow, I ended up naked in a tub with one girl massaging my shoulders and another lathering my hair. It was so relaxing. I fell asleep. Or I thought I did.

    #Kishan All at once there was a burst of light and one of the women was yelling at another one…or two. It seemed like there were now several women. My head throbbed.

    #Kishan A lovely floral scent filled the room and it acted like a smelling tonic. It snapped me out of the spell. I found myself alone in a cold bath, shivering.

    #Kishan Stumbling out of the tub, I grabbed a towel left out for me and quickly dried off. I frowned at seeing a fresh change of my normal black clothing.

    #Kishan I glanced around the room suspiciously. No one was nearby. But the rose and jasmine perfume lingered. I called out, but no one answered.

    #Kishan Making my way out of the room, I discovered the main entry empty except for a door. When I opened it, I found Kelsey sleeping on the hard stairs in the dark.

    #Kishan She asked why I’d taken so long. Had I? I didn’t know how many hours I’d lost and I didn’t want to know. But I was grateful to whatever or whoever had freed me.

    #Kishan After we woke, me sleeping in short cat naps to keep guard, we moved on to an old part of the tree. It smelled of mold and rot and burrowing creatures.

    #Kishan I didn’t like Kelsey going first into the dark hole in the tree but I couldn’t be both ahead and behind so I chose to take up the rear and protect her back.

    #Kishan It was a tight fit. So tight, I tore my arms and back repeatedly. The sleeve of my shirt tore off and I hissed as a thick branch ripped a hole in my leg.

    #Kishan I heard the bats. It didn’t sound like any bats I’d ever encountered before. They were huge. Either that or the tree was amplifying their sounds by a thousand.

    #Kishan Kelsey was alarmed. I would have been too if I were her but bats weren’t dangerous. Not if you left them alone. Still, the fear in her voice drove me to hurry.

    #Kishan I heard the unmistakable sound of my shirt ripping as it caught on a branch. Frustrated, I wrenched my body ahead and felt the weight of the cloth fall away.

    #Kishan My eyes had already adjusted by the time got to the end of the tunnel. I smiled at Kelsey but then called out just as a giant bat flew up behind her.

    #Kishan I scrambled out as quickly as I could and my hand brushed her leg but the bat had a firm grip and it hauled her away before I could catch her.

    #Kishan Thankfully, it just moved her to a distant ledge. It was almost like the creature was playing a game of keep away. There must have been thousands of bats in the tree.

    #Kishan I tried several times to make my way up to her but there was just no way to get there unless I hitched a ride on the nearest bat. I didn’t know what to do.

    #Kishan Then, they spoke. It was the strangest thing to hear a bat talk. It was stranger than anything else we’d encountered so far and that was saying something.

    #Kishan The thing was, I didn’t really understand it. Kelsey did. They did something to cause lights in the tree to illuminate. A fancy trick.

    #Kishan It seemed they wanted to test me somehow. As soon as I saw the formations and calculated the distance to Kelsey, I knew what I had to do.

    #Kishan Without thinking, I leapt. It was part instinct and part desperation. I knew time was short. The lights were already fading and without them, it would be impossible.

    #Kishan I don’t really know how I did it. If I would have thought about it, I would have failed. Luckily my shirt came back when I switched back and forth.

    #Kishan Turns out, it was the shirt that saved my life. If Kelsey hadn’t grabbed it, I would have likely plummeted to my death. Then again, maybe I would have lived.

    #Kishan I hadn’t really tested my healing ability to the fullest. Neither I, nor Kadam had wanted to explore that far. Regardless, falling would have been mighty inconvenient.

    #Kishan Kelsey wrapped her arms around me and I thought risking my life had definitely been worth it. I wanted to tell her right then how I felt but we had a large audience.

    #Kishan I shook my head and laughed when the bats offered to retrieve the backpack for us. If I’d known I’d be physically tested, I would have gotten a bit more sleep.

    #Kishan Since I’d recently escaped death, I brought up the idea of a kiss. It wasn’t that I expected one, it just seemed like a good time to remind her that I was interested.

    #Kishan She responded the way I expected her to, but it was interesting to see how her eyes darted away nervously. Kelsey wasn’t entirely immune to my charms.

    #Kishan I filed that information away for later and felt pretty pleased with myself until the bats lifted us off the ground. Tigers do not belong that high in the air.

    #Ren He was back. I heard him breathing in the darkness. He didn’t like it when I remained a tiger. Lokesh felt thwarted as if I was denying him his right to torture me.

    #Ren Not that my being in tiger form ever prevented him from causing me harm. He just didn’t like to have to be careful around my claws. It was why he drugged my water.

    #Lokesh He stared at me indolently through the bars of the cage. His eyes followed me even in the darkness, the animal gleam threatening. As if he could harm me.

    #Ren Kelsey called to me in her sleep again. She was in a dark place and someone was trying to take her away from me. I could have sworn her mind brushed mine.

    #Ren Finally her dreams stilled and she was at peace again. I knew they were trying to save me. I hoped they weren’t. Surely Kishan was smart enough to keep her away.

    #Ren I didn’t even know what Lokesh wanted from me anymore. His questions made no sense. Sometimes he didn’t even ask questions, he just caused pain for pain’s sake.

    #Ren He would scream, asking how I came to be a tiger. I’d shout back that he knew. He’d done the magic himself. He’d rage all the more and ask again, over and over.

    #Kishan I held Kelsey in my arms all night to prevent her from falling. She rested peacefully and it gave me plenty of time to think. When she woke I decided to share my feelings.

    #Kishan Kelsey had a right to know what I’d dreamed of. That I’d seen the two of us together and happy. That Ren was going to be rescued. That…that there was a future for us.

    #Kishan I tried to tell her. I was going to spill everything I knew, everything I’d been shown but then she backed away. She wasn’t ready. I couldn’t bring myself to say it.

    #Kishan The fact was, she still loved Ren. If my dream was true and the Silvanae said the Grove of Dreams never lied, then, someday, we’d end up together.

    #Kishan I’d just have to content myself with that knowledge and let events unfold naturally. Perhaps, giving her time would be the best thing for now.

    #Kishan Still, I craved that future. I wanted her and I wanted the happiness and contentment I’d felt when we were together but if I pushed, I might ruin what could be.

    #Kishan It hurt my head to think about it that way. Hadn’t I waited for happiness long enough? I’d been alone for far too long. How many obstacles lay ahead?

    #Kishan Despite my determination to be patient and go at her speed, I kissed her when I got the chance. It wasn’t a kiss of passion but to show her my depth of feeling.

    #Kishan She didn’t seem too upset by it either. It was a good sign. Things were going the way they should. In fact, I was in a better mood than I’d been in a long while.

    I cannot even begin to express the level of alarm I felt when the idiot bird tugged something out of Kelsey’s ear. She cried out but not in pain, in revelation. #Kishan

    There was no way I was letting one of those birds near me, but Kelsey insisted. The bird tugged and pulled and came away with something. #Kishan

    My mind suddenly drifted to Yesubai. I’m not entirely sure why. It was very surreal. One moment I was with Kelsey and the next I was in the past. #Kishan

    I stood there, seeing Yesubai’s entire death play out in slow motion. I saw myself fighting Lokesh and being thrown back. I saw her run towards me. #Kishan

    From a distance I saw this girl that I loved once but barely knew. She was sweet and brave and I thought I could have been happy with her but it was not meant to be.#Kishan

    That she had stood up to her father at all meant she had loved me or at least cared enough about us to fight back. I hadn’t seen Lokesh for the monster he was.#Kishan

    Yesubai knew though. She knew what he was capable of. She knew he meant to harm us. I didn’t blame her but I flinched at my own naiveté. #Kishan

    #Kishan Kelsey’s experience sounded much worse. Now she saw clearer? Her thoughts were clean? What did that even mean?

    #Kishan I stared at the birds who had flown up to their nest. I didn’t trust them. They didn’t smell right. Birds should have a smell and these didn’t.

    #Kishan Kelsey showed me the picture of the iron birds we’d soon be fighting. Even with my tiger abilities, I’d be hard pressed to beat those things.

    #Kishan The Stymphalion birds were only one of my concerns. The other one was falling out of the tree. We were a long, long way up and the fall would surely kill us.

    #Kishan Kelsey was being reckless now. I blamed the birds and whatever it was they did to her brain. I was on constant alert to keep her safe.

    #Kishan When we came upon the droppings, it was worse than unpleasant. There was something corrosive in the material that ate away at the tree.

    #Kishan The odor was so bitter and strong, it soon became all I could smell. Even Kelsey’s familiar scent and the tang of the evergreen faded and disappeared.

    #Kishan My stomach dropped when I saw the size of the nest. It was gigantic. Even with the weapons we had, I had serious reservations about accomplishing our goal.

    #Kishan When we first saw the sparkling material, I was mesmerized. The colors of the fabric shifted and moved almost as if it were alive and responding to us.

    #Kishan Kelsey pointed out a feather and I could barely lift it. The edge was razor sharp and I didn’t handle it carefully enough. I healed quickly but my blood stained the nest.

    #Kishan I didn’t tell Kelsey about my mishap with the feather. She wouldn’t see blood on my black clothing and it wouldn’t help to scare her.

    #Kishan The likelihood that the birds would detect us and possibly even track us because of my spilt blood was high. I bit my lip thinking I might have just gotten us killed.

    #Kishan I hurried over to help her move the eggs to free the scarf. There was a distant shift in the air, a sort of thrumming that stirred my blood.

    #Kishan We rolled away another egg and then I knew it wasn’t thunder or any other kind of weather. The far-off sound was made by an enormous animal.

    #Kishan I warned Kelsey we needed to go or, at least, hide, but she was determined to get the scarf while we could. We were in serious trouble.

    #Kishan They were upon us before I could convince her to leave. She pulled her bow over her shoulder and I drew my own weapons and leapt into battle.

    #Kishan I was desperate to help Kelsey but there were far too many birds to keep track of her, so I kept her talking as much as possible so I at least knew where she was.

    #Kishan One of the birds grabbed me and the pain was so intense, I almost passed out. The cuts burned like I’d been sprayed with acid. Fortunately, I healed. I had to warn Kells.

    #Kishan Kelsey pressed her hand against my ribs to gauge the damage. Even with the death that loomed on every side, her touch branded me, and I slid my hand on top of hers.

    #Kishan I pulled her down next to me and teased her about the monkeys. These birds seemed a lot worse than what Ren had described in Kishkindha.

    #Kishan She talked of movies and I mentioned a date figuring there was no way she’d turn me down just before I died trying to save her. Apparently, I was right. She accepted.

    #Kishan The birds returned. I thrust her behind the eggs and ran to the other side of the nest, hoping to draw them to me. If they caught her, she wouldn’t survive.

    #Kishan I used every fighting technique I had but the birds kept coming. Even with the chakram and Kelsey’s fire power, we were no match for the things.

    #Kishan She completely blew the head off one of the birds. My mouth dropped open but then the nest dipped and I slid towards the edge while Kelsey shot into the air.

    #Kishan Heedless of the danger, I ran over to the side and screamed her name. She was barely hanging on. I pulled her up and cupped her face asking if she was okay.

    #Kishan Despite the danger, there was something soft and sweet in her face. There was a connection between us now that hadn’t been there before. I was certain both of us felt it.

    #Kishan I asked if she was okay and she said she was. I brushed her hair away from her face but then I looked past her to the gaping beaks coming right down on top of us.

    #Kishan I rolled us away just in time and kept her beneath me so they’d get me first. Surprisingly, she sent them packing before they could do us in.

    #Kishan Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the nest shifted. It was going to fall and take us along with it. The birds screeched in alarm.

    #Kishan The scarf drifted by just past my nose as if teasing me. I shifted, positioning Kelsey so she could grab it before it got away.

    #Kishan When I pressed her close, I did what I’d wanted to do since I first set eyes on her. I kissed her quickly. If we were going to die, I at least wanted her to know how I felt.

    #Kishan My arm strained at holding our weight as she maneuvered lower and lower. Finally, the wind worked in our favor and she caught the scarf.

    #Kishan I don’t know what happened next. I think Kelsey blacked out. I almost dropped her when her body went limp. My hand slid down several inches on the branch.

    #MrKadam I was wrenched into a vision and recognized Miss Kelsey immediately. I knew we only had a few moments until Lokesh appeared. I tried to warn her.

    #Lokesh I was in the middle of reprimanding the servant who translated for the gunia when he faded from view and was replaced by the girl who eluded me.

    #MrKadam I was thrilled to know that she’d achieved her aim and found another gift of Durga but I also sensed she was in grave danger. I regretted not going with them.

    #MrKadam Getting a sneak peek into where Lokesh might be holding Ren was invaluable. I took quick mental notes of everything I saw.

    #MrKadam I recognized Ren immediately. To see him that worn down and injured indicated he’d been recently abused. I wished I could shield Miss Kelsey from seeing it.

    #Ren Kelsey? I could have sworn I heard her voice. It was probably a hallucination. I’d had them frequently since I’d been captured.

    #MrKadam Hearing the way Lokesh taunted Miss Kelsey, I was certain she was going to break. But she remained strong right until the last moment.

    #Kishan Kelsey! Kelsey! Snap out of it! Nothing I could do or say seemed to wake her up from her stupor. My whole body trembled and my arm felt like it was going to tear away.

    #MrKadam I sighed a breath of relief when I returned to my body in the tent. Immediately, I began recording the things I’d seen and prayed that Kishan and Kelsey were safe.

    #Lokesh I taunted the white tiger, letting him know I’d just seen his woman. I said she was on her way to give me what I asked for and if he cooperated, I’d let her live.

    #Ren There was something about how he described the scene that made me believe him. He’d just seen Kelsey. As I was dragged away, I hoped Kishan was keeping his promise.

    #Ren For the next few days, he questioned me about Kadam. He suspected by the way Kadam looked at ease, and glanced at Kelsey, that we knew him.

    #Ren I kept quiet but it was painful. He broke my legs over and over until I passed out from my injuries. As a tiger I snapped at him but he brought the sledgehammer down again.

    #Lokesh The blasted tiger was tougher than I gave him credit for. I’d always thought the other one was braver, more of a warrior, but this one was wily too.

    #Lokesh I summoned a man to drag the broken beast back to his cage. I’d stopped having his wounds cleaned. Infection never set in. I returned to my office to make some notes.

    #Kishan By the time we got back up into the nest, my arms were screaming with pain. Fortunately, it began to subside, but I was exhausted to my core and we weren’t done yet.

    #Kishan We escaped through the tree, heading downward as quickly as possible, and when I thought we were safe enough, I called a stop. I needed to rest.

    #Kishan After eating and drinking, me downing a barrel’s worth, I inspected her for injuries and winced when I saw her hands. They were raw looking and torn.

    #Kishan Kelsey claimed the birds had given her an idea of how to get down. I tried to tell her not to trust the ravens but she was stubbornly determined to see her plan through.

    #Kishan She made some kind of parachute with the magic fabric and then wanted us to jump out of the tree that was taller than any skyscraper I’d ever seen.

    #Kishan I did my best to talk her out of it but she said she knew what she was supposed to do. She said I didn’t have enough faith. Couldn’t she see how crazy this was

    #Kishan We argued about Ren. I tried to tell her that not even he would allow this and asked her to talk me through it, hoping I could logic her into changing her mind.

    #Kishan Since she was jumping whether I wanted her to or not, I knew I was going with her. I couldn’t let her die alone. I fingered the magic scarf and silently asked it to help.

    #Kishan When we were strapped in, I held her close, not believing we were actually going to do this, and then I summoned my remaining energy and leapt.

    #Kishan The bird’s screeching overhead told me we’d been spotted. We fought them off and then, when we were close enough, I pulled the cord.

    #Kishan Kelsey had to fight off the birds while I steered our makeshift parachute. I got the hang of it pretty quickly but we were soon surrounded on all sides.

    #Kishan I cursed when our chute was torn open by one of the birds. I kicked my legs trying to right us, but we spun as we fell, then I heard the whisper of threads overhead.

    #Kishan The chute repaired itself. The fabric was truly magical. It was done in just enough time to slow our speed before we landed. It was still rough, but we survived.

    #Kishan No sooner were we down, when we got attacked. I tried to free us as quickly as possible but the fabric seemed to know what I wanted and melted away from us.

    #Kishan I threw the chakram again and again, trying to keep the birds off of us. Kelsey was obsessed with the fabric and claimed again that she knew what to do.

    #Kishan Five birds were joined by two more and then three after that. There was no way I was going to be able to hold them all off. They were coming and we were going to die.

    #Kishan Kelsey shouted for me to move behind her. Was she crazy? I turned and saw the fabric bucking and shifting behind her like a giant animal was trapped inside.

    4/3 #TigersQuest #Kishan She let the winds loose and the birds took off like they’d been shot in the tailfeathers with lightning. Then, like it was nothing, she tossed the scarf over her shoulder.

    4/4 #TigersQuest #Kishan Kells said the raven told her how it worked. I wasn’t so sure. Yes, the ravens had a sort of magic, but I decided Kelsey must have a magic all her own.

    4/5 #TigersQuest #Kishan She was amazing and wonderful and so unruffled by our near-death experience, it made me brave enough to jump where I would otherwise be hesitant to tread.

    4/6#TigersQuest #Kishan I caught Kelsey in my arms and kissed her. I wanted her to know my feelings for her were absolute, fervent, and unwavering, even in the face of death.

    4/7 #TigersQuest #Kishan As much as I’d been inspired by our survival, Kelsey reacted the opposite way and ended up retreating from me even further.

    4/10 #TigersQuest #Kishan I tried to make out like it wasn’t a big deal though it was certainly a big deal for me. I wanted her to admit that she felt something, that we were a possibility.

    4/11 #TigersQuest #Kishan I needed her to tell me that there was hope for me. That I was worthy of loving. That Ren wouldn’t always win.

    4/12 #TigersQuest #Kishan If she hadn’t felt anything when we kissed, she wouldn’t be nearly as angry. At least that’s what I told myself as I followed her down the path.

    4/13 #TigersQuest #Kishan She wouldn’t talk to me at all after that, except to warn me to watch out for a thorny branch or a puddle of water. Maybe I was pushing her too hard too soon.

    4/14 #TigersQuest #Kishan Apparently, she wasn’t too mad to make me sleep outside the tent. She fell asleep quickly while I put my hands beneath my head and stared at the ceiling.

    4/17 #TigersQuest #Kishan I’d just drifted off when I heard her mumbling in her sleep. I tried to nudge her shoulder to wake her but she wouldn’t wake up.

    4/18 #TigersQuest #Kishan Tears trickled down her cheeks and she jerked her head wildly away when I touched her face. She bucked and kicked at the blankets, gasping in fear.

    4/19 #TigersQuest #Ren Kelsey came to me in my dreams. At least, I think it was in my dreams. It felt real though. When she said she was coming to rescue me, the blood froze in my veins.

    4/20 #TigersQuest #Ren I’d been undecided until that moment as to whether I would accept Durga’s offer. I’d rationalized that I’d been strong enough. Lokesh hadn’t broken me yet.

    4/21 #TigersQuest #Ren But then seeing Kelsey reminded me of everything I was risking. To save her, I needed to forget her. I would rather lose a limb than forget the girl I loved.

    4/24 #TigersQuest #Ren The poem was more for me than to comfort her. If Kelsey was safe, then a part of me would always be free and happy, even in death.

    4/25 #TigersQuest #Ren When Kelsey was gone, Durga appeared. I told her I was ready and she worked her magic. There was something she said, something that made me think…

    4/26 #TigersQuest #Ren Durga said…she whispered…Kelsey? Kells. K…I woke when my tormentor slammed a wrench against the bars of the cage. I felt…healed and yet empty on the inside.

    4/27 #TigersQuest #Kishan She finally woke up. Her whole body shook as she cried. I knew it must have been a dream but the emotional turmoil it caused her was something I’d never experienced.

    4/28 #TigersQuest #Kishan I just held her until she exhausted herself to the point where she slept again. I tried to lay her back down but even in sleep she clung to me.

    5/1 #TigersQuest #Kishan It was a long night for both of us. When morning came and she stirred, I asked her what happened and she seemed reluctant to tell me.

    5/2 #TigersQuest #Kishan She told me the story of what happened, how she’d seen Ren in his cage. I wrote it off as a nightmare until she said he’d called her hridaya patni.

    5/3 #TigersQuest #Kishan There was absolutely no way Kells would know that phrase. She didn’t even know what it meant. I had to accept that she’d seen my brother somehow.

    5/4 #TigersQuest #Kishan Kells wanted to return to the Grove of Dreams. She thought it would show her Ren or at least fill in the blanks as to what happened during her dream.

    5/5 #TigersQuest #Kishan That whole day, Kelsey drifted from place to place without seeing anything. I’d never seen her so listless, so depressed. It wasn’t like her at all.

    5/8 #TigersQuest #Kishan Thinking to make her as comfortable as possible, I used the scarf to make me a separate place to sleep. Kelsey needed to focus on her dreams without me distracting her.

    5/9 #TigersQuest #Kishan If I could have saved Ren at that moment, even if it meant losing her, I would have just to see her smile again.

    5/10 #TigersQuest #Kishan She tossed and turned for hours. Kelsey was desperate to sleep and it eluded her. After she finally settled, I fell asleep too and sunk into a series of dreams.

    5/11 #TigersQuest #Kishan In one dream I chased a woman through the trees. I was happy and I knew we were together even though I was a tiger. Her laughter delighted my soul.

    5/12 #TigersQuest #Kishan In the next one, I sat across the table from a man who asked me question after question. When he sunk a knife into my shoulder, the dream changed.

    5/15 #TigersQuest #Kishan I was swept away to a boat and as I stood looking out over the ocean, I spoke with my brother, telling him that if he broke up with Kelsey it would hurt her.

    5/16 #TigersQuest #Kishan Ren put his arm on my shoulder and said he’d rather see her with someone who could offer her everything than have her waste her life waiting on him.

    5/17 #TigersQuest #Kishan Kadam spoke to me about pillows which made absolutely no sense and yet I was paying very close attention to everything he said.

    5/18 #TigersQuest #Kishan I heard the song of a bird and knew it was Durga’s hatchling though I’d never personally set eyes upon it. The song made me smile.

    5/19 #TigersQuest #Kishan I held a girl in my arms as my feet sank into a snowbank. The air was wet and cold but we were surrounded by a pocket of warmth and flowers grew in a circle around us.

    5/22 #TigersQuest #Kishan I woke and went to the bed. Kelsey lay there, eyes open, but she didn’t respond to my queries. She was like a broken doll. Gently, I scooped her up.

    5/23 #TigersQuest #Kishan When she didn’t speak, didn’t even blink, I began crying, begging. I couldn’t lose her. Not like that. How could the universe take her away when I’d just found her?

    5/24 #TigersQuest #Kishan I didn’t even register her touch at first, then I was so relieved I didn’t understand what she was telling me. It didn’t make sense for the grove not to give her a dream.

    5/25 #TigersQuest #Kishan Quickly, I told her that I’d dreamt of Ren. A future dream. Which meant we were going to rescue him. She was so thrilled at the news, she wanted to leave immediately.

    5/26 #TigersQuest #Kishan I started to tell her the rest but she interrupted me and later, I decided that it might be better not to tell her everything. Most of it, I didn’t understand myself.

    5/29 #TigersQuest #Kishan As we prepared to leave, I wondered why I was given the dream instead of Kelsey. Maybe the future Kelsey dreamed of wouldn’t be what she imagined.

    5/30 #TigersQuest #Kishan Maybe I needed to be the one to give her hope. Whatever the reason, I was glad. I believed, like Kells, that we would successfully save Ren.

    5/31 #TigersQuest #Kishan I also believed that there was a future for me with the woman I loved and I was content to let the future unfold page by page if that was true.

    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.