Monday, February 13, 2012

Bonus Material for Tiger's Quest by Colleen Houck


For Valentine's day we have a Ren/Kelsey scene and a Kishan/Kelsey scene. Ren's scene is an extended version of the Valentine's Day date.


I got the scissors and clipped a red rosebud from the bouquet and tucked it into his lapel.
He grinned at me, kissed my cheek, then helped me into my coat and offered me his arm. Once he got me in the Hummer, he took a long time to get my seatbelt on because he got distracted kissing my ear. We drove to a nice hotel where we were escorted to a private dining room. After we were seated and waited on by no less than three personal wait staff, I whispered, “A normal restaurant would have been perfectly fine for me.”
“A normal restaurant is where hundreds of men are taking their hundreds of dates tonight. It’s not special or private. I wanted to have you all to myself tonight.”
“Don’t you have me all to yourself every night?”
“Yes. But not on Valentine’s.”
He captured my hand and kissed it. “It’s my first Valentine’s date with the girl I love. I wanted to see you sparkle in the candlelight. Speaking of which…” He pulled a sheet of paper from the lapel of his jacket and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I opened it and recognized his handwriting. “You wrote me a poem after all.”
He grinned. “I did.”
“Will you read it to me?”
He nodded and took the page. He began speaking, and I felt the timbre of his voice warm me. He read…
I lit a candle and watched the flame
It danced and twisted
Wild and unfettered
It captured me and flickered in my eyes
When I passed my hand over it
It stirred
The flame rose higher, burned hotter
When I pulled my hand away the heat diminished
Grew fainter, and extinguished
I stretched out my hand again to savor the burn
Would it singe and scald? Blister and blaze?
No! It tingled and warmed
Smoldered and glowed
Setting me ablaze, body and soul
It was glimmering, luminous, radiant
The fiery blush of her cheek
Ren

He ducked his head as if embarrassed at the beautiful words. I stood up and walked around to his side of the table. He turned toward me. I twisted my way onto his lap and put my arms around his neck. “It’s beautiful.”
“You’re beautiful.”
“I’d kiss you, but I’d get lipstick all over you.”
“You think I care?”
I laughed. “Probably not. But what would the waitress say?”
“She can say whatever she wants.”
“I’m fighting a losing battle, aren’t I?”
“Yes. I plan on kissing you…a lot, before this night is over.”
“I see. So I might as well get on with it then. Wouldn’t you say?”
“I would definitely say you should.”
I didn’t hear the waitress come back in. The only reason I even looked up was because Ren started laughing. My face burned bright red, and I hissed in his ear, “Why didn’t you tell me she was back in the room?”
“She’s come back to the room three times.”
“Are you serious?”
He laughed quietly. “Yes. Don’t worry. I’ll leave her a big tip.”
The waitress approached our table as I awkwardly removed myself from Ren’s lap. To my horror, the bottom half of his face was smeared with red lipstick. I could only imagine what my face looked like. He didn’t care at all.
I asked where the restroom was, and Ren spoke up, “There’s a private restroom behind that door.”
I sped off to the restroom and asked him to order dinner for me while I repaired my makeup. By the time I returned, dinner was waiting. Somehow, Ren had gotten all the lipstick off his face without stepping away from the table.
“How did you get cleaned up so quickly?”
“Our wait staff kindly brought me a mirror and some towels.” He rose to help me sit and leaned over to press his cheek against mine. “Don’t feel self-conscious. I overheard the wait staff talking, and they think it’s the most romantic gesture they’ve seen in a long time. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I plan on doing it frequently.”
As he sat, I said, “Really? I guess I’d better switch to glosses then and throw out all the lipstick.”
He looked offended. “Not all the lipstick.”
I laughed. “Fine, you can help me decide which shades to keep.”
He sat back in his chair delighted. “I would be more than happy to help you test out how each one looks on me after you thoroughly kiss me.”
“I’m sure you would be.” I played with my earrings during dinner, and he noticed.
“You don’t like them.”
“I think they’re lovely, but—”
“But?”
“I feel really guilty about you spending this kind of money on me. I think you should take them back to the store tomorrow. Maybe they’ll let you just pay a rental fee.”
“We’ll talk about it later, after our date. For now, I just want to enjoy seeing you wear them.”
“Okay, we’ll talk more about it tomorrow.”
After dinner, we drove to the dance. All the proceeds from the dance would go toward funding the Jensen Arctic Museum.
We checked our coats at the door, and he swept me out on the floor and twirled me around the museum displays that had been set up to showcase the museum's pieces. Holding me close, he never took his eyes off me as he spun me to the music. He was so distractingly handsome that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from him either, even to look at the interesting exhibits as we passed by.
He hummed along to a song. “I like this singer, who is he?”
“Josh Groban. He’s very talented.”
I listened to the song for a minute. It was called “My Confession.” Smiling, I admitted, “This song describes how I feel about you.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because it took a long time for me to confess how I felt about you, even to myself.”
He listened more carefully to the words then smiled. “I always knew how you felt about me.”
“Since when?”
“Since that kiss before we left Kishkindha. The one you got really mad about.”
“Oh, the one you thought was enlightening?”
“It was. Why were you mad about that?”
“Partly because you seduced me so thoroughly that I dropped all my defenses. But, mostly, I was mad because you said it was enlightening, like you were scoring me.”
He laughed. “I wasn’t scoring you. And if I was, I would’ve given you a ten.”
“Why did you say that then?”
“It was enlightening because that’s when I knew.”
“Knew what?”
“Knew that you felt as strongly about me as I did about you. You can’t kiss a man like that and not love him, Kells.”
I reached up to play with the hair at the nape of his neck. “So that’s why you were so cocky and self-assured after that.”
“Yes. But that all bluster went away after you left.”
His expression became serious. He kissed my fingers, pressed my hand to his chest, and said intently, “Promise me you’ll never leave me like that again, Kelsey.”
I looked up into his cobalt blue eyes and said, “I promise. I’ll never leave you again.”
His lips brushed against mine roughly. Then, suddenly, he smiled mischievously and twirled me out, then yanked me back up tight against his chest. To support me, he slid his left arm behind my back, trailed his other hand up my arm, and pressed it against my hand at his neck, holding it firmly in place. Then, he lowered me slowly, gradually, swinging me in a circular dip. He snapped me back up quickly and began moving to the tango music, maneuvering me smoothly along with the Latin rhythm.
I knew people were probably watching us, but, at that point, I didn’t care. He was able to sweep through the moves expertly, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. The dance was fiery and passionate, and I was quickly overwhelmed by him and the cadence of the melody. He wrapped me up in a blanket of mental and physical sensations, orchestrating the perfect seduction.
When the song was over, he had to hold me up for a few minutes so that I didn’t fall down. He laughed and nuzzled my neck, happy with my reaction.
I became aware of my surroundings again and saw other couples had stopped to stare at us. Several women had raised eyebrows and open mouths. Some of them stared at me with jealousy and some with confusion. I couldn’t blame them. I’d wonder what he saw in me too.
Even a few of the men were staring at Ren, but their expressions were unhappy. They’d lost the attention of their dates. Ren was a hard act to follow. I mentally wished them luck in trying to compete with Ren’s presence. Ren was oblivious to the effect he had on everyone around him, of course. All of his awareness was centered solely on me.
The song changed back to a normal slow one. After I had recovered enough from his tantalizing onslaught against my senses to speak, I said, “I thought that kind of dancing only happened in the movies. Where did you learn to dance like that? And why do you know how to dance and Kishan doesn’t? Didn’t your parents teach you both?”
“Kishan was never interested. My mother taught me several traditional forms of dancing, and then I picked a lot of moves up over the years by watching. Mr. Kadam’s a good dancer and was happy when I expressed interest in learning modern styles. He hooked me up with Nilima, who became my practice partner. She’s an even better dancer than he is. It’s a good workout actually, not too unlike wushu.”
I frowned. “I don’t really like the idea of you dancing with Nilima. If you want to practice, then teach me.”
“Nilima is like a sister to me.”
“Still.”
“Alright, I promise to never dance with another woman again.” He smiled. “Though, I still like it when you’re jealous.”
We got some drinks, and he led me to a quieter place with fewer people. We started slow dancing again, and I put my head on his shoulder, closed my eyes, and just let myself enjoy the feeling of being held by him. The song was only halfway over when I felt him stiffen and saw him look at something behind me.
“Well…well…well. The shoe’s on the other foot this time. I believe this is my dance.”
I spun around. “Kishan? I’m so happy to see you!” I threw my arms around him to give him a big hug.
He enfolded me in his arms, pressed his cheek against mine, and said, “I’m happy to see you too, bilauta.”
And Kishan's takes place just before Kishan and Kelsey jump out of the plane.
A Leap of Faith

The old plane rumbled so loudly that I could barely hear myself think, which allowed me to give most of my attention to my lurching stomach. I swallowed thickly wondering if I was going to be able to jump when the time came.
Mr. Kadam was in the front of the plane talking with the old pilot and, seated across from me, was Kishan. His golden eyes studied me and his unasked questions made me nervous.
I unbuckled my seatbelt with the intention of talking with Mr. Kadam in the front when suddenly we rolled, banking to the left and I stumbled right into Kishan’s arms. He softly growled and sat me down next to him then made a great show of buckling my seatbelt.
“Are you trying to get yourself killed before we even save Loverboy?”
“No,” I spat. “I just wanted to see how long we had left until we reached our target.”
“We still have ten minutes or so.”
I nodded and lowered my head into my hands, momentarily overcome by air sickness. Kishan rubbed my back and the warmth of his hand distracted me.
“I’m fine,” I murmured. “You don’t need to do that.”
“I want to help, Kells. If you can’t jump, then stay on the plane. We’ll meet up with you later.”
“No. I need to be there. The plan won’t work without me.”
He shrugged. “We’ll adapt.”
“You shouldn’t have to.”
After a moment, he said, “There is another option, you know.”
“What option?”
“Jump with me. In tandem. Like we did in practice.”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“Kelsey—”
“No! You’re too…touchy feely when we jump together.”
He folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes while I lowered mine, my face flaming.
“I have never behaved inappropriately.”
I gave him a look and he gave me a half grin and said, “Very well, I admit to enjoying the feeling of holding you in my arms.”
“Don’t forget about kissing my neck and shoulder.”
He grinned outright then and rubbed his jaw. “What can I say? Your bare neck was irresistible.” Tilting his head, he remarked, “You’re just being overly sensitive, bilauta. You feel guilty for reacting to my touch.”
Kishan was right about that. I couldn’t deny that I enjoyed the feeling of being close to him as much as I wished it weren’t true.
“Will you jump with me if I promise to limit our…contact?” he asked.
“No.”
He sighed. “Kelsey, don’t let your stubbornness cause an accident.”
“The only accident would be letting you get your way.”
Kishan laughed. “If I was getting my way, we wouldn’t even be here now.” He captured my hand and pressed a lingering kiss on my bare wrist. Leaning in closer, he said, “If I got my way, I’d whisk you far away from here to a warm beach where we could play in the water and the sand. We’d let the cares of the world slide from our shoulders like a worn shirt and find delight in the freedom of being together.”
The vision Kishan shared was entirely too tempting. It was easy to imagine standing in the sand with waves lapping our feet while he wrapped his arms around me and hugged me to his very nice bare chest. With a start, I realized I was about five centimeters away from kissing him which made me angry all over again.
I jerked back under the gaze of his twinkling golden eyes and he smiled as if he’d been reading my mind and was satisfied with the images found there. To prove a point, I yanked my chute closer and put it on, determined to show him not only my utter dedication to saving Ren but also my resolve to keep him at a distance.
When I sat back, he sighed and put on his own chute, resigned to my decision. Mr. Kadam came out then and said we were ready. The back of the plane opened and, with a wink, he jumped out. I peered down and saw his chute open.
Kishan stood behind me. “Your turn, Kells.”
I bit my lip nervously and felt my leg muscles clench and soften as I tried to summon the courage.
Kishan cupped my cheek and turned my face to his.  Lightly, he kissed my cheeks one by one and said, “I’ll be waiting if you change your mind.”
Before I even allowed myself to consider the impact of his promise, I took two steps and leapt through the back of the plane. As my body spun in the night sky his words echoed through my mind.
I’ll be waiting
 Source: Colleen Houck

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