Read Tiger's Voyage Online

Authors: Colleen Houck

Tags: #Adventure, #Fantasy, #Young Adult, #Romance, #Paranormal, #Magic, #Urban Fantasy, #Mythology

Tiger's Voyage (9 page)

BOOK: Tiger's Voyage
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Ren’s smile faltered. He frowned at his brother and narrowed his eyes at me. “Not talking to you is fine because at least that means I won’t have to listen.” With a sarcastic bow he added, “And with nothing else to say, I’ll gladly accept your terms of surrender.”

“I’m not surrendering
anything
, oh, Prince of the Battle of the Five Horses. And it’s
fine
with me, because I don’t expect you to listen to me anyway!”

“That was
Champion
at the Battle of the
Hundred
Horses!”

“Fine! Then why don’t you gallop on back to the Jeep,
Champion
?”


Fine!
Then I will!”

I spat with barely controlled rage. “Good! And don’t let the jungle hit you on the way out!”

He stared into my eyes as he stalked past me. He was breathless with anger and frustration, and, heaven help me, all I could think of was grabbing him and kissing him.

He spoke softly as I glared back at him. “I pity poor Kishan, who has to walk the rest of the way back with you.”

“I’m sure he’ll survive,” I replied acerbically.

He glanced at Kishan, and looked his brother up and down coldly. “No
doubt
. I’ll meet you back at the Jeep.”

Kishan nodded, and Ren hesitated.

I folded my arms. “Well? What are you waiting for? A good-bye kiss?”

His eyes darted to my lips. “Careful what you wish for,
mohini stri
.”

For a brief second, I panicked thinking he’d accept that challenge, but he tilted his head, smiled an infuriatingly knowing smile, leapt over the fire, and was gone.

Kishan stared at the hole in the forest where Ren had disappeared. Then he turned to me and put his hands on my shoulders.

“I’ve never seen you so angry before.”

“What can I say? He brings out the best in me.”

Kishan frowned. “It would appear he does.”

“What did those words mean?”


Mohini stri
? They mean ‘siren,’ or ‘fascinating woman.’”

I grunted. “Figures he’d take the opportunity to mock me further.”

Kishan gave me a puzzled look. “I don’t think he’s mocking you.”

“Of
course
he is. And I’m warning you right now: I’m not in the mood to start another tiger fight, so if you want to take off after him, then by all means feel free.”

“Kelsey, I have no intention of leaving you alone. And I don’t want to fight with you.”

“Well, at least one of you is a gentleman,” I muttered as I started gathering my things to leave. I picked up the crumpled poem and smoothed the paper regretfully as I slipped my abused journal carefully into the backpack.

“Kelsey, despite what you think, Ren wouldn’t have left you alone either. If I wasn’t here, he would have stayed.”

“Yeah. Right. I could walk off the side of a cliff for all he cares. Why are you defending him anyway? I thought you wanted him out of the picture!”

“That’s not … exactly true.”

“Oh! I see. So
Kelsey
is the one at fault.
Kelsey
misunderstands everyone’s intentions. Then let me make sure I understand
your
motives. Do you still want to be with me, or don’t you?”

He scowled. “You know the answer to that.”

“Fine. Then now’s your chance! Kiss me.”

Kishan studied my face carefully and shook his head. “No.”

“No? Don’t you want to?”

“Yes, but I promised that I wouldn’t kiss you until I knew you and Ren were over. And I don’t think you are.”

“Ha! Oh, I think we
are
.”

“No. In fact, your little tirade proves that you’re not.”

I stood up on my toes as high as I could, getting as close to being nose to nose with Kishan as was possible. “
Fine
. Then neither one of you needs to walk me back.”

I grabbed my backpack and left him standing in shock. I stomped through the jungle, letting my anger guide me for several moments before I slipped my phone out of my pocket and searched for Ren’s dot on the map. I could see Kishan’s dot following me at a distance. He was far enough back that I couldn’t see or hear him, but he was near enough to close the distance if I needed him.

Walking through the jungle relatively alone was good for me. It gave me time to cool down. I was still angry and muttered to myself the entire way, but at least my blood pressure normalized, so I didn’t have to worry about having a stroke. And when I realized that I had possession of the Golden Fruit and the Scarf, I grinned wickedly thinking about the two of them starving or having to hunt. In fact, I made myself a big ice cream cone and soothed my temper with chocolate brownie and mudslide as I walked.

Several hours later, I found Ren leaning against the Jeep, which was parked in the shade of a tree. He watched me as I tromped through the undergrowth. He’d probably heard me coming for the last ten minutes. He looked behind me, surprised that I was alone, then glared, changed into the white tiger, and walked between some bushes so he wasn’t in view anymore.

I studiously ignored him, sank down to the dirt with my back against the Jeep, and took a long drink of sugar-free lemonade from my canteen. I would have preferred water, but we’d run out and the Golden Fruit couldn’t make plain old H
2
O.

Kishan emerged from the jungle and briefly stared at me with a fathomless expression before unlocking and opening the Jeep doors. Ren emerged from the bushes and silently leapt into the backseat. I wasn’t about to cozy up next to Ren so I chose the passenger seat, cranked up the air conditioning, made a pillow, and leaned my chair back. It was a very quiet ride home.

The second the Jeep stopped in front of the house, I leapt out of the car, slammed the door, and stomped inside.

“We’re home, Mr. Kadam! I’m taking a shower!” I yelled and disappeared into my room.

Finally feeling refreshed and almost human again a few hours later, I whipped up a bowl of mixed fruit and a chicken salad sandwich and looked for Mr. Kadam in the peacock room.

“Mr. Kadam? I can’t tell you how much I missed being around a gentlema—” I said, stopping abruptly when I saw he was with a freshly showered Ren.

“Miss Kelsey, come in,” Mr. Kadam beckoned, approaching me with open arms.

I took an awkward step forward, hugged Mr. Kadam, and glared at Ren. His hair was wet and slicked back, and he was wearing a fitted V-neck shirt in dragonfly blue over a pair of straight-legged gray herringbone designer pants. He was barefoot, and he was the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen. He folded his arms across his chest, which made his arm muscles bulge. I scowled at him.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Ren said with a mocking flourish and left, deliberately brushing his arm against mine as he passed.

“I hope that hurt,” I muttered quietly and heard his soft laugh as he went into the kitchen.

Mr. Kadam seemed completely oblivious of our exchange. “Miss Kelsey! Come and sit with me. I have something to show you!”

“What is it?”

“I’ve finally finished decoding the third prophecy, and I’d like to hear what you think,” Mr. Kadam said and slid his translation across his desk.

The words were written in beautiful calligraphy. I read:

Lustrous gems of blazon black
Once graced her satin’d skin.
A ruthless knave her neck ransack’d;
The strand sank deep within.
Now beads hide buried in the sea;
A brave one brings them out.
Deadly monsters bite and sting—
Too horrible to rout.
But trident wield, kamandal imbibe,
And the lady who weaves the silk
Will guide and guarantee you lay
The wreath on sea of milk.
Seek dragon kings of oceans five
From cardinal compass as you dive:
Red Dragon’s stars move in astral time;
Blue Dragon’s range points the way;
Green Dragon helps see through the clime;
Gold Dragon’s town lies ’neath the waves;
White Dragon unlocks the door to icy lights.
Take her arms and wield them well
Her unblemish’d prize to win.
Capture the string with fluid power;
Head homeward once again.
Cool India’s lands with precious dew;
River, stream, the rain will fill.
The dry land and the heart renew,
Else healing pow’r is latent still

I let the page fall gently to my lap and looked at Mr. Kadam with a newfound horror. “Dragons?” was all I could mutter.

5
Preparation

“Dragons?” I repeated.

Mr. Kadam chuckled sympathetically. “I believe the dragons will be helpful. I don’t think you have to fight them.”

“I sincerely hope you’re right about that. So, I assume you’ve looked into what some of these things are?”

“You assume correctly. Some I know, and some will need a bit more research. Would you like to assist me?”

“Definitely. It will be a good distraction for me.”

“Excellent! But first tell me what Phet said.”

We talked for a couple of hours. Kishan approached, saw me, and quickly departed again.

Mr. Kadam finally noticed the obvious tension. “Did the brothers do something to upset you?”

“Don’t they always?” I asked dryly.

“What happened?”

I shifted nervously in my seat. “They didn’t do anything, really. It’s just that Ren and I argued about his amnesia. It was a really intense fight, and Kishan heard at least part of it. Phet said they were both pillows, which is true, but that doesn’t make it easier.”

Mr. Kadam drummed his fingers on his thigh. He should have been “ frustrated with my vague babblings, but he picked through my disjointed thoughts and asked, “What did Phet mean? How are they both pillows?”

“Basically, he said they were both pillows in a world of rocks, which I think means they are both good guys, and I would be happy no matter which one I choose.”

“I see. It’s been obvious to me that Kishan has developed feelings for you. Is this what you were fighting with Ren about?”

“No. Kishan was just … a convenient target. I was mad at Ren for blocking me out. For forgetting me.”

“We still don’t know why that happened.”

“I know.” I picked at the hem of my sleeve and sighed. “But my old insecurities surfaced, and I just got mad. He pushed the right buttons, which he seems to have a knack for, memory loss or not. He makes me so angry sometimes that I could just shake him.”

“If he stirs that much emotion in you, then it should be obvious which one you should pick.”

“Right.” I sighed. “That means I should pick Kishan. I’d have a much more peaceful life with him.”

Mr. Kadam leaned forward. “That’s not what I meant, but that decision I will leave entirely up to you. Phet seems to believe that you cannot make a wrong choice?”

I nodded glumly.

“Hmm. That’s interesting. A stress-filled visit indeed. If I might be so bold, I would encourage you to try to set aside your differences and learn to trust both of them. It will be much easier to focus on the task ahead if we all work in harmony. We are already halfway to breaking the curse. Finding Durga’s third gift will be our biggest challenge yet.”

I sighed and put my head in my hands. “You’re right. I’ll apologize to both of them for my outburst, but I’m waiting until tomorrow. That will give me time to cool off.”

“Good. Now what would you like to have for dinner?”

“How does humble porcupine pie sound?”

He laughed. “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Shall we check the cupboards for porcupine then, Miss Kelsey?”

I laughed. “I wonder what spices go well with quill soup. I get to grind this time.”

“It’s a deal.”

The next morning, I found Kishan doing chin-ups in the gym, which was his favorite place to be other than in the kitchen or on my veranda. I watched him through the window, covertly admired his muscles, and considered what Phet had told me.

Could I really learn to love Kishan? It wouldn’t be too difficult. What
would be difficult would be forgetting about Ren. Maybe I never would. My
parents only dated each other. Do you ever forget your first love? How do
people do that anyway? Could I look at Kishan with the same affection I felt
for Ren?

I guess lots of people do. People all over the world can move on from one
love to another. I just never figured I’d be one of them. I thought once I’d found
Ren, I’d never have to look at another guy again. Phet seems to feel a choice
is looming in the near future.
I bit my bottom lip.
There’s still hope that Ren
will somehow remember me. But what if he doesn’t? What if he can’t ever touch
me again without pain? Do I just give up and say, “Thanks for the memories”?
How can I be with one when the other is still around?

I heard a grunt from Kishan, and my eyes drifted back to him.

What’s my problem? Poor me. Having to pick between two of the best
looking guys on the planet. Good, sweet, honest men who both truly care for
me. Both handsome princes. Kishan would be good to me. Would love me. A
girl could do worse. Much worse. I should remember that.

I opened the sliding glass door and sat on a chair. Kishan let go of the pull-up bar and dropped to the ground. I was amazed that he could land without making a sound, as large as he was.

“Hi,” I said lamely.

He pulled up a chair across from me and sat, assessing me with his pirate-gold eyes. “Hi, yourself.”

“I just wanted to say I’m sorry for yelling at you earlier. I … well, there’s no excuse, and I apologize.”

“You don’t have to apologize. You were just frustrated. It’s an emotion I’ve become very familiar with in the past few weeks.”

“I want all of us to focus on breaking the curse. If there are unresolved issues, we’ll be distracted and someone could get hurt.”

“And, uh, how exactly do you plan to
resolve
these issues?”

“That’s a good question. I guess the best thing to do is to get things out in the open.”

BOOK: Tiger's Voyage
7.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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