Colleen Houck


“Chapped rats and bats' wings, brandied worms and adders' stings, Goat's wool and owl's hoot, fish's tongue and dog's foot. Into the potion, all you go, add clockwork hearts, positioned so…" The Lantern's Ember

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  • Tiger’s Quest Deleted Scene-Rules for Courtship

    February 1, 2014


    Tiger’s Quest Deleted Scene-Rules for Courtship

    This deleted segment was one I went back and forth with my editor on. Ultimately it was changed to the version it is now. This is how the scene went in the self-published Tiger’s Quest. It’s from chapter 6 & 7.

    Tiger's Quest Cover

     

    She squeezed my arm, “Your Ren is wonderful.  And absolutely yummy.  I can see why you had a hard time letting him go.  If I were a couple of years younger and wasn’t happily married, I’d lock him up with me and swallow the key.  What are you going to do?”

    “Ren wants me to date both of them and make a choice.”

    “No kidding?”

    “No kidding.  In fact, Li invited Ren here tonight to discuss ‘terms’ for dating.”

    Jennifer’s mouth fell open.  “This is definitely something you should write in that journal of yours.”

    I grimaced, “I’m sure I will.”

    “This is so exciting!  It’s better than my favorite soap opera.  Please let me know what happens.  I can’t wait.  Good luck, Kelsey.  See you Thursday.”

    After she left, I turned around to find Ren behind me and the studio behind him dark.

    “Where’s Li?”

    “He left out the back entrance.”

    “Oh.  So, what happened?”

    “Come on, I’ll tell you about it in the car.”

    When we were driving home, I asked, “What did you two say to each other?”

    “Li and I agreed that you could date us both, but that he gets equal…what did he call it…face time.  For every date that we go on, he gets one.”

    “Anything else?”

    “Yes.  Games with his friends don’t count as dates and us being in school or driving to school together doesn’t count either.  We also have a strict non-interference policy so we don’t interrupt the other person’s date.”

    Really.  And what happens if one of you interferes?”

    “The one that interferes gets no dates for a week while the other guy has exclusive access.”

    “Uh-huh.  Exclusive access.  Right.”

    “The studio will be neutral territory and I’ll be able to attend wushu classes but I have to pay his fee, which he purposely set at an exorbitant amount, thinking that I couldn’t afford it.”

    “I see.”

    “We also set a no-kissing rule.”

    “A what?!”

    “A no-kissing rule.  Meaning that neither one of us will initiate a kiss.  But if you should choose to kiss one of us, then the other one has to accept it.”

    “Ren, that is absolutely ridiculous!  Are you going to decide what I will wear on each date, too?”

    He stared at my clothes thoughtfully for a minute, “Hmm, I hadn’t considered that.  Good point, I’ll bring it up with Li on Thursday.”

    “You will NOT bring it up with Li on Thursday!”

    He shrugged, “Fine.  But if I see you drive off with him in something provocative…”

    I stopped him quickly, “Ah, but that would be interference.”

    He set his mouth in a firm line, “I’d risk it.”

    “I don’t like this.  I feel like the child in a hostile joint custody battle.”

    He replied softly, “You can always make a choice now.  But after all this planning you should give Li at least a week.”

    “Ha!  What makes you think I’d choose you?  Li’s a good guy, too!”

    Ren rubbed his jaw and said quietly, “Yes.  I think he is.”

    That comment surprised me and I thought about it quietly as we drove home.  He dropped me off, helped me out, and disappeared as usual.

    This dating thing they’d organized was absolutely ridiculous.  Fine.  If they wanted to joust for the girl’s favor, then bring it on.  Let them dress up in their battle armor, mount their horses, and sharpen their lances.  I still had a choice at the end of the day.  I could choose the winner, the loser, or neither of them.  The good news was that it would buy me some time.

    I could understand it from Ren’s point of view, at least a little.  During his century they probably did battle for females, and surely a tiger’s instinct tells him to drive off the other males.  Li’s reaction shocked me though.  I was actually surprised that he cared this much.  I’d expected Li to just breakup with me, which would have made my part in this little production much easier.  Maybe they’d both kill each other in the process and everybody would die in the end, like in Hamlet.

    Thursday when we walked into wushu, there seemed to be an unspoken agreement between the two men not to look at each other.  The class watched the two men warily but eventually settled down when nothing happened.  Neither of them paired up with me anymore either.  Jennifer worked with me while the two of them worked with other students.

    I had a date planned with one or the other of them every night for the rest of the week and the pace was exhausting me.  Li was going out of his way to take me to nice dinners and plan elaborate picnics.  He also cheated.  He’d convinced the guys that we needed to have game night every week instead of every two weeks.  Then we’d only stick around a short time and he’d take me out for ice cream or we’d go out on a walk to sneak in extra time.

    Ren was a play-by-the-rules kind of guy.  He seemed content to come over and read with me or watch movies indoors.  He decided that kettle corn was his favorite snack and was an expert at making it now.  We watched old movies, while he asked hundreds of questions.  He liked quite a variety of films.  Star Wars was probably his favorite though.  He liked Luke.  Han Solo was too much of a bad boy for him.  Not worthy of Princes Leia he said.  Ren was definitely the Knight-in-Shining-Armor type of hero.

     

    (Fast forward through Ren’s song)

    “Oh.  Well, our story isn’t quite over yet now, is it?”

    I slid closer to him and wrapped my arms around his neck.  He squeezed me close, pressed his face against my neck, and whispered my name.

    “No.  It’s definitely not over yet.”

    I brushed his hair away from his forehead and said quietly, “It’s beautiful, Ren.”

    He held me very close.  My heart began to beat faster.  I looked into his vivid blue eyes, then at his perfectly sculpted lips, and willed him to kiss me.  He dipped his head closer but stopped just short of contact.  He studied my expression and raised an eyebrow.  Then he smiled at me brilliantly and suggested that we keep watching our movie.

    Why won’t he kiss me?!  Stubborn man!  Was he made of steel?  Wasn’t his blood blistering his skin like mine was?!  I felt like I was on fire, like I was a heat seeking missile that had zeroed in on the target.  But something was wrong with my detonator.  Was I operating under false assumptions?  Did I misinterpret his signals?  No.

    I figured it out.  He wanted me to make the first move.  He probably didn’t want to break the rules.  He wanted to play the game fair.  Even though Li was cheating and doing everything in his power to win this stupid battle, Ren would stick to his code of chivalry.  Boys and their war games!  I hated this ridiculous little competition.  Well, they’re not the only ones who can play games.  From that point on, I decided that I would test his resistance.  I would get Ren to kiss me first.

    I immediately put my plan into action.  We finished the movie with me sitting as close to him as possible.  I held his hand and traced little circles on the back of it.  I pulled his arm around me and tucked my head against his shoulder.  I also leaned in close to make comments from time to time, my lips were always just inches from his.  He kept nervously twitching and shifting his position but he wasn’t willing to let go of my hand or move further away.

    After the movie he quickly got up and said that since school started the next day, he wanted to compare schedules.  I read through my catalog.  I was taking Art History-Prehistoric through Romanesque, History 470-Women in Indian Society, College Writing II, and Political Science-Internal Relations.

    Ren was taking Reading/Writing/Research for International Students which was an English course for non-native English speakers, Listening/Speaking for International Students, History of Mathematics, and Music of the World- an investigation of music in culture emphasizing music of Africa, Indonesia, South America, India and Japan.”

    “Ren…do you realize you’re taking 15 credits?  One of your international classes alone is six credits.”  I squeezed his arm and began trailing my fingers over his muscular bicep, “Do you think you’ll be able to do that much?  You only get to be a man for six hours a day, remember?  You wouldn’t have time for anything else except homework on the weekends.”  Just to illustrate my point, I traced little hearts on his forearm, “Don’t you want to save some time to…be with me?”

    He watched me curiously, “Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that.  I will definitely need to be saving time for…” his eyes flickered from my fingers on his arm to my lips, “other things.”

    He called in to drop everything except International Studies and got those times switched to earlier classes so he could ride in with me.  His schedule now looked much better.

    “How did you get them to do that for you?  Normal students don’t get to have their schedules immediately arranged for them like that.”

    He shrugged, “I talked with the Dean.”

    “The Dean?!  He is arranging your schedule?!”

    “Yes.  He’s extremely motivated to keep me happy.”

    “Unbelievable.”

    He ignored my shocked expression and compared our schedules.

    “It looks like we can ride in together almost every day.  I’ll go in early with you on Tuesdays and Thursdays and do homework and then Friday you can drive in by yourself.”

    I put my hands on my hips, “Ren, do you always get everything you want?!”

    He snuck his hands around my waist and pulled me against his chest, then ducked his lips to within inches of mine, “Not…what I want…the most.”

    He hesitated for a minute, waiting for me to make a move.  But I wasn’t having it.  I was determined that he would kiss me first.  This time I grinned at him and waited.  The tension was luscious as we stood there, arms wrapped around each other, locked in a silent struggle of wills.

    Finally, he broke away, “You’re killing me Kells.  Date’s over.”

    I put my hand on his incredibly hard muscular arm and bit the corner of my lip in a hopefully appealing way.  Leaning in closer, I batted my eyes innocently and in the most seductive voice I could manage, asked coyly, “Are you absolutely sure you have to leave?”

    I felt his arm tighten and his pulse quicken.  He seemed to be going through an internal dispute.  He cupped my cheek with his hand and hoping to push him over to my side, I placed my hand on top of his, turned my head, and pressed a warm kiss on his palm.  Teasing his palm with my lips, I heard him hitch a breath.   I had no idea he reacted this way to me.  This will be easier than I thought.

    Didn’t a famous vaudeville actress once say, “Always leave them wanting more”?  Hmm, maybe that was Walt Disney.  Anyway, Disneyland and a seductive woman—what’s the common denominator?  High expectations.  Disney markets itself so well that kids know that the minute they walk through the gates, they will have the most thrilling experience of their lives.  Same thing with a seductive woman.  It’s not about the delivery as much as it is about the build-up, the anticipation.

    I would simply market my lips.  I’d make him want to kiss me so bad that he can’t think of anything else.  Just like a kid pressuring his parents to take him to Disneyland saying, “Can we go, dad?  Can we go?  Please?!  Can we go, dad?”  His lips will be pressuring his brain, “Can we kiss her?  Huh?!  Can we.  Please?!  Can we?”

    With my plan solidly formed, I squeezed his arm lightly and walked off towards the stairs.  I could feel him watching me.  I turned one last time and said, “Well…Tiger, if you change your mind.  You know where to find me.”  I trailed my fingers along the railing and continued up the stairs adding quietly, “It’ll just be little ole me over here.  All by my lonesome.  All day long.”

    I know he heard me even though I spoke softly.  Unfortunately, he didn’t follow me up the stairs in a dramatic show of passion like I thought he would.  I’d been hoping for a Rhett Butler kind of thing.  I’d envisioned Ren, not being able to help himself because I’m so seductive, sweeping me up into his arms and carrying me up the stairs dramatically like Scarlett.  But he left.  I heard the door downstairs close quietly.  Drat!  He has more self-control than I thought.

    It didn’t matter.  It was just a minor setback.  I spent the rest of that day brainstorming for my lip marketing plan.  How do you catch a very old, very alert tiger by surprise?  Use his weaknesses.  What are Ren’s weaknesses?  Food?  He was already resisting that one pretty well.  Feminine Wiles?  Maybe.  Poetry?  But how could I use that against him?  Ah-ha!  The poor guy doesn’t stand a chance.  The next morning, I put my plan into action.

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

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    Colleen Houck
    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.