Chapter 5

As I watched Ren cradling Kelsey, I had the urge to growl. Of course, I didn't because I was kneeling close to the girl, and I didn't want to scare her. But I couldn't help it as I felt my tiger stirring restlessly inside me. For the tiger, that girl was his. She committed herself to him and the tiger wanted to attack whoever touches her. For the man, it's more complicated. He knew that Kelsey still had feelings for Ren, even if she didn't want to admit it to herself. He knew that Kelsey had chosen him, but he had his doubts.

I narrowed my eyes at Ren as I watched his hand stroke her hair. Tears were rolling down her delicate cheek, and I felt my insides twist and ache painfully. Lokesh will pay for what he did to her. I noticed that Kelsey's body was smeared with blood; I was praying it wasn't hers. But Kelsey seemed—different. It's really hard to describe, but it's like she struggling with something internally. Her demeanor seemed different: more cautious and more frightened. It made my heart constrict with anger and anguish.

"Who are you?" the girl asked, bringing me out of my deep thoughts.

I glanced at the girl. She watched me warily with hazel eyes. I noticed that I saw golden specks in them; I never saw anyone's eyes so golden before except for my own. She was very appealing; especially how her brown curls cascaded around her shoulders. As I gazed at her, I knew she was mixed with something else, ethically. Her eyes were almond shape and her skin had a golden tint to it; maybe she was some type of Asian. I felt my tiger stir within me; something about this girl made him interested in her. I have to admit; I was curious about why Lokesh had her. There's always a reason for the things he does.

"My name is Kishan. What's yours?" I asked softly; I didn't want to make her feel frightened of me. She looked scared enough as it is.

She stared at me for a moment and murmured, "Rose."

"Well, Rose, is your family here in Nepal or in India. Maybe we can take you home," I offered. I really wanted her out of here because she doesn't need to get involved with us.

Then, her expression changed. I watched cautiously as I saw her expression darken and her body tensed. I saw tears well up in her eyes and catching on her long, thick eyelashes. She shook her head frantically as her tears shimmered on her eyelashes. What did I say?

"I don't have one. They're dead. Lokesh killed them," she sobbed quietly as she planted her face in her small hands.

I was stunned, shocked even. I didn't know what to say as Rose began to shake uncontrollably with sobs. My stomach began to churn uncomfortably as I was thinking what I should do. I began to feel sorry for her loss; I know how it feels. I've been there; I know how the pain feels. It feels like your whole world is crumbling around you, and you can't breathe. I couldn't after Yesubai's death; I blamed myself for her death, and my agony over her could have ruined me.

It surprised me when I reached out to her and placed my hand gently on her shoulder. Before I could prepare myself, she hurled her tiny body into me. I stumbled back a bit, but I balanced myself awkwardly as her arms circled around my neck. She buried her face into my chest as she sobbed. I didn't know what to do. Well, you comfort her you idiot. She just lost her family; she probably doesn't realize she is doing this. I stiffly circled my arms around her and stroked her back to soothe her. For me, this was very uncomfortable because I wasn't use to this. I mean, I did this to Kelsey, but that was different. I am comforting a stranger.

"You want to talk about it?" What was that? Of course, she doesn't want to talk about it, moron! I inwardly shook my head in disappointment. I know I can say something better than that.

For her response, she shook her head against my chest and continued crying. I looked over at Ren and Kelsey and they were watching me. They were confused; both with their eyebrows furrowed. I gave my shoulders a half-shrug as a response to their unspoken question. I looked down at the girl, and she looked so broken that I began to feel my chest ache severely. I can at least give her the comfort she deserves. I made myself relax and began stroking her hair. I began soothing her in my native language and rhythmically stroke her back and hair. I noticed how her body felt warm underneath my touch, and how soft her hair was. I inhaled sweet lavender and vanilla. I kept stroking her hair as her scent surrounded me.

After a while, she stopped sobbing and gently pushed me away. She wiped her eyes and muttered, "Sorry about that. I shouldn't have done that."

I shrugged my shoulders. "I don't mind. I know how hard it must have been for you."

I gave her a warm smile, and she blinked a couple of times. She was about to say something when Ren approaches us.

"We need to get going," he said firmly while glancing at Rose.

Kelsey was behind him; watching me curiously. I felt a pang of guiltiness for stroking a stranger when I should be comforting her. But Ren was doing that. My mind sneered. I stifled a growl as I stood up abruptly. Rose looked up at Ren and looked a little—lost. I saw Kelsey give her a reassuring smile.

"It's going to be dark in six hours," Ren informed. "We need to . . ."

He drifted off when I heard a mocking laugh from behind me. I saw Kelsey's eyes widen with fear as Ren stood protectively in front of her. I turned around slowly; aware that Rose huddled close to my side. Lokesh stood in front of us with a grin plastered on his face. Four men were with him . . . holding weapons. How did he find us? Lokesh's dark eyes appraised us while his grin broadened. Lokesh clasped his hands together like he saw a splendid present. I glowered at him while I stepped closer to Rose to protect her.

"Well, I finally brought you all together. How very thoughtful of you men to make my work easier," he glanced at Rose. He shook his head. "Now, Rosie dear, your behavior is unacceptable. I am not pleased with you right now. Your poor sister had to take your punishment. You don't want these brave fellows to have the same burden, do you?" He raised his eyebrows questioningly.

Rose tensed at my side, and I glanced down at her to see if she was ok. Oddly, her body trembled as she glared at Lokesh. She took a step toward him; her fists clenched at her side. I heard her give a low, throaty growl. I was stunned. How did she do that?

I was about to take her hand to pull her back to safety when I heard, "How dare you bring up my sister you filthy murderer?! She was just a child and you took her short life away from her," she seethed with rage. Her body's quivering increased to the point that I thought she was going to fall over. "I'm going to make you regret the day you were born," she growled as she lunged for him.

I just grabbed her shoulder when I felt her body shift underneath my grasp. It happened so quickly that I couldn't figure out what happened until I saw it. Rose shifted into an orange Bengal Tiger in front of me. I was speechless; someone has a curse like my brother and I. Her angry roar rang in my ears, and then she lunged for Lokesh once more. I was frozen in place in shock; I think Ren and Kelsey were, too, because I didn't hear them stir. I was about to go after her when I heard gunshot ring in my ears and I flinched from the sound. Then, Rose's body collapsed to the ground. I heard Kelsey scream from behind me. Looking at her still body, oddly, made me outraged as a sickening, chilling feeling settled into my stomach. I couldn't deny my aggravated tiger any longer as I shifted, my roar echoing throughout the jungle.

I hope you guys are enjoying it so far :) ClaraSky