Part 29 – Stranger Things

Carlisle's POV

Note to Self: This human's subsequent biting and transformation to vampire was approved on July 14, 2010, by both Jacob Black and Sam Uley, Pack Leaders. Procedure began 0600 hours July 15, 2010. CC.

Five and a half days. I was starting to get concerned. This was taking much too long, a lot longer than usual. I had called a few of the others, but no one had ever had this kind of experience before. I was completely baffled. All I could do was wait. Perhaps it was just all the extensive repair the body needed to make, or rather what the venom made. Alice assured me everything was fine, but she couldn't see exactly what time Janine would wake up either. We had expected the usual amount of screaming, but she had been pretty quiet actually, only screaming occasionally. A most unusual transformation.

I had done everything just as we had planned to originally do with Bella, right down to collecting a large vial of Jonathan's venom for injection, except the morphine. Janine was allergic to all narcotic drugs. Her immortality would not begin until after transformation. Her allergy would kill her before the venom could do its job. It would make it a little harder on her, but she was strong enough otherwise. The venom was injected directly into her heart immediately, just as Jonathan finished drinking. I had counseled him the day before of how much blood to drain from her. He stopped easier than I thought he might, when I tapped him on the shoulder. Edward was on standby in case he had to pull him off. I was relieved it had not come to that. A feeding vampire can quickly go into bloodlust if not handled carefully. He was very much in control. I was impressed.

Jonathan had worried a bit about reverting to his old ways. After all, he reasoned, he hadn't been a vegetarian very long. I had explained that this one time would not cause a back slide. We wouldn't allow it to happen. It was fitting that his new mate would have only his venom flowing through her veins. It was also fitting that he drank of her nectar. It was his right to be first, or only, as he preferred. He had chosen to be her only one. We made sure he hunted immediately after. And he had hunted twice more during this extended waiting period. Plus, Janine would need to hunt right away upon awaking. We would all go with her. We couldn't risk just Jonathan taking her. He wouldn't be able to control her by himself. She would be too strong. We couldn't, wouldn't, risk any humans, and especially any of this area.

Of course, I guess I shouldn't be too concerned. The changes her body had already made were extraordinary. All of us were slim figured. Janine had been quite plump and that plumpness had been disappearing by the day. While she would not be young, this sixty-year-old was now looking at least fifteen years younger. Her new look would be very complimenting to Jonathan's. They were close to the same age in human years. They would look equally close now. Her complexion was now smooth and soft, yet firm, her face was virtually lifting before our eyes. Her body, while not as slim as the younger girls, was now going to be shapely, a size eight by Alice's best estimate. I hoped she was correct. She had already been shopping, the online purchases began deliveries today. And her legs and feet were now straight and in excellent condition. I know she will wear heels again whenever she wants, but I warned Alice to put her in flats, perhaps even running shoes for her first hunt, and definitely jeans and a shirt, something durable. I remembered Esme had said she was adamant about comfortable shoes. And, I also reminded Alice of the condition of Bella's dress when they returned from her first feeding.

A couple days ago, when anyone else would have been finished changing, I found something lying on the floor. It was Janine's bridge. I pried open her jaw and was surprised to see a full set of brand new teeth. A full set! I was baffled. We younger vampires had all of our own teeth when we were turned. Possibly some decay, but that was an easy fix during the burn. I knew Janine had some missing teeth. I was hopeful that this would happen, but with no prior experience with someone her age . . . Yes, all of her crowns were also gone. I found one of them had been spit across the room and was lodged in the wall. A second one had obviously been spit out the window. However, the window was not open at the time. The hole was small, as if a bullet had been shot through the glass. I never found the other two. They either dissolved or they, too, might have been jettisoned through the hole in the window, or swallowed. I just don't know. It didn't matter in the least. If swallowed, she would be able to bring them back up. Vomiting isn't pleasant for anyone, human or vampire, but sometimes it is necessary. She would survive either way. Nothing like that was life-threatening any more.

Alice came into the room, practically dancing, always her bubbly self. "Carlisle, I just saw it won't be long. She's going to move her fingers in ninety-seven seconds. I'll go get Jonathan." She sped from the room and down the stairs. She found him in the garage.

He had just finished washing and waxing his car. We had all been keeping him busy. It was better that way. Otherwise he would spend every moment pacing by her bedside. All of this had been most difficult for him. He was a little unnerved by her screams. They had been quite severe when they came, followed by long periods of soft crying. It was more difficult after her tears had dried up. I had applied a wet compress over her eyes for the last two days. And, then the lengthy duration of this transformation was a bit unnerving for us all. I had been making copious notes since the beginning. Any doctor would record facts about his patient.

Alice and Jonathan were back within a few seconds. The others followed on their heels. I wish she could have been as well prepared as Bella was prior to transformation, but then Bella had over a year to learn all we could teach her after she made us take a vote about turning her. We just didn't have that kind of time to take with Janine.

Jonathan took her hand and kissed her fingers as soon as they moved. I had to warn him to move back, that a newly awakened newborn can be very dangerous. The girls lined up behind the boys, only peeking around one side or the other to watch by themselves. Esme stayed by my side. Jonathan was on the other side of Emmett. It still took almost an hour before we heard the last beat of her heart.

* * *

"Carlisle, dear," Esme said as she enter my office. "Are you going to join me for that movie we wanted to see? It comes on in five minutes."

"Yes, my love. I'm just finishing up my notes for Janine's file. This should only take a minute or two."

Carlisle, though writing at such a fast pace, has a flowing, clear script. Most doctors have scribbled so badly over the centuries their notes were barely readable for future study. He continued with the last few entries before signing the last page.

* * *

1. She opened her eyes and took a deep breath. She raised her arms straight up, wiggling her fingers. She stopped and took a closer look at her fingernails, and then next examined her toes sans shoes. She touched her hair before noticing all of us watching her first reactions.

2. She greeted us calmly, commented on the sound of her own voice, a sweet, melodious sound, a combination of small and medium bells, bold wind chimes and a brook's soft fall over smooth rocks. It is a good sound, very soothing to anyone who will hear it.

3. Her scent is more intensified, but holds the same fragrances of cloves, vanilla and jasmine, and possibly tulips in sunshine.

4. She was quite relaxed, not requiring any assistance from Jasper.

5. I asked how she was feeling. She remarked that her throat burned, and she likened the feeling to the pain she had experienced at the human age of thirty-nine years when she had suffered from a bout of strept throat. She was not ill, as she had been as a human, but this information will be most helpful to me in my human ministrations of future.

6. She repeatedly let me know she was ready to go, was quite thirsty, and understood our extra precautions considering her in her newborn status.

7. She does not think she has any special ability, however it is possible for them to manifest themselves at a later date. We will also discuss this further in the near future. She is not concerned whether she has an ability or not.

8. She was a little dismayed that her transformation took longer than the three days we had scheduled, but not unduly so.

9. She was pleased with her hunting outfit, but she did say she would have preferred the sturdiness of a running shoe. The flats provided were a little "too girlie" as she put it considering the terrain we were traveling over. Those feelings should change as she becomes more accustomed to the hunt.

10. She willingly and carefully held Jonathan's hand throughout our hunt, until the actual time of feeding. She had no problem maneuvering the initial drop from second floor, and river leap.

11. One minor incident occurred. She alerted to a human scent and was quite distressed when we took her away from it. We moved extra security to the rear of our formation and proceeded without further incident. She voiced concern for not following the human's scent for the hunt, but was swayed for the moment as we led her to believe she could try again tomorrow. It was of short duration, and, I believe, was only because it was her first hunt.

12. When a blood source was located, she watched for a very few minutes before bagging her own kill, followed by two more in rapid succession. She fell into a small creek, missing her third kill, laughed it off, and proceeded in kind. She also further cleaned up in the river before arriving home for full cleansing. She returned home in a very bloody, tattered shirt, but it was not destroyed in an obscene manner. Her jeans, though dirty, survived. Both shoes were present. They were wet from the river, but they will dry sufficiently for future use.

13. Once she was cleaned up and redressed, this time in dress and heels, she spent about an hour at play, repeated running up and down the entire staircase between first and third floors.

14. This clinician believes this newborn to have exhibited proper responses to stimuli and should continue to be a wholesome member of our kind.

Signed,

Carlisle Cullen, B.A., M.M., M.D., ., Ph.D.

Dated: July 21, 2010, 19:56 hrs.

Part 30 – Happy Birthday!

Janine's POV

It was finally over. That pain, that torture, all gone at last. And yet, I vaguely remembered having had some painful times in my other existence. They had been nothing compared to this. Perhaps because there was nothing that could relieve it this time. No medication would work. I just had to do it alone. And now it was finished.

I remembered Jonathan kissing my neck. The twinge of pain had been slight as his razor-sharp teeth had sliced into my throat just above my collar bone. He drank quickly. I was already light-headed when the burn started in my very core as a warm glow. I know I gasped and I think I moaned. I had expected it to be painful, but it was an exquisite feeling. Quite close to arousing. I barely heard Carlisle tell him it was enough. I was too far gone to hear any more. The burn was already quite intense by then—worse than the burning in my gut from my first, and only, straight shot of tequilla. I knew nothing could help it. I had endured pain as a human—several broken bones in my lifetime, illnesses with burning fevers, a couple minor surgeries, I had even passed a kidney stone once—all of this was nothing in comparison. This was real pain. All I could do was endure it. I don't know if I spoke, cried, screamed—and I didn't care. It would all be over in a few days. I could handle it. After all, what was the worst that could happen? I would die. Wasn't that the plan anyway?

I opened my eyes and stretched my arms straight out in front of me, not because I was stiff and needed it, just because it seemed like the right thing to do. I saw I was wearing nail polish, a different color from the other day. I looked from side to side, noting I was lying flat on my back on Carlisle's examination table. He had set it up in the den. It was where I had originally laid down for this procedure. Procedure? HA! Before my neck was bitten, before my blood was drained, before the venom streaked through my body, before the pain began. Before the new me was created. Before everything that was before could never be again.

I sat up swinging my legs over the side of the table. I had some little flat shoes on, so I kicked them off. My toe nails were polished with the same shade. It was so pretty. I stared at my toes. My toes were straight, the nails all even, the crooked things I had started with. I ran my fingers through my hair. It felt nice and soft—softer than before, and a little curlier. I liked that too. Then I noticed them out of the corner of my eye. I blinked, and then turned to look at them. They looked apprehensive even though they were trying to smile. I hope it's not me that has caused this. I want my new friends to like me.

"Hello," I said, my voice was a combination of soft, melodic tones. "Oh, listen to that! My voice is beautiful." I giggled. That sounded so nice I began to laugh. I turned to face Jonathan. "Now, my sweet," I said, smiling wickedly, "I have demonstrated the difference between a giggle and a laugh." That was the ice breaker. The others had been holding their breath, waiting to see what I would do, and they all gave a collective sigh.

Carlisle stepped forward, as Emmett and Jasper each stepped behind me. "How do you feel, Janine?" he asked.

"I feel great," I said, smiling, and then hesitantly, "except for my throat. You said it would burn." I swallowed. "It does. This is worse than when I had strept throat."

"Do you remember that? You said you were middle-aged when you had strept. This is unusual to remember something like that so well from your human life."

"I don't know why I remember that. I was thirty-nine. I spent my birthday in bed. Maybe that's why I remember it. It just hurt so much and this feels like that. But I don't feel sick either. Just the burn."

"Then let's all go hunt." That was the best thing I could hear. I was very thirsty. I put my shoes back on and waited.

"Is something wrong?" Carlisle asked.

"No, nothing is wrong, but I was wondering. What day is today?"

"Today is Wednesday, July twenty-first."

"The twenty-first? Wait, that is wrong. I thought we had calculated the eighteenth?"

"We did, but your transformation took longer than usual. I'm sorry, I don't know why. We'll discuss it later. You need to feed." When I didn't get up right away, Carlisle than asked, "Is there something else?"

"No, I was just waiting for a closer escort. Aren't you all afraid of what I'll do?"

"We are concerned about you. And, yes, the boys will escort you closely, but you are so calm. I don't understand that either. Bella flipped off the table into a defense crouch, ready to attack, and you just wait calmly. All of this is most unusual."

"I'm just a calm person by nature, or I was." I turned my head coyly, and batted my eye lashes, in a flirting mode. "Maybe that is my special ability. My feathers just don't get ruffled very easily. Or, is Jasper working overtime?"

"No, I'm not doing anything at all." Jasper said.

"Do you really think you have a special ability?" asked Carlisle.

"I don't know. I don't feel anything special, like Jasper does with his feelings casting, or Alice's visions. I can't read minds either. If I have one, fine, and if not, that's fine, too. Now, I'm really thirsty. Can we go, please?"

Jonathan came forward. "Will you take my hand, my dear? Carefully, please."

"Yes, I will take your hand, and I will try to be careful. Bella told me I would be very strong. Please remind me if I get too aggressive. I really don't mean to."

With that, we all filed out of the upstairs by way of the door in the glass wall. Edward scouted ahead to keep us out of the path of humans. Once I caught the scent and stopped. A low growl began deep in my chest.

"I want that!" I snarled, and started in that direction.

"No, Janine," said Jonathan. "You can't have that. We're not hunting that scent today."

"Okay, I guess I can wait until tomorrow for that one. Is there another one like it closer? Should I smell the wind from a different direction?"

"No, not like that one, but something that will do just as well. If it's too hard to concentrate, you can also stop breathing for awhile."

I sniffed the air again, still growling. After a few moments I was pulled away. I wanted to go back. It smelled so good. I was so thirsty. But I was still holding Jonathan's hand and Jasper took my other hand while Emmett fell back to be behind us. I noticed the pace was picked up just a bit. I felt a little better and stopped growling.

The running was fun—similar to my human dreams, only better. I wanted to go even faster. But they kept me surrounded. I was getting upset, I don't know why, and I started to growl again when we suddenly came upon a herd of elk. I watched a couple being taken down and then I took down a doe myself. It was a decent meal, but I was still thirsty. I claimed a second and a third within about ten minutes. I had missed one in between and ended up falling in a small creek. Not enough to clean off the blood—I was a mess—but really wet. After that everything stuck to me—leaves, small twigs, flower petals, pine needles. On the way home I went through the river to clean off.

Back at the house, I showered and dressed in another Alice-acceptable outfit, a dress and heels this time. My hunting outfit had been durable jeans and tee shirt. The shirt was shredded down the back and one sleeve was missing, but the jeans had lived to hunt with me another day.

As I dressed I looked at the new me in the mirror. I still looked like me, but younger, maybe forty-three or forty-four. I still had my salt and pepper hair, my platinum swoosh and cowlick. Alice had styled it nicely for me, until I fell in the creek. It looked so good, shiny, and so much softer than before, like when I was a younger human. My face was smooth and supple, no more bags under my eyes. My eyes were blood red. I had been told it would take a few months to change to the gold of everyone else. I looked like I was wearing purple eye shadow, and my lashes were long and lush. My body was a lot slimmer than I had ever been as a human. At least eighty pounds had melted off. Better than any diet I ever tried when human. But the best part was my legs. Strong, straight, slim ankles, these medium heels felt great, and no balance problems. And, after all that time in the woods, I still didn't have a runny nose. Allergies all gone! I'm so happy! I was very happy with the new me. I looked pretty good for my age. Oops. I forgot. Today was my birthday. My human birthday had been in January. Now I would have one in July. A much nicer birthstone. January has the garnet. Pretty, lots of colors but my favorite was blood red. But July's stone is the ruby. Gosh, guess I'll just have to buy all new birthday bling. I gazed in the mirror again. For the first time in my life, I had outer beauty. No, that was wrong. I never had outer beauty as a human, but as a vampire I was awesome. Yup, I was very happy. And back in heels. Yes!

I couldn't help it. It felt so good. I ran down the stairs, and back up again. I kept doing it until I figured I had better quit. I was starting to get some weird looks from Emmett and Jasper. And I heard someone snicker. I still needed to get used to everyone's different voice on this side of the world.

I sat on the sofa and Jonathan joined me. We could sit close together now with no worries at all. This was better than great. I remembered we used to talk on the phone for hours. This was even better because now we enjoy long conversations in person, touching, always touching. We went from room to room, activity to activity, always holding hands. It felt good. Secure.

This security thing was new to me. I liked someone making me feel secure. It was strange. I knew I was immortal. I knew I would soon learn how to take care of myself in any kind of fight. I wasn't trained to fight yet. I knew my newborn strength was a great asset, but at the same time, I knew I would need help against any other vampire not of this group. I didn't want to fight, I didn't want to hurt anyone—another vampire, as if that were really possible in my mind, while at the same time I knew they couldn't take me because I was a newborn. It was confusing. Perhaps my train of thought would be different if I were male. I don't know.

I was willing to just accept the feeling as a good one. I would take secure. Perhaps this type of secure was just a couples thing. And I was now half of a couple. I had never felt this good, this happy, as a human couple, and I had loved Don as best I could. I had been pleased at the time with what I had, but this was so much more, so much deeper. I think this feeling is what truly epitomizes the saying that "two become one". I think the only way I could feel closer to this man would be for one of us to literally climb inside the skin of the other while it was still inhabited by the first—to actually be two that became one. Of course, we can't actually do that, but it feels wonderful to think of it as if we can.

We spent the evening hours laughing, joking, and playing games. I learned I was a natural strategist now. I lost the first game of chess and won the next four. I thought it strange because I had never played chess as a human, except on the phone with Jonathan. I had lost every one of those games.

Part 31 – Here's to Special Places

Janine's POV

We went upstairs a few hours later. We lay on the bed, spooning our bodies together, as Jonathan continued to court me, whispering a steady stream of sweet nothings in my ear. His whispers couldn't be any more quiet, and I could now tell it was Emmett snickering down the hall, sometimes making comments about the way Jonathan said certain things to me. Oh, that boy was going to get it! It was hard enough to lay here next to this man who had given me this wonderful new life. I wanted him—now. In more ways than one. This "spooning" was only the mildest form of foreplay. I knew we would, but I didn't want to do it here, now, with those ears listening down the hall. I wanted to have more privacy. I had always been that way when human. I always believed there was a time and a place to share these kinds of special moments. This moment was being tainted by somebody's big ears and rude snickers.

No, I wasn't a prude. I never had been. God knows, I became an adult during the sexual revolution of the 1970's. Free Love Reigns Supreme! That was a great motto back then. But this was today, here, now. It just wasn't the same. I wasn't the same.

Jonathan whispered softly in my ear, "I'm a bit too 'old school'. We'll find a quiet, private spot to, uh, discuss our options. We need to stay here for awhile, of course, but we'll find our own private space to enjoy."

"I agree, but I also want to have some fun with Emmett. Bella warned me about him. She had bested him at arm wrestling. I'm sure he won't do that with a newborn again. Too embarrassing. Do you want to play a little game with me?" Jonathan's brilliant smile and flashing eyes was answer enough. We started with some 'quiet' moaning, and some giggling, and took it up a notch to some very sloppy kissing. Jonathan hit the wall and a large hole appeared in the sheetrock. That got another moan out of me and more chuckles from him. Poor Esme. I guess she was always re-doing these rooms with this group living here. Next we rocked the bed a bit as we both got even noisier. The headboard paid the price, too. I bent it badly with the slightest pressure. I really didn't mean to do it. I made a mental note to replace it as soon as possible, or at least as soon as I was no longer wrecking the furniture. Luckily the glass door was open. Broken glass is no picnic to clean up.

He took my hand and gestured at the door, his face asking the unspoken question. I nodded and we silently dropped to the ground. We took off running, not stopping for several miles.

"How far away can we go tonight? I know I need a lot of help for a long time yet, but I love the run," I said. "We can go back and ask someone to come with us."

"We can go as far as we want. I heard Carlisle and Esme. They're only a mile behind—escorting, not chaperoning," he said. "Let's go, I know just the place. I found it on a hunting trip with Edward awhile back."

We ran on and on, still hand-in-hand. It was easier to ignore the scent trails we quickly crossed this time, with Jonathan always touching me. I focused on that touch rather than the scents I wanted to follow. I giggled, feeling so happy, so free. Running was wonderful. I never wanted to stop.

We had run in a large curve, originally heading south, then west, and now we finally traveled north, following a well-used hiking trail, high in the upper mountains above the Sol Duc Hot Springs. As we crested the small rise, my breath caught at the beauty before me. I stopped short, wanting to enjoy the view a while longer. Jonathan had anticipated my quick stop as this ridge had been his destination.

Below us, glistening silver in the moonlight was a small lake. From this angle, it was upside down, but there was no mistaking its shape—a heart. I let out the breath I was holding, and smiled widely. "This is so beautiful. Can we stay awhile?"

"This is the place I wanted to show you. Edward said he and Bella have a meadow for their special place. This little lake will be one of ours. The look on your face at first sight was priceless."

We moved a few feet to a large rock to sit on and cuddled together gazing at the sparkling water. The air was light and the breeze carried nighttime forest scents—some of animals, a campfire a long way off, and a meadow full of flowers. The end of July was a good time of year for meadows. The area had enough rainfall to keep them green and blooming for several months to come.

As always, when we were close together, a pattern that had developed while sharing phone calls on Pinky just a few weeks before, we talked. There was much to discuss, to share, to plan. We were always planning—how long we'd be sharing the Cullen's home, where we wanted to make our own home, where we would travel—everything that two people just beginning their lives together anywhere would plan. Some of our plans would be different from a human couple. We didn't require housing or vehicles, but they were pleasant to have. We wouldn't be creating children, but we would be enjoying a long existence full of adventures of all kinds.

We were constantly touching, hugging, caressing, kissing, as we talked. Eventually our talking stopped because there was no break in our kissing. We slowly—so agonizingly slow—removed our clothing, helping each other—I with his shirt buttons, he with my dress zipper—as we kissed and caressed, until we were naked under the stars. We made love until the blush of the rising sun peaked over the eastern horizon. We dressed quickly to begin our run back home.

Jonathan took a small box from his pocket. "I had planned on us visiting this lake. This was a most perfect time for us, so this is also a most perfect time to give you this." He held out the little Tiffany box to me. I looked at the box, and then at his handsome, smiling, face, already sparkling around the edge from the first faint rays of the sun. These same rays were also adding a gilt sheen to his silver hair. My breath caught again. His smile alone was more beautiful than that little box. Would I ever not be so taken with this man? I didn't think so—not when a simple look from him made me feel like a giddy teenager. Humans can feel shadow pain. I was feeling shadow heart thumps.

I pulled the ribbon untying the bow as he continued to hold the box. I took off the lid and peeked inside. Nestled there was a heart. I lifted the heart, a necklace, from the box, adding its sparkle to the quickly glowing hilltop. The heart was large, nearly two inches in each direction, made of pave rubies edged in diamonds set in platinum. Jonathan put it on me as I held my hair out of the way.

"This is more beautiful than the lake," I said. "Thank you."

"No," he smiled, "not the lake, but a reminder of our hearts. When you wear it, you will know I have truly given you my heart to keep forever. When I see it on you, I will remember you gave your heart to me, to join me in this existence." He wrapped his arms around me and we kissed for the first time as a couple—a mated couple. We ended the kiss smiling, as we turned southwest, hand-in-hand, heading home.

Jonathan's POV

I knew I was smiling like the cat that ate the canary, but I couldn't help it. Her eyes lit up even more when she saw the ruby heart. The lake was the perfect place to give it to her. It looks almost alive hanging around her neck. I waited a moment, watching it sparkle, almost feeling it begin to beat. My own heart had stopped beating over fifty-five years ago, more years than it had actually beaten in my chest. Sometimes I think I can feel it beat again when I look at her. I knew there was something about her the first time I saw her and not just as a meal on the hoof. Her blood had smelled most luscious, and it had tasted even better. But the conversations and cuddling we have enjoyed since her changing. How I have missed those things. I didn't realize how much until we were finally able to get really close. Annie and I had a good life, a special bond, a great love for each other, but this is even better than I had hoped. And this love, our love, will go on forever.

* * *

We sauntered in the back door just after sun up at the house. Emmett was waiting for us. The jokes and innuendos started immediately. "Hey, did you two get too embarrassed last night? You left in a hurry. Did you take your clothes with you or dress before you left?"

I thought Janine was going to be upset, but she just calmly walked over to stand in front of him and gave him a hug. "Emmett, you can have all the fun you want, but first I need to say this," she began.

"Number One, please know that you're talking about two older folks here—we've seen it all, done it all, more as humans than you ever did."

"Number Two, even if I could still blush, you couldn't make me, because I had two older brothers who felt it was their civic duty to publicly embarrass their little sister every way they could."

"And, Number Three, we are two consenting adults. What we do, or don't do, is nobody's business but our own. Now, if you have any questions, please ask and we'll be happy to explain it to you."

Emmett was speechless. Esme was trying to keep a straight face and loosing that battle as well. Edward laughed loudly from his current place at the piano, the piece he had been playing forgotten. Jonathan and I, in turn, hugged Esme and Carlisle before going upstairs to our room. Esme smiled as she took in my new heart.

Emmett was still standing in the kitchen, a blank look on his face. Jasper went into the kitchen wearing a huge smile. "Pay up, pal," he said, his palm open, holding his hand before Emmett's face. "She got you good!"

Part 32 – Prrrrrrrrr

Jonathan's POV

It was hard to believe it was March already. The worst of the winter storms were over. Some parts of the country were already beginning to enter spring. The weather reports had been favorable for more than a week now with more clear skies on the horizon. At least the reports didn't hold any snow. It wouldn't bother us, but traveling by car is better without the snow. I slid the last suitcase in the trunk and shut the lid.

"If you ladies don't get a move on, we'll never leave," I said. Emmett was already by the front passenger door. He and Rose were coming with us. I needed to visit my home in Virginia and I wanted to take Janine to see the farm. She had matured immensely these last eight months, but I couldn't handle her all alone if she decided to take off. It's always safer traveling with a newborn in larger numbers.

At least she would blend with us better now. Her eyes were the liquid gold we all enjoyed. When she first noticed they had completely turned gold, she ran down the stairs, nearly shouting in her excitement. It had made me remember an event from my human time—my young daughter had just received her first bra, and she was running around our apartment flashing it to her brothers and me, shouting that she was finally grown up enough to need one. We had all laughed at her, causing her to blush, until she realized what she was doing. Janine had been the same, except for the blush.

We'd be able to make it in about thirty hours. We only needed to stop for gas. One of our benefits. We had all hunted together for the last two days and had packed last night. If all went well, we'd be back in a few weeks—just as soon as I could complete the paperwork. July Fourth at the latest. We had promised Esme.

Rose came flying down the porch steps. "Jonathan! Emmett! I can't find Janine. She's not in the house—I've checked everywhere. I turned around for just a second to grab one more little thing for my bag and she was gone. I didn't even hear her. Please tell me she's already out here with you."

"No," I said. "She didn't come out this way. She must have gone out the back door, maybe across the river. Emmett, call Edward. He's still at his cottage. Jasper, Alice, we need you!"

Esme ran out the door. "I was in the kitchen. I didn't see her go that way."

"Thanks, Esme, but you know she has snuck off before. She nearly had that hiker last week before I caught her. She claims she was only tracking him, but we don't track humans for the fun of it. She's really fast and I'm afraid I'm going to be too late one of these days."

"Don't worry, Jonathan," said Emmett as he snapped his phone shut. "We'll find her. Edward's already picked up her scent. You were right. She went over the river. Bella's on her way with Nessie, Esme. Jasper, Alice and I are ready to go."

"Thanks, Em. We all took off to the north, leaping the river quickly, picking up Edward's scent trail. We could also smell Janine's trail under his a minute later.

We had barely been gone two minutes when my cell rang. I kept running as I answered. The display said 'Edward'.

"She's still going north." "Be right there," I said. Within two minutes we were all stopped under a large pine. Edward was leaning against the base of the tree in a very casual pose. As we all arrived, he just smiled broadly and pointed up.

Janine was about fifty feet above the ground, sitting on a branch, swinging her legs back and forth. Before I could say anything, she giggled and called, "Here, kitty, kitty, kitty . . ."

"What the . . . Janine, what are you doing?"

"Shhhh, you'll scare him," she whispered. At that moment the cougar shrieked before leveling off to a deep growl.

Janine growled back and the cat began to purr, loudly. "See, I told you I wouldn't hurt you. I just want to play."

I called up to her softly. "Janine, please come down. We need to leave or we'll hit commuter traffic on I-5."

"Oh, Jonathan, just a couple minutes more. Come on, kitty. Come give Mama a love." The cat shrieked and purred again.

"Janine, now. Or I'll have to come up there. You're acting like a child."

"Well," she giggled," I am a child. I'm only a few months old."

"If you don't come down, Edward will come up and finish the cat."

"No, leave him be. I'll be down in a moment." She turned to face the cat. "Bye, kitty. You be good. I'll be back in a few weeks to play again." The cat growled deep in his chest and purred again. Janine stood up and jumped down, landing with a soft thud.

"Why did you let him go? How could you do that?"

"Because, I'm not thirsty, and I really wanted to play with him. I've always loved cats."

I was baffled. This woman-child was getting stranger everyday. Edward grinned and shook his head.

"Edward, Jasper, promise me you won't touch this cat while I'm gone, please?" Janine asked. Edward promised, but I could see he wasn't too happy about it. Cougar is his favorite and now one was sitting in a tree, practically in his back yard. That would be tough.

Alice put her arm around Janine and turned south, toward home. "Come on, Janine. Rose will be fuming. She was so worried that she had lost you. And now you'll need to change. She'd have a cow if you got pitch on her clothes." With that, the girls sped off. We men followed a second behind them.

* * *

Emmett had promised to make up for our lost time, and he didn't fail. We had to drag the females away from each other. I had never witnessed so many hugs and kisses goodbye, even among humans. You would think we were never coming back, never going to email, never going to call. Janine rode the first leg beside me in the back seat. Excitement flowed off of her. She loved to travel. So long as she could enjoy a run soon after we arrived, she'd be happy. That woman could really run. Guess she was making up for her own type of lost time. Now, only twenty-eight hours and seventeen minutes later, we were pulling into the lane that leads to my, uh, our Virginia home.

We had been married on September ninth. It was novel, it was fun, and it was legal. That was all that mattered to the Cullens. Janine and I didn't care one way or the other. To our kind, mates are mates. Paperwork didn't matter. But it did to the Cullens. So, to keep everyone happy, yes, even Alice was okay with this choice, we had tied the knot.

The ceremony was short, the gathering was small, with only those of us in Forks, the Denali coven and Peter and Charlotte. It was good to see them again. Because of their friendship with Jasper and the rest of the Cullens, I had learned to enjoy an alternative diet and met my new mate. Emmett got his ordination online. Alice planned the whole affair, to her delight, and Esme and Carlisle stood by us as witnesses. Eleazar walked Janine down the aisle. The wolves attended with their wives and girlfriends, and Charlie attended with Sue Clearwater. It was a great day and a wonderful party.

Janine's POV

Since we both had been married before, I opted for a street-length dress in winter white and a pale blue watered silk and pearl hair piece. Jonathan wore an Armani suit in Navy with a winter white shirt and pale blue tie. The flowers were a mixture in soft whites and pale blues.

The beautiful cake tasted nasty, but I know the wolves and humans enjoyed it very much. We dutifully ate our shared piece and then quickly needed a "human moment." I used to love cakes, but that was a different time. I wasn't too fond of blood then either, unless it was just some dark pink juices seeping from a succulent rare beef steak. As I said, it was a different time. Neither is better than the other in all ways, but I'm pretty happy with this time. I don't mind giving up cake in return. My benefits far outweigh my losses.

We spent the next week camping, sort of, near our lake. We were in a tent, in a very secluded area, where it would be difficult for humans to go, let alone camp. All for the sake of modesty. We felt it wouldn't be too nice for any hikers to stumble across our sparkling bare buns in broad daylight. They might get blinded. I had enjoyed beautiful, sparkling weather on my first visit to Forks in September, only one short year ago, and it was back again this year. We came out twice for hunting when our party showed up. They were giving us lots of space. Honeymooners need their space. Since we don't sleep, Jonathan didn't fear my taking off on him to chase humans. I had no interest in such things that week. We just stayed in our tent and enjoyed the pleasure of each other's company as was fitting.