Claire's little hand was swallowed-up by Quil's large one as they made their own trail through the woods, dodging past over-grown shrubbery and ducking under low-hanging tree limbs. During a patrol, Quil had recently discovered a boulder that was shaped like a heart and he couldn't wait to show the large, oddly shaped rock to Claire. Claire loved rocks!
"I read a book all by myself." the 5-year-old bragged as she swung the hand that Quil was holding back and forth.
Quil's eyes were as big as saucers as he gaped at the little girl with the braided hair. His surprise was exaggerated for her benefit, of course, but Quil was, truly, very impressed.
"Uh huh," Claire nodded, proudly, "It was called "The Frog Prince"! It was 'bout a prince who—"
Quil's amused expression quickly faded as his nose picked-up an unfavorable scent. His feet shuffled to a halt and a jolt of fear shot through him as his eyes desperately scanned the trees.
"Quil what's wrong?" Claire asked, confused, as her hand started to shake from the restrained vibrations of Quil's body.
Hot flames shot up his spine as the sickly sweet scent he had smelled grew stronger and he didn't know how long he would be able to hold his shaking body together. Quil's eyes darted wildly around the woods as he held Claire protectively close to him. Too close. And maybe too tight.
"Quuilllll!" Claire whined in response as she tried to pull her hand free from his iron-grasp, pushing at him with her other hand and trying to shake herself free, unsuccessfully.
Quil took-in a sharp intake of breath then and Claire let her hand fall limp in his grasp.
"REPULSIVE!" a strangely high-pitched voice spat and Claire glanced up to see an even stranger looking woman standing before Quil.
Quil growled in warning at the red-eyed female who began circling them. His angry shaking was more intense than it had ever been and his efforts to keep his wolf at bay were weakening—fast! He was terrified for Claire! He was afraid that the vampiress would want to make a meal out of her, but even more afraid of phasing near her. He didn't know what do!
"Where the hell's Jake?" he desperately wondered, not sensing that anyone was on patrol.
The female circled him, curiously, and Quil followed her movements, sending her death glares and letting-out a low, territorial growl that sounded more wolf than human.
"What ARE you?" the vampire hissed as she examined Quil with dark, hungry eyes.
Claire gazed up at the creepy red-eyed woman, whom she believed to be a witch, and then she looked up at her Quil.
"We're Claire and Quil!" the little girl answered sharply as she pursed her lips at the witch.
Quil jerked Claire safely behind him and barred his teeth as the female vampire looked at her. The female's eyes flashed to Quil's then, and a malicious smile spread across her face.
"Delicious." she cooed as she took a step closer, eyeballing Claire again.
Ferocious tremors vibrated through Quil's limbs and he knew he couldn't hold them back any longer.
"RUN, CLAIRE, RUN!"
Quil shoved Claire in the opposite direction of the vampire and she ran like she was told, moving as fast as her little legs would carry her while a loud ripping sound erupted behind her. The sound was like nothing she had ever heard before and she quickly sought-out cover behind the trunk of a tree before turning around to take a peek. A giant brown wolf stood where Quil had been standing and it growled at the red-eyed witch. Claire gasped as she realized that the witch had turned her Quil into a wolf just like that other witch had turned the Prince into a frog! Claire anxiously dug her little fingers into the bark of the tree as wolf-Quil and the witch barreled noisily through the woods as a brown-fur and pale-skinned blur.
"CLAIRE!" a familiar voice called from behind her and she turned around to see Jacob.
Claire buried her face into Jacob's leg for comfort, grabbing fistfuls of his cut-offs in her hands before glancing back at wolf-Quil. A piercing sound of metal scraping against metal reverberated through the trees and Claire covered her ears at the sound as Jacob put a hand over her eyes.
"Let's get you out of here!" Jacob's voice was filled with urgency as he easily lifted Claire from the ground.
Claire kicked her legs wildly and screamed as Jacob carried her off, but Jacob was unaffected. Claire then lowered her face to the arm that was locked securely over her chest and she sunk her teeth into it, biting Jacob.
"OW!" he howled, distracted enough by the pain that Claire was able to slip through his grasp.
When Claire's feet hit the ground she went running towards her wolf-Quil. She saw him standing next to a pile of strange white rocks that he had covered with leafs and she noticed how the wolf's chest moved up and down rapidly as if he was out of breath
"CLAIRE!" Jacob called her again as his hand latched on to her arm.
"NOOOO!" she yelled as she made an unsuccessful attempt to get closer to the wolf, "I have to help Quil!"
Jacob didn't let her go but he didn't pull her away either. He smiled down at the little girl, thinking it was cute how she wasn't afraid of the giant wolf, and that it was even cuter how she "thought" she could help. Claire tried to tug her arm out of Jacob's grasp while Quil, strategically, repositioned himself in front of the dismembered vampire and leaf pile.
"That witch turned him into a wolf! I have to turn him back to Quil!"
Jacob chuckled at her words and then shot Quil a questioning look as if ask: What the heck is she talking about? Quil just huffed through his snout and accusingly narrowed his eyes at Jacob's patroling-neglegance. Jacob shrugged.
"Nessie." he whispered the word, but to Quil it was NO excuse.
"LET GO, JACOB! LET GO!" Claire begged as she tugged and tugged for freedom, "I HAVE TO KISS THE WOLF!"
Jacob and wolf-Quil stiffened as they shared a confused look. Kiss the wolf?
"Huh?" Jacob asked as he stared down at the little girl.
"Quil's always told me I'm a princess," Claire began as she turned to look up at Jacob, "So, if I kiss him he won't be a wolf no more!"
Jacob blinked—still confused and Claire gave a frustrated sigh .
"The frog had to get a princess to kiss him so he could be a Prince again! I have to kiss Quil!"
A grin broke out across Jacob's face as he smiled at the little girl and then looked up at Quil with a twinkle in his eye. The wolf's lip curled over his fangs in a snarl as he recognized the mischievous-look in Jacob's eye. He had seen it many times before.
"You are NOT letting her near me!" Quil's internal shout fell on deaf ears, but his warning growl spoke volumes.
"All come on!" Jacob coaxed the stubborn wolf as Claire continued to try and free her arm, "You don't want to crush her dreams! That would be like telling her that Santa Clause isn't real."
Claire's arm fell slack in Jacob's grasp as she stared up at him with shock-filled eyes.
"Santa isn't real?"
Quil unleashed a vicious growl at Jacob, and with a sheepish smile, Jacob raised his hands up in surrender. Claire was quick to scamper away from him and Jacob smiled winningly at Quil.
Quil didn't have time to snarl at Jacob as the tiny little girl came running towards the humongous wolf that he was. Quil froze, standing so still that he didn't even breathe as she neared him.
"It's okay." the little girl told the wolf as she reached up her hands to grab his snout, "I'll turn you back to Quil."
Quil's eyes narrowed at Jacob who was trying to hold back a laugh. It was true that Quil had told Claire that she was a princess, and because he was responsible for that—he knew what he had to do...
The wolf whined in dread of what was about to happen as the little girl closed her eyes, puckered up her lips and then pressed them to the wolf's big nose. Just like the kiss that had broken the Prince from his froggy-curse; instantly, the wolf turned back into Quil. Claire gasped in delight as she saw his boyish face, and then—
"EWW!" the little girl cried as she raised her hands to shield her eyes, "Your naked! Your 'Sposed to be dressed like a prince!"
Jacob snorted out a laugh from behind her as a red-faced Quil ducked for cover behind a tree.
"Nice job, Dr. Freud!" Quil took a shot at Jacob for telling a kid there was no Santa and then subjecting her to nudity.
Jacob laughed again as he walked up behind Claire and steered her away from the naked boy behind the tree.
"I'll get you some pants." Jacob said as he walked hand-in-hand with Claire, pulling her along.
"WAIT!" Claire shouted and she easily slipped through Jacob's grasp.
Claire ran up to the tree that Quil was standing behind and she gazed up at him with a big smile on her face.
"At the end of the book the princess married the frog Prince!" Claire said excitedly as she looked up at the no longer wolfy Quil, "So, when I grow up, you have to marry me...okay?"
Quil's eyes softened as he looked down at the 5-year-old girl with the braided hair and a smile spread across his face.
"Okay," he replied as he nodded to Claire, "When you grow up—I'll be your frog Prince."