Jacob/OC. Post-Eclipse. Elizabeth Foster is your typical grad student. When she interns on a summer research project looking for dire wolves in the Olympic Peninsula, she finds more than she bargained for.
21. Storm Warning
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PART TWENTY-ONE: Storm Warning
The surroundings should have been familiar by now; the ancient, rain-soaked forest, oppressive walls of green that seemed to go straight up for miles, underscored by the whisper and groan of trees that measured their age in centuries. Underfoot, the ground was an earthtone carpet of leaves and pine needles deep enough to hush even human footsteps. It was familiar... but somehow sinister, threatening. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the sense of wrongness increased as I walked. There was no sunlight here, only a subtle phosphorescence just bright enough to see by. Emanating from all directions, it was accompanied by a still, unnatural quiet, as though even the trees were holding their breath
The silence was shattered by an angry snarl. I twisted, looking for the source, but found nothing. The snarl came again, intensely aggressive and increasing in volume. Panicked, I cast around for some sign of where it came from. Nothing. Like an unseen hand brushed against my spine, the hair stood up on the back of my neck and I slowly turned back the way I'd come. An ugly tableau unfolded where before there had been only empty woods. Figures in dark cloaks encircled a huge, furry shape. As I watched, the shape moved, staggering heavily as though it were injured. In one horrified instant I realized it was one of my wolves.
The strange light made it hard to distinguish colors. The size seemed too small for the wolf's coat to be red or black, but I didn't dare attract the attention of the cloaked figures by moving closer. As I stood there, frozen with fear, one of them stepped away from the others. This one was noticeably shorter; a child's build hiding beneath the cloak. The wolf's snarl took another step up in volume, a frantic warning for the cloaked figure to stay away. The figure lifted a hand, and the sound the wolf made then would haunt me. It was a cry of pure agony, torn from a throat that remembered human speech but could not speak it.
I think I would have done anything to stop that sound, including run right into the danger. My body tensed to do just that, but I felt a chill behind me, unlike anything I've ever felt before. An arm like a band of iron went around my waist, clamping down my arms, and a hand like ice wrenched my head to one side. "Spying isn't very nice," a deep voice murmured, amused. There was no time to struggle, no chance to so much as scream before razor-sharp teeth ripped open my throat.
"Beth?" Jake's voice broke in on the horror of my agonizing death. I heard him, but I didn't know how to answer. I longed to, desperately wanted to tell him to run, to get away before whatever was killing me got him, too. "Beth, wake up, baby..." His voice was more urgent now, and I struggled, trying to make my torn throat form the words. All I could hear was an awful rattle, a sound that a living person should never have to hear their body make. "Beth!"
The transition from nightmare to waking was so sudden that it left me gasping. Gasping and shivering as though I'd been plunged into ice water. I wrenched my eyes open, staring up into Jake's terrified face, focusing on him for several heartbeats as I tried to grasp what was wrong with me. I was shivering uncontrollably, my teeth chattering even though I was under a blanket. "What... what happened?"
"You were having a nightmare. I couldn't wake you up." His voice was strained, and I could faintly hear a growl rumbling in his chest. He was searching for something to protect me from, something he could fight, but there was nothing here but the two of us. Making a decision, Jake wrapped his arms around me and rolled onto his back. We were both still naked, and his bare skin warmed me as nothing else could have as I sprawled across his chest. Concentrated on just breathing, I lay quiet as he tucked the blanket around me again, closing my eyes when his hands stroked my face. "You scared me," he whispered.
"I didn't mean to." How strange it was, to wake up feeling exhausted. The shivering had stopped, but I had no will to do anything but lay there, surrounded by the warm strength of his arms and breathing in the comfort of his scent.
"Are you alright?" There was uncertainty in his voice, brought about, I'm sure, by my strange behavior.
"Yeah, I think so." With an effort, I lifted my head, looking down at him. "It was just... a really strange dream."
"Strange?" He was frowning at me. "Beth... you were screaming." I froze, remembering the sound of air rattling in my torn throat. Abruptly, Jake sat up, shifting me in his arms until he had me cradled across his lap, wrapped in the blanket. "It's okay," he murmured against my temple. "It's okay honey, you're safe now. Shhh." I couldn't seem to get enough air, and I tried to push away from him, gasping, until I realized that I was hyperventilating. "That's right, slow down a little. Deep breaths." He nursed me through my panic until I was slumped against him again, feeling more like a ragdoll than a human.
"I'm sorry." My voice was barely more than a whisper, and a hoarse one at that.
"For what? Sorry for having a bad dream? Sorry for needing comfort?" There was more love in those soft questions than I could ever imagine deserving. It was humbling, and so fiercely comforting that I didn't have words for it. "You don't need to apologize." He pressed his lips to my forehead. "But if you want to tell me about it, I'll listen."
I hesitated. Did I want to tell him? I wasn't sure. Chewing my lip, I thought it over, feeling his gaze on me. "I was in the woods," I said quietly. "There were--" I stopped, I couldn't bring myself to call them people. What were they? "There was something there. Several somethings." A shudder went through me and his arms tightened their grip. "They were hurting a wolf." Hot breath hissed out past my ear, and again a rumble stirred in his chest. "In my dreams, sometimes I'm not just watching things. Sometimes I'm there. It was like that... and all I wanted to do was stop them. I wanted to stop the wolf from crying..."
"Shhh... It's okay Beth, you don't have to keep going if you don't want to." I realized I was shaking again as he rocked me, his lips against my ear murmuring soothing nonsense. "You're safe. I will never let anyone touch you."
"Th-that wasn't the w-worst part." My voice was shaking so hard now that I stumbled over my words.
"Tell me." In that moment, my wolf curled himself around me, his protection a tangible thing. Nothing, not in reality, not in a dream, would get past my protector. I knew that suddenly and swiftly to the depth of my bones, and that was what allowed me to tell him.
"One of them was behind me." I hid my face against his neck, but I continued. "It spoke to me, and then it bit me."
A tremor went through him, and his voice went deadly quiet. "Bit you?"
I nodded. "It... It r-rip--"
"Ripped your throat out." The words were deceptively soft, but I could hear the hatred in them. Hatred and disgust, as though even the words were distasteful. Anxiously I raised my head and found him looking at me, his dark eyes smoldering with emotions I couldn't name. Without warning, he leaned down and kissed me. Gentle at first, but the ferocity in him came unleashed as we lingered together. He kissed me with possession, with protectiveness, with fierce tenderness and the kind of love that most people were never lucky enough to find. For a moment, I thought we were bound down the road that we had already taken twice today, and in my state I think I might have welcomed it. But no, he pulled away at last, leaning his forehead against mine. "I swear to you," he said in hushed growl, "no bloodsucker will ever get near you."
"Bloodsucker." The chill was back, raking icy fingers down my spine. "You mean vampires." I searched his face. "Are you saying those things in my dream were vampires?" That didn't seem possible. They weren't like any vampires I'd ever imagined, bearing little resemblance to the creatures of fiction and television. No, that was okay. It was just a dream, so it didn't matter anyway. Just a dream.
"Yeah, vampires." One of the shudders that I'd come to realize meant his control was slipping went through him.
"It was just a nightmare, Jake," I whispered, stroking my hand down his cheek. "The past few days... I'm sure it was just the stress."
"Maybe." He didn't sound convinced. "Maybe not. The bloodsuckers have powers that... sometimes we don't know about. I wouldn't put it past one of them to attack you in your dreams."
"That's impossible." My eyes were wide with shock, but he just shook his head grimly.
"So are werewolves, technically." Realizing that he'd upset me, he hugged me close again, nuzzling my hair. "I'm sure you're right, that it's just a nightmare. But I'm not willing to take chances where you're concerned." He sighed, a wistful smile tugging at his lips. "My head says we need to head back, that I should check in with Sam and get you someplace safe." Kissing my forehead, he chuckled. "My heart and my body aren't quite ready to give you back to the real world yet."
"There will be more time for us later," I promised. "For now... let's make sure everything is alright." Maybe if I could confirm my nightmare as needless fear, I'd be able to shake off the anxiety that still lingered. He nodded.
"You're right." Another sigh, and he gently disentangled himself from me and rose to his feet. I took a moment to simply appreciate the sight of him, gorgeous and naked, the firelight casting his muscular physique into sharp relief. He snickered as he caught me staring and struck a pose. "See something you like, Miss?"
"Mmm." I perked my eyebrows, not bothering to hide the fact that I found him incredibly attractive, irresistibly so. "Quite a lot, actually." Jake arched an eyebrow back at me, a challenge to come and get it if I liked it so much. Biting my lip, I caught sight of my MIA underwear and used that as a welcome distraction from the idea of doing just that. Time near the fire had taken out most of the wet, but they were still unpleasant against my skin. So I decided to forgo the bra for now, pulling my shirt over my head before tackling my damp jeans. Jake was doing the same, and by the time I was adequately dressed, he was putting out the fire and folding the blankets.
What we discovered as we got ready to leave the small cave was that the intimacy lingered, along with the ability to touch easily and smile knowingly. We knew what it felt like to be together, to have the barriers completely gone, and it redefined how we related. Even with the encroaching unease of my dream, I still couldn't help but savor that feeling.
It was nearly evening when we stepped out onto the beach, walking hand and hand to where the Harley waited. Stowing the gear in the saddlebags, Jake threw a long leg over the bike and took my hand, pulling me up behind him. The engine came to life with a throaty roar, and with a last look for memory's sake, we left our quiet sanctuary behind us.
I had no idea how true that would be.
Jake took us directly to Emily's house instead of dropping the bike at his own. The Xterra was still parked out front, its rear hatch open. As Jake maneuvered the bike onto a clear patch of gravel, Kat popped up off the tailgate and headed toward us. I bit my lip, bracing myself for her anger as the Harley went silent. I'd pretty much abandoned her earlier; in her place I would have been furious. Holding onto Jake's elbow, I stepped down off the motorcycle and turned to face her. Instead of blasting me, she threw her arms around me, hugging tightly.
"Oh Betts, I'm so glad you're alright!" She pulled back, looking up into my face. "Where have you two been?" Eyeing first me, and then him, she arched an eyebrow. "Never mind, I think I know." The look I got then put me on notice that I'd have a report to make later. "I'm just glad you're back."
"Where's Embry? Did he just leave you here?" I glanced at Jake, his eyes were scanning the area intently, chin lifted as he interpreted what his nose was telling him. Even then, I knew he was listening carefully for what Kat had to say.
"No." She looked troubled. "He told me to stay put. Something strange happened about an hour ago. Embry and I were walking on the beach when Quil came and got us. Some more guys had shown up and there were a lot of whispers and weird looks." Frowning deeply, she folded her arms across her chest. "No one would tell me anything, Betts, and damn Embry Call if he didn't say it was for my own good. I'm not stupid, I know something was wrong." Uhoh. Embry was in hot water, and the snicker from Jake told me he knew that, too. Not that they'd have a problem at all if they'd just let Kat in on the big secret.
Stupid werewolves. I was beginning to think I'd have to take that matter into my own hands.
"So they left?" Kat nodded.
"The two girls, Emily and Kim? They're still inside, but all the rest took off." Abruptly Kat rounded on Jake. "What's going on? I can tell from your expression that you know."
Jake sighed, stepping off the bike. He threw a look my way, but if he was expecting my help in lying to Kat, he was out of luck. "I don't know," he said finally. "But I intend to find out." He paused for a moment, deep in thought, then turned back to me. "I'm sure Emily's got something dry you could borrow for now, babe. Go change before you get sick."
"You're going." It wasn't a question.
"Yeah. I have to figure out what's up." He snagged an arm around my waist, tugging me a short distance away from Kat. "Take Kat inside with you and stay there," he said quietly. "I'll be back as soon as I can. With any luck, it's just the Cullens rattling our chains again... but if it's not--"
"Stay inside," I repeated quietly. With my nightmare still fresh in my mind, I wasn't about to argue with him.
"Yeah." He leaned his forehead against mine. "Worst-case scenario, this house is top priority. The whole pack knows and understands that."
"Hey." Grabbing the front of his shirt, I tugged him down to me. "No worst-case scenarios. Got it?"
Wrapping his arms around me, he pressed his lips firmly to mine in a lingering kiss. "Got it," he whispered against my mouth. Reluctantly, he pulled away, ignoring the highly unamused look he got from Kat. "Stay inside," he told us both one more time, voice firm.
"We got it, hurry up and go so you can get back." He grinned as I made little shooing motions to send him on his way, and then loped around the back of Emily's house, disappearing.
"Where does he think he's going on foot?" Kat stepped up beside me. "And why do I think you have more answers than I do, Elizabeth?"
"I have a few more," I admitted reluctantly, inwardly relieved when she let me steer her toward the house.
"So... start sharing."
"It's not quite that simple." Eyes narrowed, she gave me a long look.
"We're best friends, Beth. We've been through hell together. It's exactly that simple." I chewed my lip. She had a point, I couldn't deny that. I also couldn't deny the fact that I didn't particularly agree with them keeping the information from her in the first place. Not if Embry was sleeping with her, for god's sake.
"Okay," I began as we reached the porch. "How much do you know about werewolves?"
- Let Sleeping Wolves Lie
- The Magic Words
- Beware of Dog
- The Silver Cord
- An Uneasy Truce
- Constructive Insanity
- Josh Wolfe
- Now and Forever
- First Light of Dawn
- Stop the Bleeding
- Stolen Moments
- Waking the Dreamer
- Trouble in Paradise
- Almost Doesn't Count
- Morning After Cure
- Sister of the Pack
- The Caterpillar Mating Dance
- Practice Makes Perfect
- Sound and Fury
- Storm Warning
- Heavy In Your Arms
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- 29 Apr 08
- 22 Jul 10
- In Progress