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Dream 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.


4. The Silver Cord

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PART FOUR: The Silver Cord

Imagine a silver cord, connecting two hearts; pulled tight as a bowstring, the tension hums between them like a living thing. Imagine then the hand of Fate, reaching out to pluck that cord. A clear, pure tone rings out, and the world stops on its axis for the space of a breath. Two hearts beat in synch, once unknown to one another, only now made intensely, irrevocably aware.

[Jacob POV]

'You are cordially invited.' Cordially invited to watch the woman you love marry a corpse. That blessed opportunity slithered closer every day.

How many times are you going to recite the freaking invitation to us? Leah's voice had long since lost its bite for me. Not that she was any less of a bitch, I'd just stopped listening.

Shut up, Leah, or I swear I'm going to knock you into next week. Paul actually meant it, too. I wondered if I'd remember to thank him. Right now, I couldn't put the words together.

Instead I concentrated on what the wolf knew. Soft earth beneath strong legs, dappled sunlight shining down through the treetops, and all around a world defined as much by smell as by sight. I ran along a game trail now, following in the footsteps of an elk and her calf. The wolf didn't care who Bella Swan was and thought nothing of foreign concepts like marriage. He knew love, but thought of it in terms of winning and protecting his mate, siring her pups, watching them grow. None of those were things she wanted. She would never want them, because soon she'd be worse than dead. I ran faster, pushing my body even harder.

Distantly, I sensed Leah phase, her consciousness dropping out of the pack mind. It still took effort to ignore her, so I counted it as a relief. Almost as quickly as she was gone, two more voices took her place.

Jake, Embry's voice sounded relieved. We've got a bit of a problem. For just a moment, I was tempted to ignore him too, but immediately felt guilty for it. I was closer to their location than anyone else, and maybe I was getting tired of being a bitter asshole. Especially to my two most loyal friends. They deserved better.

What's up? He didn't tell me so much as let his thoughts flow together with mine. In moments I knew what had him worried. I knew the girl, her name, what she looked like, and most importantly I knew her scent. You like her. I poked him about it a little, enjoying having something to ponder that didn't hurt.

Hey, I saw her first! Quil protested, but I could tell he was as amused as I was.

She's nice. If wolves could blush, Embry's coat would be as red as mine. All the more reason to make sure nothing messed up his chances with her.

I had already altered my course, trying to anticipate where she might have gone. Should we join you?

No, on the off chance things go bad, better to have only one of us involved. Stay put. If this Elizabeth Foster caught a glimpse of one giant wolf, she might well write it off as a hallucination. A pack of them would be harder to ignore. Hopefully all I'd need to do was find her, keep an eye on her and warn the others away.

That was when I crossed the bear's trail. I paused, processing the information that my nose was telling me. Female, mature, and she had a cub with her. Dammit.

What's wrong?
I shared the scent with them.

Find her, Jake. Embry's concern might have something to do with the fact that he was attracted to this girl. But we were all too familiar with the fact that a mother bear was like a loaded gun. All it took was one false move to set her off.

The bear's trail ran parallel to the highway, so I kept myself between them. It was like she was trying to find a safe place to cross the asphalt river. That concerned me, if she were running this shallow in the woods, it only increased her chances of coming across an unsuspecting hiker. My concern spiked when I suddenly hit the scent I'd been searching for.

Fuck. I charged forward, hoping beyond hope that I would make it before those two scent trails converged. For an instant I thought the girl had dodged a bullet when she turned, her scent was pulling me straight ahead. For a few brief moments, it ran between the highway and the bear like the center stripe of a road. Then she turned again, putting them on a collision course with only a matter of minutes for me to find them.

When I finally saw her, she was climbing out of a hollow at the base of a giant spruce. She was tall for a girl, with an easy way of moving, not at all like Bella's less than graceful manner. Her red-gold curls caught the fading light and held it; the highlights in them turning silver. I approached slowly from behind, trying to pinpoint the bear's location. I knew she was close, but still out of sight.

In hindsight, I can't say why I moved as close to her as I did. It was almost as if I was drawn in by something I couldn't quite explain. Her scent was nice, clean and sweet with an undertone of something floral. She was slender, like a willow sapling, with subtle curves for her hips and her breasts. I could tell, even from behind, that she was small, but hardly flat-chested. So sue me, I'm a guy, we notice these things.

I sensed her shift her weight just before she turned, and as she spun to face me, the bear materialized from the underbrush. There was no way I could flee now, not when I knew the moment I saw her that the bear was poised to attack.

For just an instant, Elizabeth Foster's eyes met mine. Hers were blue, dark as ocean depths. And though I held them only briefly, between one heartbeat and the next my world changed irrevocably.

I heard a sound, not with my ears, but with something deeper, something intrinsic to the creature who called himself Jacob Black. Clear and pure, it sang through me, doing its work without mercy. Imprinting, we called it. Recognition was more accurate. When you looked at a woman and knew her to the depths of her soul though you had no more information about her outer self than her name.

And in that moment, when the bear rose up on her hind legs, desperate to defend the cub that cowered behind her, I understood that desire perfectly. Because I would die before I allowed anyone to harm so much as a hair on Elizabeth's head.

My lips drew back from my teeth, and a savage, primal growl rolled through me. Distantly I realized that Elizabeth was staring at me, her expression unreadable. I had no time to puzzle it out, my attention was fixed on the bear.

I surged forward, lunging past the girl. My teeth snapped together with a sound like a gunshot, the only warning the mother bear was going to get. I knew she was intimidated, I was more than a match for her, but she wouldn't back down. As long as she was within striking distance of my mate, that was something I couldn't forgive. Squaring off, I prepared to attack, when the last thing I could have imagined happened.

"No!" Hands sank into the fur on my shoulder, holding on, trying to pull me back. "You can't do that! She's just protecting her cub!" I firmly shook her off, unsure of how to respond to that level of crazy. Which was apparently the wrong response, because then she jumped between me and the bear. There was a pleading look in her eyes as she gazed at me, willing me to understand. Crazy and stupid, fucking hell. "Please..."

I lost a critical moment while I boggled at her, and all the sudden movement was too much for the bear. She attacked, one of her claws raking down Elizabeth's right shoulder blade. There was no thought involved on my part as she screamed. I slammed into the she-bear like a freight train, the impact sending the animal toppling backwards. I gave her no time to recover, seizing her throat with a vicious shake of my head.

Fury was a blinding thing and underneath it lay fear. I'd survived losing Bella, but it had cost me. To lose my match, my imprinted mate, so quickly after finding her... I wasn't sure I knew how to survive that. As I crouched there, the she-bear's life clenched between my jaws, my eyes caught sight of the cub, trembling as it watched. Elizabeth had put her life at risk to protect them. That, more than anything else, was what kept me from ripping out the damned bear's throat. Instead I let go and grabbed her by the scruff. Dragging her back toward the thicket she'd emerged from, I snarled menacingly as I released my grip. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that the only choice she had was to retreat with her cub.

Fortunately the bears wasted no time in fleeing, and I didn't wait to see them gone. Elizabeth was on her knees, curled in on herself. The back of her jacket and the clothing beneath was torn to ribbons on the right side, the fabric already turning dark with blood. Through the rents in fabric and skin, I could see the pale gleam of bone. She was trembling like a leaf in the wind, going into shock.

Jake!! We're coming! Embry's voice was frantic, and I wondered how long they'd been shouting at me.

Not here... I hesitated. If we took her to the hospital, the leeches would be there. But as soon as I thought that, I felt a small pang of guilt. Carlisle Cullen had done his best for me. No matter what I thought of his son, I had to admit the doctor was trustworthy. The hospital. They had the same doubts I did, but they didn't voice them.

We'll be there, Quil said firmly.

I circled around Elizabeth, crouching down to touch her face with my nose. She raised her head, and again I felt that shock of recognition when our eyes met. Something in her face told me I wasn't alone in that. I tried to be as non-threatening as possible, whining softly as I slowly wagged my tail. I needed to phase, but I didn't want her to freak out on me. She hesitated, and then pulled her left hand away from her injured shoulder. It was covered in blood, but she didn't seem to notice, reaching out to rest her hand on my muzzle. "I'm losing my mind," she whispered.

Well, it was better than screaming. I could work with that. I pulled back slowly, then wheeled around, bounding down into the hollow below the spruce tree. The change was swift and effortless. I tugged on the pants I had with me and was back at her side in a matter of moments.

Even then I wasn't ready for the shock of electricity that hit me when my hand touched her face. I hissed through my teeth, gently cupping her cheek. "Elizabeth," I had to fight not to grin like an idiot when I said her name. "Stay with me, okay? I'm going to get you out of here."

Dazed blue eyes looked up at me and she frowned. "You have the same eyes."

"I promise I'll explain that later." Very carefully, I pulled her against me. She weighed next to nothing in my arms, and I rose to my feet, trying hard not to jostle her. "But first I need to get you taken care of. You have a car nearby, right?"

She nodded. "Yeah."

Finding it was easy, just a matter of retracing the way she'd come. Her wounds were still bleeding profusely, I could feel the warm wetness of her blood running down my arm. Unfortunately I didn't have anything to stop it with, so I focused on getting her to someone that did. She was in and out of consciousness as I ran, which was probably for the best. I could only imagine the amount of pain she was in, though she never made a sound.

When we reached the blue Accord, she roused long enough to help me locate the keys in her jacket pocket. She grit her teeth, lips a tight, white line as I tucked her into the passenger seat. I started the car and got it moving, struggling to keep my eyes on the road and off her pale face.

"Can you see it?" Her eyes were closed, her voice little more than a murmur.

"What, baby?" I frowned, daring to reach out and brush a strand of red-gold hair from her face. "What do you see?"

Blue eyes found me as they opened, and I swear they saw into places I shared with no one. "The silver cord." Her trembling hand lifted, fingers flexing, as she touched something that went beyond sight... there in the air between us. "It's right here."

"Yeah..." I smiled, and I knew in that moment that I was lost beyond all hope. "I think I do."