A/N: I own nothing Twilight, only the plot in which I place the characters in…sorry Jake, I tried, really I did…*sigh*…

AH, AU…no supernatural, so no vampires or shapeshifters or imprinting (so not cool SM!), rated M for sexual/adult situations and language, 18 and over highly recommended…you have been warned! Story is told mainly in BPOV; however if POVs change, it will be noted.

The Claiming of Jacob Black

Ch. 1

Mid-June

The dust was thick, stirred up by the truck and horse trailer bouncing lazily down the road coating the windshield in a fine layer of silt. Cool air filtered in from the open window mixing with the dust and made me shiver. I was looking forward to helping Carlisle and Esme on their ranch; I hadn't seen them since last year and I was grateful to be able to come work on the farm this summer helping to stacking hay and general farm labor; whatever they had for me to do I was happy to do it. It was just what I needed to keep my mind off my own boring life. Oh sure I had friends, plenty of them in fact, but most of them were married and couldn't remember what it was like to be single and those few that were still single, well, let's just say that they found much solace in the bottle these days. Drinking games, going to the bars, parties every weekend, any excuse to have a drink and mingle with random members of the opposite sex hoping to get lucky, that maybe he or she would be "the one"…yea no, not my cup of tea. But I was ok being alone.

I stopped the truck at the gate and got out to open it. I never did like this gate; it was one of those old strung wire gates that required muscle to not only open, but to close as well. I had always been teased about it until I finally figured out how to use the cheat bar hung on a wire attached to the main post. But I noticed when I reached for the chain that it was no longer the same wire gate it had been for nearly a century; they had finally succumbed to convenience and replaced it with a swinging metal gate. I opened it, drove the truck through and got back out to close it again.

I noticed as I drove slowly that the two lower barns had huge stacks of hay arranged neatly around them. We would only work a few hours a day putting up the hay due to the oppressive heat that accompanied the summer. The rest of the time would be doing other harvesting and planting of next year's crops, branding and castrating cows and driving them out to summer pastures, helping the neighbors with their farm work and maybe even a little relaxing. I sighed; it was going to be a long summer. Good, I needed to work off some energy and get refocused.

As I pulled up to the house there was a truck parked next to the shop I didn't recognize but didn't think much of it beyond the fact it was a newer black Dodge Ram. Esme and Carlisle often had visitors and seeing as this was haying season, I figured the rig belonged to one of Carlisle's brothers or neighbors and that I would have to sit and endure listening to stories of the things they did in their youth, or talk about some new piece of farm equipment that just came out on the market and how it would be better or worse than what was already in use. It was indeed going to be a long summer. I smiled at the thought.

I got out of the truck and walked back to the trailer, untying DC before opening the back door. I loved DC. He was my best friend, my buddy, my confidant. He was always there for me, never whined (whinny maybe, but never whined) if I came home late from work, didn't care if I served his food on the ground, was never offended if I didn't take a shower before visiting, and he loved me unconditionally. I had always said I wanted a tall blond haired blue-eyed cowboy, and well, DC was it. He was only 12 years old but he was just as mature as I was, sometimes more so. He was 16 hands if not more, and his muscular body a solid shade of cream from his forelock to his tail. His face was dominated by two sky blue eyes that mesmerized and captivated me each and every time I looked at him. So it became a running joke every time I went trail riding with my friends that I was always bringing my "date" on rides. He was perfect to me, always an impeccable gentleman. He would always see me home safely no matter if I was sick, tired and half asleep, wet, too cold to feel my fingers and toes, or if I was too drunk to focus on where I was going. He always followed my directions, never questioning my actions, or admonishing me for cursing.

I had purchased him two years ago from a man who was moving to Alaska and realized it was going to cost him a small fortune to take his horse herd with him. When I learned he was for sale, I was so excited. But buying DC had come with a price. I had to sell my beloved barrel horse in order to buy DC. I couldn't afford two horses, and DC was too good to pass up. He was as broke as they come while still having a mind of his own. He'd been gamed on, trail ridden, packed, been to the ocean, camped, hi-lined, and through SAR and crowd control training with Seattle Washington's Mounted Police Unit as well as participating in numerous parades throughout the surrounding states. He had plenty of get up and go, and occasionally he showed me if I wasn't paying attention to him. He never did anything stupid, just a little jig now and again to let me know he's still got it.

I opened the door and stepped out of the way. DC backed out of the trailer slowly, stopping only when all four feet were on solid ground. He stood and waited for me to close the door. Once the door was closed I took up his rope and lead him to the "guest" corral. It was already prepared for him as Esme knew I was bringing him with me for the summer. I couldn't afford to pay extra board for someone else to look after him so I arranged to bring him with me. I opened the gate and lead him in, closing it behind me and turned to take off his sheet and halter so he could relax after the bumpy trailer ride. He shook his head and snorted, trotted over to the water trough and took a long drink pulling his head up now and then letting the water drip from his lips. He took a huge breath and sighed as if to say thanks, I needed that.

I smiled at him and turned to hang his halter on the hook on the outside of the gate and gathered up his sheet. I passed through the gate and closed it behind me once again heading to the trailer to drop off his sheet. I got back in the truck to move the trailer so it was out of the way yet close enough so I wouldn't have to drag my gear from one end of the huge ranch to the other. I parked the truck closer to the house to unload the things that would see me through the summer.

It was a simple house situated at the end of a three mile long private driveway sitting amongst a few scattered silver pines and oak trees that dotted an otherwise empty expanse of flat land. I loved how secluded their property was, the nearest neighbor was 4 miles away across the canyon, surrounded by wheat and hay fields and acres of cattle pasture, hiding the deep canyons that seperated them. The house was a two story ranch with an attic and a full unfinished basement that Esme partially used as a storage cellar/guest room. It really was too much room for the farmer and his wife, but it had been left to them when Carlisle's parents had finally passed on and they couldn't see living anywhere else.

The house had been built back in 1896, but had burnt down in the late 1980's when a fast moving grass fire destroyed everything in it's path as it raced across the flat wheat fields that surrounded the house. Ranching had always been their life and their livelihood, and the loss of the home was devastating. It had been rebuilt and an attic was added to the design. It already had a vast basement as part of the foundation and they decided to keep it as part of the home for nostalgia. Carlisle was very much into keeping things as simple as possible. When I was teenager the topic of me moving out here and living in the basement was a regular table conversation piece. The basement boasted of a fireplace along one wall with a large sitting area, an open bathroom area that wasn't closed off yet and washer and dry hook-up. It would have been perfect. Although the house had no air conditioning, it didn't need it, the basement was always cool in the summer and stayed at a fairly constant temperature all year long. All it really needed were a few privacy panels and I would have been at home; I mean it was only me that was going to be living there. At least that was the dream back then. Esme and Carlisle had never had children of their own; they really didn't have time to raise a family with just the two of them running the ranch, so I kind of filled that hole in their lives.

The open garage housed the dog kennels and a store of grain for the chickens. Old gardening tools hung from the walls along with newer ones, waiting for the seasons to change and begging to be used. Chickens were running amuck, scratching in the dirt looking for the missed piece of corn or the next juicy bug. Two dogs got up from their slumber and began a cacophony of barking as they raced towards my truck and would have had any city raised person terrified to leave their vehicle. The chickens scattered in their wake and resumed pecking the ground. I felt like I was home again, I truly missed this ranch and its inner workings.

Once the truck was parked out of the way, I grabbed my change of clothes and work boots and headed towards the entry way. The barking had alerted Esme of my arrival and she stood in the doorway of the garage wearing a baggy t-shirt and worn jeans tucked into oversized work boots. She shooed the dogs away, bribed with bones and scraps so I could enter the house unmolested. I took off my shoes, set my boots next to the door and walked inside with my clothes.

"Hey, sweetie, it's so good to see you dear and I am so glad you could come help us this summer. Did you get DC settled? You know there is extra hay in the barn for him if you need it or we can load some extra bales and stack it next to the corral," Esme said leading the way into the kitchen before turning and giving me a warm hug. I didn't realize until then just how much I had missed her. "Do you want anything to eat before we head out to the barn? The guys have already eaten and are headed down to the barn to set up the elevator, I just finished but I can make something for you if you are hungry."

I smiled. She was always so accommodating. "No breakfast for me, I'm good, really. And yes, thank you, I did get DC settled. I know he likes it here away from his barn. I think he likes taking these little vacations with me, you know a change of scenery for him." I took a deep breath and asked the question I really didn't want to ask but knew I should. "So… who do I get the pleasure of working with this year?" I really didn't want to know because I really didn't care, but asked just to be polite; I guess truthfully I didn't want to not know either.

"Do you remember Seth from last summer? Well, he's coming out tomorrow to help; he had some things he had to get done for his ranch and his favorite mare is foaling and he wanted to be there in case she had any problems so he couldn't come out today." Esme asked as she finished the breakfast dishes and dried her hands on a towel.

I nodded as she mentioned the name. Seth was a nice quite shy man, and I had really liked him. Tall and handsome with dark eyes you could get lost in, he was a hard worker and devoted to his friends and family. He was a year older than me and had his own ranch just a few miles from the Cullen ranch, and often came to help out during the harvest seasons when he could. Esme had tried setting me up with him last summer. Seth and I attempted dating, but he just felt so awkward and uncomfortable when he was around me that we decided it wasn't going to work out. We were great when it came to just hanging out or working together, but throw in some romance and he runs for the hills. I don't think he'd had much experience with girls when he was in school or women for that matter now that he was running his own place. But we had managed to remain friendly to each other; I really did like him and was sorry that it couldn't have worked out for us.

"So Jake came out last week. He's been staying in your basement." Esme had an odd look on her face as she told me this, like she was waiting for me to react. I walked to the spare bedroom that had been turned into an office of sorts, though it still had a spare bed in it, so I could change into some clothes to work in. Wait. He'd been staying in my basement? What was that supposed to mean? It wasn't mine really, but instantly I felt like he had invaded my personal private domain without permission. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. And who was this Jake anyway?

"Oh, so do I need to get a place in town then?" I turned to face Esme. I wasn't sure why Jake's staying in the basement really bothered me. It wasn't like I knew who he was or had any say in whether he could stay here or not, I mean it wasn't as if it was my house. Esme stood at the doorway.

"What? No dear, well, we just thought you could stay down there…with him." She rushed on as she saw the look on my face. "There are two beds down there. I mean you are both adults, about the same age too I think. I just didn't think you would want to stay down there alone, besides he's great company and can hold a conversation. But if you are that uncomfortable with those arrangements then we can have Jake stay in the barn in the hay loft." She walked towards me, taking my clothes and set them on the bed. I was stunned.

"No, I mean, it's fine. He doesn't have to sleep outside. I can do that, stay in the hay loft I mean. Unless it rains, or did you and Carlisle finally fix the roof so it doesn't leak?" I really didn't want to sleep outside, but the thought of staying in the basement with a total stranger, a male stranger at that, was a bit unnerving so I made the offer anyway. I liked being alone.

"Look, Bella, I know you have been single and lonely since Eddie left and it's been so long since you dated anyone, so Carlisle and I thought…well we thought you should meet someone who would be good for you. Jake is a really nice man, you should try spending some time with him and get to know each other. He's very much like you, smart, likes animals, strong-willed, stubborn, kind, loving, and… he has a soft spot for pretty girls. You two would be great together; you just need to give it a chance Bella."

I couldn't believe what I just heard. Esme was trying to set me up. Again. Apparently she didn't seem to remember the last disaster she set me up with. I had taken my good pants off and stood there in my underwear with my work jeans in hand just looking at her.

"Esme, the last time you wanted me to 'meet a nice man', it ended up with me calling the sheriff! Mike Newton was a total waste of time and a jerk to boot. You knew what he did, after he tried forcing himself on me, he stalked me for months. He followed me everywhere, called me at all times of the day, even at work until my boss nearly fired me. I don't think I could handle going through something like that again." I really was better off being alone.

It was true, Mike seemed nice to begin with after we left the ranch that year, but he couldn't seem to take the hint and give me some personal space. We had made out once after having a quiet dinner at my house and it was getting pretty heated; he took it as a sign I wanted to go further and tried to takes things a lot further than I wanted to at the time. I wasn't ready for that and wanted, no needed, to take things slow. When I told him he got so angry he began ripping at my clothes, pinning my arms down so I couldn't move; I thought he was going to rape me or worse. He finally stopped his assault when my girlfriend Angela came over to return some books she had borrowed. He never did actually hurt me, but I was terrified of what he might do if he ever over-stepped that line. He'd taken to calling me ten times a day, sometimes more, and followed me around while I was at work. I had told him that I no longer wanted to see him. He just would not take no for an answer. One night after work he'd even broken into my truck and waited for me, hiding in the back seat. He scared me so badly I had to call off of work sick several times just to avoid him. I'd even gone as far as to park my truck away from my house so he wouldn't think I was home. It wasn't until I had moved from my home and to another town that he finally stopped his pursuit of me. He had major anger issues when it came to rejection and I think he was just plain crazy. I shook my head at the memories of what had happened; it was too much to be thinking about this early in the morning. No, I was definitely better off being alone.

"Look Esme, I know you and Carlisle are just trying to look out for me, really and I appreciate the gesture, but I need to be the one to find him on my own. Not that I don't mind a little help now and then, but you two trying to set me up with some random guy is, I don't know, it just doesn't feel right; it's weird."

I finished putting on my work clothes and Esme followed me back towards the kitchen to fill the water bottles and cooler with ice so I didn't have to make multiple trips to the house. She didn't say anything as we packed the cooler with the drinks and snacks that would hold us until lunch time. I hoped I didn't hurt her feelings, but I wasn't going to be pushed or swayed into anything I didn't feel comfortable with.

I knew she cared and was worried about me. But I felt like I would know when I was ready, and right now I just wasn't ready. I was alright being alone.

"Ok, so I have all the water bottles filled and packed. I made those cookies that Carlisle likes so I packed some to take to the barn for a snack and made extras for later. I know Carlisle will want his beer, what does Jake like to drink? Should I pack some a few beers for him too, or does he drink, or should I just pack some sodas instead?" I put the beer, ice and waters in the cooler and looked over at Esme, waiting for her response.

"Yes, put in a few beers and extra water for Jake. Oh, and Jake asked if we would bring his red ice chest out when we came down, said he had something in it he wanted for later." She smiled at me, and it wasn't a smile I hadn't seen before. I knew that look, she was up to something. And she knew I hated surprises.

"Look, Bella relax, don't get so defensive. You know I would never invite someone here that I thought would hurt you. I just want you to be happy, to find your forever love." I just looked at her through narrowed eyes. Why couldn't people understand that I was ok being alone?

"What?" she asked with faked innocence as she threw her hands up in mock defense. She knew she had me.

But if it was one thing I learned from her over the years, it was this: I wasn't about to play her game.

~*TCoJB*~

AN: Seattle Washington's Mounted Police Unit-non-existent, purely made up for the sake if the story, as well as anything else that doesn't sound right, that is the love of fictional stories! However the farm is real, in an actual small town in eastern Washington. I spent many summers there as a child learning the value and rewards of hard work.