A/N: Thanks for joining me on this little tale that I'm finally getting out of my head.
To set the scene, it's been 10 years since the wolves phased. This story runs mostly true to canon, with some slight differences: Jacob imprinted on Bella and she chose him over Edward; Claire is of appropriate age for Quil to date and thus is Emily's cousin rather than niece. The Cullens left Forks years ago, but remain in occasional contact with the pack.
"Dammit. I can't see a thing."
The wipers on the old, battered truck screeched and stuttered across the windshield, barely slip-slopping the drizzle away. Liz squinted and tapped the brakes, searching for the well-concealed turn-off to the La Push automotive shop. For three weeks now, she'd ignored the moans and groans coming from her late aunt's rusty bucket of bolts. She had no idea when the '65 Chevy was last driven, let alone had a tune-up, but she could no longer stay in denial: It was time for a mechanic.
He mind wandered as she drove. Three weeks. Three weeks since she sublet her apartment in Dallas, packed her meager belongings and Marble (her loyal yellow Lab) in the car, and began the trek north to Forks, Washington—a town that could give Mayberry a run for its money.
She didn't mind Forks. In fact, part of her was grateful for the break from the frenetic pace of city life.
And yet …
… the down time also offered plenty opportunities to ruminate about the things—or, more accurately, the person—she left behind.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Liz finally spotted the turn-off, just as the rain began to dissipate. She eased onto the dirt road and soon saw a dilapidated gray building on the right: Three Wolves Auto. Hanging on the side was a hand-painted sign with three gray wolves baying at the moon. Of course. By now she was used to the proliferation of the Quileute spirit animal, an image the entire region celebrated.
She set the parking brake and turned off the rumbling engine. Climbing out of the truck, Liz watched as an enormous bare-chested man emerged from the garage. "Hi there," she called.
"How's it goin'?" The man greeted her with a brilliant, sunny smile and extended his hand. "I'm Jacob."
"Liz." Accepting his handshake, she tried without success to close her gaping mouth. In her 25 years of existence, she'd never seen such a perfectly chiseled specimen of man: short black hair, caramel skin, washboard abs, and perfectly defined muscles from head to toe. Talk about a tall drink of water.
His voice interrupted her inappropriate thoughts. "What can I do for you?"
"Oh! Uh, my truck. I- I need to have it looked at. I got your name from a woman named Kim? She said you guys were the best."
"Kim!" He beamed. "Any friend of Kim's is a friend of mine. How do you two know each other?"
"From the coffee shop. I'm mooching their free WiFi until I get Internet installed in my place—I just moved to Forks a few weeks ago." Liz laughed and shook her head. "You can only order so many lattes until you have to befriend the person who makes them."
"Nice." Jacob's sunny smile stretched even wider. "I was wondering why I haven't seen you around before. Welcome to the area."
Relaxing under his friendly demeanor, Liz smiled back. "Thanks."
"So, what's going on with your truck? Which is awesome, by the way. A classic." He walked past Liz and ran his hands along its sides in admiration.
"It belonged to my late aunt," Liz said, walking over to join him. "She stopped driving it years before she died. To be honest, I was surprised it even started. I think it's on its last legs."
"Nah, we'll breathe some new life into this puppy." His eyes gleamed as he popped open the hood. "Emb is gonna go nuts over this thing—he has a special place in his heart for the classics. Hey, Emb! Get your ass out here!"
Another impossibly tall man emerged from the garage, wearing cut-off shorts and a greasy white t-shirt that hugged his ample muscles. Do they put human growth hormone in the water here or something?
"What's up?" The man named Embry strolled over to the truck.
"Check out this bad boy." Jake turned his attention back under the hood, then paused. "Oh—Emb, this is Liz. Liz, Embry Call."
"Hi there," Liz said, meeting his midnight gaze as she extended her hand. His eyes suddenly locked on hers, and a jolt of electricity shot through her arm as their palms connected. For a moment, the two stared at each other, both of them forgetting who and where they were.
"Whaddaya think about this truck, man?" Jake asked, tinkering under the hood. "Are you dying, or what?"
His question went unanswered. Aware of the sudden silence, Jake looked up from the engine and did a double-take.
Embry had the look. THE look. The one Jake had seen on his packmates over and over again—hell, the one he'd once worn himself. It was the look of a man whose universe had realigned, who was no longer bound to Earth by gravity but by the unsuspecting woman standing in front of him. Jacob half-groaned, half-laughed as he drank in the scene. Awesome.
"Emb. Hey, Emb." He cuffed his friend on the shoulder, interrupting his silent reverie. "Think you can turn your attention over this way for a minute?"
Embry's eyes slowly came back into focus. Shaking his head, he turned to Jake. "Huh?"
"The truck. I asked what you thought about the truck." He lowered his voice. "Although it looks like you've found a much better ride over there."
Narrowing his eyes at Jake, Embry turned and finally noticed the vehicle in front of him. "Is this …?"
"Yup." Jake grinned. "1965. Can you believe it? Belonged to her aunt."
"Wow." Embry let out a low whistle as he traced the frame with his fingertips. He stole another glance at Liz. "Amazing."
"So, Liz knows Kim," Jake said, as he continued his exploration under the hood. "She just moved here from … where did you say you moved here from, again?"
"Um, I didn't. But, Texas. Dallas, to be exact."
"Texas? Yeehaw!" Jake tipped a pretend hat and mimed twirling a lasso.
"What brought you all the way up here?" Embry tried to cover the enthusiastic edge to his voice, but it slipped out anyway. He couldn't help it—he needed to know EVERYTHING about the woman standing in front of him.
Liz shifted her feet, running fingers through her hair. She didn't like talking about her past. "Oh, it's a long story …"
Looking up, she noted Jake's puzzled expression and Embry's worried eyes. She sighed. It was a perfectly normal question. They deserved some sort of explanation. "See … my aunt passed away last month and left me her house—well, everything, really. After the funeral, I debated just selling it all and going back to Texas, but … I decided I was ready for a change. So I packed everything up and brought it here." She shrugged. "I'm a freelance writer, so I can work from pretty much anywhere. That made it easier."
There was a hint of pain in her eyes, a lurking sadness she couldn't quite conceal. It made Embry's heart constrict, and he fought the urge to pull her into his arms right then and there.
Jake cleared his throat. "I'm sorry to hear about your aunt," he said, nudging Embry out of his trance. "Were you two close?"
"Not so much. In fact, I hadn't seen her in years. But, she had no kids of her own, so I got everything—from the truck to the house to the piles of random tchotchke she accumulated from rummage sales over the years." She rolled her eyes. "Seriously, what compels someone to buy a taxidermied fox?"
The men chuckled. "Well," Jake said, slamming down the hood, "creepy taxidermy aside, the good news is that the truck she left you is actually in pretty decent shape. She took damn good care of it over the years. There are some belts that need replacing, and I'd like to tinker with the engine a little, but you've got yourself a solid piece of transportation."
"Awesome!" Liz pumped her fists. "So, how much do you think it'll cost me for all of that?"
"Any friend of Kim's is a friend of ours, so you get the special friend discount—no charge." Jacob winked. "Something tells me Embry here will be working on it himself. Pretty special vehicle … huh, Emb?" His words were thick with implication, and he ignored the venomous glare his friend directed his way.
"Oh, no, I can't let you do that." Liz shook her head. "Seriously, I'm happy to pay the going rate. Thanks for taking care of me." She directed a bright smile at Embry, who flushed crimson and suddenly became very interested in wiping off an invisible speck of dirt he found on the bumper.
"Well, we should have it ready in a few days," Jake said. "In the meantime, do you have other transportation?"
"I sold my car in Dallas—it was on its last legs. I figured if the truck was too expensive to fix, I could always sell it to an antique car dealer and get something else."
Jake nodded. "Well, where do you live? Can we give you a ride home?"
"Oh, I …" Liz stammered as caught Embry's hopeful gaze. "I don't live more than a few miles through the woods over here. I can walk home."
"No!" Embry's knee-jerk reaction took even him by surprise. He softened. "Sorry, I just … I mean … it's been raining off and on all day—you'll catch a cold. Not to mention, it's getting dark."
"Yeah, why don't you let Emb give you a ride home?" Jacob patted her on the shoulder. "We were about to close up for the day anyway. Right, Emb?"
"Right." His voice was a soft whisper. "Please. Will you let me take you home?"
"S- sure." She gulped, feeling her stomach turn flip-flops at the prospect of being alone with him. "Just let me get my stuff out the truck."
While Liz retrieved her belongings, Embry jogged to the office for his keys. Jake said his goodbyes, then smirked as he watched Embry trip over himself in his haste to get back to Liz.
Unaware he was right behind her, she stepped down from the cab and backed right into his chest. "Oh! Sorry—thanks." A blush crawled over her cheeks as he steadied her. His hand lingered on her shoulder a few beats, then grazed down her arm, leaving goose bumps in its wake.
"It's okay." His warm breath tickled her ear. "Ready to go?"
"Yep." Get a grip, Liz. She didn't understand what was happening. There was something about Embry that made her so nervous and excited, she thought she'd explode. Waving goodbye to Jacob, she followed Embry to the passenger side of his pick-up, where he opened the door for her.
"Thanks," she said, taking his hand and stepping inside.
A/N: What do you think? I love hearing from you!