Twilight Gem Pearl Award Winner Best All Human Award!

Foreword: A few weeks ago, I was driving home from a gig along the Columbia Gorge (YES! I actually get to do things like that!), when Bruce Springsteen's song "I'm on Fire" came on the radio. It's always been a favorite of mine, IMO it's the perfect expression of UST. So, the gist of this fic popped into my head…and wouldn't leave me alone till I got it written! I hope you like it. Check my profile for a link to the video & lyrics.

Thanks to sfiddy & WolvesCanEatMe for pre-reading and offering continual support and friendship.

An especial thanks to leelator; who takes time from her own writing, the Antebellum house she's restoring, and her delectable husband, to hold my hand, scold me mercilessly, and add a zillion commas to my manuscripts. You're the Moon Pie to my RC Cola, darling!

Standard Disclaimer: All things Twilight are the sole property of the divine Stephenie Meyers. This fan fic is purely for entertainment (mainly mine!) with no other gain. No copyright infringement is intended. Think of it as an homage

Working Man by diamondheart

"Someday you're going to get tired of me bringing in this old heap for resuscitation." The words were mostly teasing, but a little anxious. I gave a quick glance down; was she really trying to assess my interest?

"Hell-I mean, uh, heck no. Call it…nostalgia, if you like." The soft brown eyes widened in curiosity, so I went on, "My dad had a truck a lot like this; it was the first engine I ever rebuilt. Made me what I am today, you might say." With a flourish, I gestured around the garage, Alpha Auto Repair and Classic Restoration, owned and operated by yours truly.

A glowing smile replaced the worried look and the little frown line between her eyes smoothed out. The woman standing beside me was well on her way to becoming my most regular customer; the "heap" she referred to was a rusty-red Chevy pick-up that had seen better days a couple of generations ago.

Repeat business is always good, of course, but it wasn't the income from nursing along the ancient vehicle that really interested me: it was the owner. Bella Swan was just…yeah.

It was the 13th of September (funny how I remembered that) when she first showed up. Part of my attention is always on the alert for the sound of an ailing engine, no surprise, and I heard the misfiring and rattling long before it rounded the corner. The truck itself was almost like seeing an old friend and I was already smiling before she stepped out of the cab.

My first sight of her and it felt like the lift hydraulics had failed and dropped a four-ton passenger van on my head.

What can I say? I'm a guy. I've had my share of girlfriends and lovers and just plain friendly fucks. Nothing–and no one-ever affected me like this.

Attraction, fascination, desire-whatever you wanted to call it, it hounded me daily and kept me glancing up the street in the direction she usually came, hoping to see the old truck chugging and puffing, and her harassed face peering over the high dash board.

It was a fire that woke me in the night, my body running with sweat, the sheets sticky from my jizz.

The contrast between the old pick-up and its driver would have been laughable if I'd had my wits about me. She looked so trim and professional in her narrow black skirt (nice legs, I noted), and snugly fitted black blouse, standing next to the rusty old jalopy. It wasn't like she was the prettiest girl I'd ever seen, more sweet-faced than beautiful, and I usually like women with a little more meat on their bones, but she was just so…right-looking, somehow.

Quickly, I scrambled together a professional attitude in order to listen to her description of the truck's failings. I take pride in my work and always make an effort to be reassuring-and non-condescending-to female customers, but this time it was especially gratifying to see her look of exasperation fade and be replaced with confidence.

It was a confidence that I tried to fulfill as she returned several times over the following weeks. Right from the start, I made it a point to do the work myself. Call it silly, but by tending her ride it felt like I was somehow closer, in an intimate way, to the woman.

Pretty poetic for a wrench head. How fucking crazy is that?

"MM-mm, nice little chassis on that one."

"Sure wouldn't mind rotating her tires."

"I've got a tool she can handle any old time!"

The trash talk penetrated my working dream-state; normally, I'm more than ready to engage like that, but in this case it was Bella the crew was making their remarks about. Howls and obscene gestures were the response when I snarled for them to shut the fuck up. It didn't stop them, of course, but they did back off, a little.

A few weeks went by, with more visits from Ms Swan; my recommendation for the old vehicle was a complete overhaul, but Bella seemed to be on a tight budget. Carefully casual questioning had drawn out the information that she worked in an art gallery, which sounded about right: she definitely had class.

"So…why drive the old beater? Is it some kind of art-y thing?" We were sitting at my shop, over a pair of espressos I made; we'd just enjoyed a good laugh over how "Seattle" it was: a garage with a coffee bar.

Bella tossed back her hair and chortled, "Oh, don't go thinking I'm a successful art dealer or something, I'm just the receptionist. But someday…." She looked into the distance, nodding to herself, and then shrugged and went on, "Anyway, I've got a lot of college loans to settle, that sort of thing. I sure don't want a car payment as well."

It seemed like a doubtful economy since she was paying me for repairs on a pretty regular basis, but I wasn't about to talk her into buying a newer car, one that might mean she didn't need my services so often. Anyway, it was nice to find out these things. I liked that she had ambition and that she was willing to work for it; it sort of leveled the playing field.

Each time she drove off, I kicked myself for not asking her out and vowed it would be different next time, but no dice. I could keep up my end of the conversation with her just fine, but I was as tongue-tied as a teenager when it came to furthering our…friendship. What the hell was wrong with me?

The very air seemed thick when she was around and I almost had to struggle drawing it into my lungs. At times my longing for her was downright painful – and more than a little bewildering - but I couldn't bring myself to wish it would go away.

Could she feel it, too, I wondered. It seemed impossible that the magnetic pull of attraction I felt for her wasn't noticeable and maybe, hopefully, maybe, even reciprocated.

So here she was, again. Involuntarily my gaze was slowly roaming her body-skinny jeans and a tight sweater today. Shit! I jerked my eyes to meet hers, mentally smacking my forehead. Way to look like a pervert, Black! I muttered internally.

She was looking up at me, lightly biting her full lower lip, but she didn't seem to take offense at how I'd been undressing her with my eyes. The silence lengthened until finally her eyes dropped and she said, "Um, what will I owe you?"

Pulling myself back to reality, I hastily named a figure, promising, "It'll be ready by the end of the day tomorrow. Ms, uh, Swan," I tacked on in an attempt to make up for my earlier lapse.

With a pretty little chuckle she said, "I think we should be on a first name basis by now, Jacob."

"Bella," I returned with a nod and a smile. Another silence. We both laughed a little self-consciously.

Just as I was opening my mouth to ask her if she'd like a ride home, the service bell sounded from outside. She gave a little jump at the sound and seemed slightly flustered as she said, "That'll be my…boyfriend, Edward. You should come meet him. He, uh, likes cars a lot."

Fuck. A boyfriend. Why was I surprised?

A low whistle escaped me at the sight of the silver Jaguar XK idling in the driveway; slowly I circled, taking in every sleek, elegant line.

Make that a rich boyfriend. Double fuck.

The car door slammed and I tore my eyes from the automotive beauty to look at the man standing protectively next to Bella. Judging by the coolly appraising look he was giving me, he must have seen us through the open bay door, noticed just how close we had been standing.

"Edward," she said hurriedly, "This is -"

"Jacob Black," I cut in, extending my grease-stained hand.

Without missing a beat, he grasped it and shook firmly. "Edward Cullen."

Huh. That explained a few things: the car, of course, but also the air of assurance that money–-lots of money–-brings. As well as his readiness to greet me. Another man might have hesitated when presented with a mechanic's dirty mitt, but the Cullens were known for their courtesy as much as for their billions. Dr. and Mrs. Cullen were famous locally for their good works in the community, as well as being major supporters of the arts. And she had a reputation as being a stickler for manners and what she termed "breeding"; it showed with her son.

"That's a real nice little number you've got there," I said, giving him a very direct look. Let him decide whether I meant the car or the woman

"Thanks for all you've done for Bella, and that truck," his tone was cordial but his eyes were hard; he knew what was in my mind all right. "I wish she'd let me buy her something decent to drive, but -"

Blushing uncomfortably, Bella protested, "We've been over that, Edward, it's too much. I get by just fine, especially now that I've got Jac-, um, such a good repair shop."

By major effort, I suppressed a smirk at her near slip. The mere fact that she'd had to back pedal made feel like dancing inside: if she'd truly not noticed me, she wouldn't have seen the awkwardness of her intended statement.

It hadn't been lost on Cullen either. His expression went from cool to cold as he placed a proprietary hand on her back and gently urged her toward the Jag. Quickly, I handed over her copy of the work order and my fingers brushed hers.

A sizzle of electricity shot through me, making me jump. It affected her, too; Bella jerked her hand back and the boyfriend shot me a glare like he suspected me of copping a feel right in front of him.

The expensive engine came to life, making a luxurious purr as it moved onto the street. Bella gave me a tiny wave and a wistful smile through the window as they sped off.

-oOo-

Comparing myself to another man hadn't come up much before-I didn't like it. Some people think I'm quite a catch and I hadn't seen any reason to disagree with them, till now. Without being cocky, I've got a fair amount going for me: decent looking, I work out, and I'm told I have a good sense of humor. I've got a good trade and at twenty-eight I own my own business; I can bring home the bacon.

Cullen could bring home the fucking caviar. Actually, the maid probably brought home the caviar; that kind gets things handed to them. Good looking bastard, too, even I could see that, and well educated, but if he hadn't had brains, Daddy Cullen could have bought him a university. No struggling with student loans for him.

As a pretty strict rule, I'm not the kind of guy who tries to move in on another man's territory; it's just not right and why bother when there are plenty of unattached ladies available?

In Bella's case I had absolutely no scruples, and, seemingly, no choice, in the matter. After all, I might not have all that many chances. Cullen struck me as someone who generally got what he went after. Well, so was I. Plus there was something about his possessive air toward her that raised my hackles; not that I blamed him really, but he looked at her like she was…lunch.

Amazing how much competition could develop in a three minute conversation.

-oOo-

"That was quick. Thank you." The woman whose image filled my days and tormented my nights was sitting, shivering and wet, in the cab of my tow truck.

"I…happened to be close by when I got the page." My answer was necessarily short because I was having trouble breathing again.

When Bella had come by to collect her truck that last time (no boyfriend, a woman had been at the wheel of the Camry that dropped her off), I had been stuck in my little office on the phone, dealing with a vendor. It seemed to me as I looked through the window to the front counter, that she was trying to stall (or was it just wishful thinking?), but the asswipe on the other end of the line would not shut up and at last she left.

Several days passed before I saw her again; this time the truck had broken down on the I-5 in the middle of a pounding rainstorm. I wasn't on call that day, but none of the guys had argued when I volunteered to go.

By the time I got the old Chevy hitched to my rig, I was soaked through, and so was she since she'd refused to sit inside, preferring to look anxiously over my shoulder while traffic whooshed by on the interstate. It was after seven o'clock and the garage was deserted when we finally made it in. Bella was quite a sight, her pretty red-brown hair hanging in wet strings and her lips nearly blue. It was only early fall, but a front, apparently direct from the Bering Strait, was moving in.

Without thinking it through I said, "You must be freezing! I just live a few blocks away; let's head over there. Then you can dry off and we can have a drink to ward off the cold. I can probably find something for supper in the fridge."

Her hesitation was so brief as to be nearly unnoticeable, then she nodded and I helped her into my Silverado for the short drive.

Silently I gulped, getting her home with me was a recurrent fantasy, of course, but what to do when I got her there? I knew what I wanted and I was sure (well, pretty sure) that I wasn't misreading her signals, but…

"This will be miles too big on you, but it's what I've got," I said, handing her the blue terry cloth bathrobe that my sister had given me two birthdays ago; it was good as new since I never wore it. Bella retreated to the bathroom with instructions to take a hot shower. Thoughts of her, naked and wet, just on the other side of the wall taunted me while I shucked out of my soggy things in the bedroom and pulled on a pair of sweats.

When Bella walked in the kitchen twenty minutes later, toweling her hair, she stopped short. I had debated putting on a t-shirt (was being bare-chested too obvious a come-on?), at last I decided to leave it off. The color that flooded her cheeks, and the quick glance away, made a warm bubble of optimism form in my stomach and start crowding against my ribs. I forced myself to turn smoothly to the cupboard and ask lightly, "What's your pleasure? I've got…bourbon, Gran Marnier, a red zin, and Heineken in the fridge."

"Mmm, Gran Marnier sounds heavenly," she sighed. My hand was almost steady as I sloshed a generous measure into a couple of glasses; we each took a sip, looking at each other over the rims of the snifters. Bella blushed again and turned to look around my kitchen.

The collar of the blue bathrobe was over large and revealed a scattering of little golden moles over her fair skin. The thought of loosening that collar and seeing just how far down the moles went gave me a sudden sensation of vertigo.

Her face lit up as she took in the glossy gray-blue of the cabinets and the polished poured concrete counters. "This is…gorgeous!" she exclaimed.

"Were you expecting a dump? Seeing as how I'm a grease monkey?" I tried, I really did, to keep the sourness out of my voice, but it got away from me. It always bugs me how some people seem to think that a guy who works with his hands for a living can't have any standards or a sense of style.

"Oh! Oh, no, Jacob, that's not it!" The words tumbled out, "I really like it, is all! Um, I'd say the same to anybody." So she got it. Now I felt bad for having prejudged her.

Maybe it was bragging, but I couldn't help but mention that I'd done most of the work myself, adding, "I'm no chef, but it was mainly just me and Dad while I was growing up, so I learned my way around a kitchen pretty young. I'll fix us something in a little while; let's go into the living room.

"Not much furniture in here, yet," I explained, a little obviously. There was only a leather sofa (a good one), my late father's old recliner, and a cheap coffee table from Ikea so far. "Mostly I've been busy refinishing the floor and getting the wood work into shape."

"It's great," she murmured, going over to look closely at the window seat I'd rebuilt. "I've always loved these old Craftsman bungalows."

Firmly, I pushed away the thought that Cullen could buy her any house she wanted. Sitting down, I patted the place beside me, "Come by the fire and get warm."

Was it my imagination, or was her breath just a little shaky on the intake? She gathered the huge bathrobe around her and settled down with her legs tucked beside her. She was close, but not too close, leaving a little space between us; a space that seemed to throb as we both gazed into the fire and sipped our drinks. The warmth that was spreading through me had little to do with the liquor.

Bella broke the thick quiet, saying in a near whisper, "I shouldn't be here." Her words seemed to be at least as much to herself as to me. "I-I have…someone. But I am so attracted to you, Jacob." My heart began to thud as she turned the full force of those big brown eyes on me. "It isn't just me, is it?"

Swallowing hard before answering, I whispered hoarsely, "No, not just you."

Bella looked back at the flames. "I shouldn't be here," she repeated with a faint sigh, "because I know what's going to happen…and I want it to."

She set down her now empty glass and turned toward me, pulling her legs underneath her so that she was perched on her knees. With a solemn expression, she laid her hand on the curve of my neck and leaned forward.

The touch of her lips on mine was as soft as a whisper. I froze, while a hundred different possible reactions ricocheted in my head and the blood surged to my groin; in an instant I was achingly, burningly hard. This is really, really happening. The words drifted through my head. Bella Swan is in my house, in my bathrobe, kissing me…

Of their own accord my hands reached up and lightly cupped her face; a rumble of gratification curled up from my throat as I placed light, nibbling kisses all around the edges of her mouth.

Play it cool, Black, I told myself silently, easy and slow is- Bella gave a muffled exclamation and her arm wrapped around my neck, pulling me in tightly as her mouth opened and her tongue invited mine to do the same.

At that moment, I knew I could have just pushed Bella back on the couch, spread her legs and ploughed into her with no preamble and no pretenses. She was that into it, that into me. But we both deserved more.

Her free hand fumbled at the belt of the bathrobe, trying ineffectively to loosen it; she gave a tiny "mph" of frustration and I took over. My lips never left hers as I undid the tie and carefully parted the lapels. My hands were seared with the sensation as they slipped inside the robe and met her warm, supple nakedness, sliding from her hips to the indentation of her waist, then farther up, just grazing the sides of her breasts and back down again.

With a gasp, Bella rose on her knees and flung herself at me, pressing skin to skin, her kisses growing more urgent. A low moan sounded from us simultaneously as I clasped her to me firmly. She was so warm and alive in my arms, but so slender and delicate-feeling at the same time. My touch glided down and around her smooth flanks and back, then farther down to discover how perfectly her round ass fitted into my hands.

Slowly, slowly, I moved my lips to trace the line of her jaw, up to the hollow beneath her ear, then down her throat. With her fingers laced around the base of my skull, Bella arched her back, her breasts straining toward me; no mistaking that invitation.

With a harsh, rattling sigh, I filled my hands with her creamy flesh, and laid my face in that woman-scented softness. This close, I could feel her heart start to race; I slurped in a nipple, sucking gently at first, then more vigorously; my own heart sped up at the whimpers she made.

"Oh, Jacob," her sigh was like music and my eyes opened to the sight of Bella's entranced face as she watched me suckle her. I couldn't help the smile that curved around the mouthful. She smiled back, her lips were parted and her breathing ragged. With only slight reluctance I disengaged; in one smooth motion, I unthreaded her hands from my hair and brought them around to press a kiss on each palm.

"Come on," I murmured, standing up. "Let's go get comfortable. I can't work you over properly here."

Stepping backwards, I drew her along by both hands and then stopped abruptly, letting her walk into me. She giggled as she bumped against me, then twined one leg around mine, leaning with her full weight and rolling her belly against my hard-on. Another kiss that started slow and ended with our hands roaming and fondling almost frantically. I stooped and swept an arm under her knees, lifting her and carrying her down the short hallway.

Once there, I set her on the bed; Bella wriggled her body back along the quilt, shrugging out of the robe at the same time. She lifted her behind and I pulled the garment away and tossed it somewhere. She leaned back on her elbows and, for a long moment, I stood and just looked, taking in everything, from the pink polish on her toenails, to the pink tips of her breasts to her smile, which managed to be shy and inviting at the same time. "Beautiful," I breathed, briefly spellbound by the reality of her, in my bed, just where I'd wanted her.

With the meaningful quirk of an eyebrow, she indicated the sweatpants I still wore and half rose, stretching out her hands to ease the elastic waist band down my hips and over the swell of my erection.

"Oh! You're so bi-, um…" She gulped to a stop. In the dim light from the lamp on the bureau, I could see her blush at the slip.

A snicker rose in my chest and was stifled, "But you are going to be so ready for me, Bella," I said earnestly.

"Is that a promise?" She was biting that lower lip again, playfully this time.

"It's a guarantee." With a quick but controlled move, I was on hands and knees, straddling her thighs. There I hovered for a moment, her flushed face filling my vision; her teasing look melted away and the expression of want that replaced it made my heart, and my dick, pound almost painfully.

Still on all fours, I began exploring her mouth in a leisurely way, purposefully slowing the pace. Bella's small hands smoothed over my chest, tracing the lines of my muscles, then up, stroking my neck and my ears, then down. Her back curved as she strove for contact; I was tantalizing us both by not embracing her fully, maintaining a handbreadth between us. She gave a little laugh-moan of frustrated longing, then slipped a slim thigh between mine, pressing deliciously on my balls. With a shift and a shove, I was pushed onto my side with Bella stretched full length against me, trapping my hard-on between us. A groan escaped me as she gave a provocative sway of her hips.

It was almost hard to let her go, but I had an agenda to fulfill. I pressed a handful of her still damp hair to my face, breathing in its scent, then I drew a line down her throat with my nose. A nibble at her collarbone, then at the curve of her underarm, then a long pause to pay some attention to the breast I had missed out on before. A hum and a shiver from Bella made me resume my downward journey. I rolled and swung my legs down to the floor and landed lightly on my knees, pulling her ass to the edge of the mattress.

"You'll want a pillow or two for your head," I murmured. "You really ought to see what I'm doing to you." The flush of pleasure was rising on her throat and chest as she arranged herself, while I sat back on my heels and admired the view.

"Comfortable?" She nodded breathlessly to my question and I dipped one shoulder, then the other, under her legs. I pressed my face against the closely trimmed hairs and inhaled deeply; the shower had removed any traces of whatever toiletries she used, the aroma was pure Bella. She shivered with anticipation as I mouthed all around the tops of her thighs and over the sensitive flesh below her navel. My own arousal became almost unbearable as, making a point with my tongue, I drove it into her cleft and felt her jolt of sensation at the contact.

My intention had been to make this as slow as the previous explorations, but I wasn't up to waiting any longer; with a growl, I buried my mouth between her lips, flicking and sucking her clit, teasing and lapping. Using both hands I opened her wider; I wasn't just eating her, I was devouring her, lavishing each ripple and fold with my tongue. The scents and tastes of her; the soft gurgling she made in her throat; the silky wetness of her pussy as I slid first one finger, then two inside her; the sensations all swirled around in my head

My eyes turned up to her face, Bella wasn't watching me now, her head was thrown back, her breasts jutting toward the ceiling. The drive for completion had taken over her body, and the clutch of her hands in my hair became insistent as she ground her split into my mouth. Her breathing was harsh; I could feel the tensions building and tightening inside her, then gasps turned to cries as she clenched around my probing fingers. When her tremors had slowed and faded, I crept alongside and cradled her to me, whispering and kissing and smoothing her hair as she came back to herself.

With sinuous motions, she rubbed her body against mine and her hand started stroking my thigh, up and down, over my ass and around to the inside, varying the pressure and just skirting my aching erection. Her eyes were hazy with desire as she whispered, "Your turn," and made quite a show of licking her lips.

Gently I removed her hand and flipped her onto her back, then stood up. Bella made a little pouty noise, "But Jacob, I want to-"

"Later," I rasped, stopping her words with a hurried kiss, "I'll take a rain check." The protests died as she saw me fumbling in the nightstand drawer for a condom, then her eyes focused on my hands manipulating the contents of the little packet.

Once wrapped, I stepped between her legs and slid an arm under her waist to raise her to me, then tucked the pillows firmly under her bottom. Her hand wound around mine and together we guided my burning cock to her opening. Every instinct urged me to plunge into her fast and hard, but I pushed down the impulse and rocked in slowly-advancing and retreating, then advancing again-giving her time to relax around me, feeling her hips thrust up to meet mine. Her soft moan of surrender as I penetrated her fully was the most arousing thing I had ever heard.

I've done this a lot, but making love to Bella was as incredible as I'd hoped. Her slight body might appear and feel fragile but she met me with an equal passion as we surged together, gaining momentum. The sounds we made, the clasp of her legs around my waist, the scent of her pussy juices on her face and lips where I had kissed her, the feel of her soft, warm channel molded around my cock was…sheer heaven.

It just needed one more thing to make it perfect. My hand slipped between us and I began circling her little knot under my thumb.

"Oh?...Oh…Oh!...Oo-ohh!" The exclamations, the tightening of her arms and legs, the contortions of her face, the pulses of her sex around mine, all told me I could let go; the pool of lava that had been simmering in my gut churned and rose up, gathered force and exploded, and exploded…

"I'm guessing here, but it's not like this with…him. Is it?"

"What makes you say that?" Was she just a bit defensive sounding?

"You." I said simply, "Your response to me. It surprised you." To demonstrate, I ran a finger down from under the tip of her chin, sketching a zigzag along her chest then circling her breasts, watching as chill bumps rose and her nipples hardened.

"A-ahhh," she sighed. Her voice was very low as she said hesitantly, "I didn't expect…I-I've never, um, climaxed more than once…not…like tonight."

A smug pride warred with shock: with so much passion and desire in her, had she really thought I would only get her off once?

At the same time, my basic dislike of Cullen hardened into contempt. Ha! Fucking wanker! I thought to myself. A woman like Bella and he doesn't even know what to do with her!

I didn't say anything about that, of course. My teeth dragged lightly over her ear lobe as my fingers slid into her cleft, delicately caressing her still sensitive clit. Her shudder and the involuntary jerk of her hips welcomed me as I whispered, "How high can you count, Bella?"

-oOo-

All the next day I'd sort of 'come to', realizing I had a big smile on my face, which I would quickly lose, only to find it there again. I just couldn't help myself.

"Get your oil changed, Jake?" Paul asked with a snort. He just laughed as I growled at him to get the fuck back to work. I knew he and the other mechanics were speculating-and hoping for details; it's what guys do–-but I wasn't giving anything away where Bella was concerned. Anyway, they probably wouldn't believe me if I said we'd done it four times: that shit just doesn't happen all that often, garage-talk notwithstanding.

Five times, if you counted this morning.

It had been the thin gray light of pre-dawn outside when I woke to the feel of her lips on my ear, whispering, "I've got to go, Jacob."

"Oh, uh, lemme get dressed," I mumbled sleepily as I started to roll out from under the covers.

"It's okay, I've called a cab." Her hands were insistently pulling me back. "They said it would be about thirty minutes. That should be enough time." With a breathy chuckle, she snuggled closer and said, "I'm…kind of sore, but I've got to do this."

My eyes snapped wide open as I felt her roll a condom down my morning wood, then she very deliberately climbed on board. A cautious downward thrust, a little hiss, another thrust, I could feel her body easing into the motions, and then she was riding me like a PRCA champion. What a way to start the day. What a woman…

There was that smile again.

Something like a tug-o-war was going on inside me; I was straining toward the future, while at the same time I wanted things to slow down so I could savor every millisecond, now that Bella Swan was in my life. Certainly, I've had enough experience to know that hot–-make that mind blowing–-sex doesn't automatically make for a relationship of any kind, but in this case…There's no explaining such things-when you're sure, you're sure, that's all.

My life's been pretty good; I've had my share of troubles, of course, some of them pretty bad - both my parents passed too young – but for the main part I was satisfied with things. And now, I had someone, the right someone, to share it with. I thought about introducing her to my sisters and their families. In a restaurant? At home? Or maybe I'd just keep her to myself for a while…

My mood of elation lasted till about 9:00 that night. I'd tried calling Bella several times during the day, it's the proper thing to do in any case, and I just couldn't wait to hear her voice again.

She wouldn't pick up. At first that didn't bother me. She probably didn't take personal calls at work, out of range, dead battery, the usual.

She didn't answer her home phone either.

The next day was more of the same. At some point I stopped leaving messages; I just listened numbly to the sound of her recorded voice, unable to wrap my mind around the fact that she was avoiding me.

Numb was good, actually. After a wretched night of tossing and turning, dozing and waking to find myself groping for her in the sheets, I dragged myself up into a world that seemed as cold and lifeless as the spent ashes in the fireplace.

Fucking poetry again.

"Bella, I…" I choked and cleared my throat, clutching the phone so hard the plastic crackled a little, "Ms. Swan, your truck is ready to be picked up at your convenience. Ask for Sam or Paul. I have to…go to Everett to look over some restoration projects. Have a nice day."

There. At least she could get the god damned truck out of my yard without either of us having to see each other.

Shit.

-oOo-

The day after that was the worst of all. My feelings shifted so often that I felt almost motion-sick. Numbness had melted away, to be replaced at times by an anger so sharp it made me nauseated, alternating with a staggering sense of grief and loss.

How can you feel this way, Black? I berated myself mentally. Just another roll in the hay. She used you, you used her. Move on, forget it.

I missed numb.

Then the mail came. Mixed in with the circulars and bills, and a post card from a vacationing friend, was an envelope of smooth, heavy paper in a pale gray color. Curious, I opened it. The elegant script seemed to swim in front of my eyes.

the pleasure of your company…

celebrating the engagement of…

nine o'clock in the evening,…

Black tie…

The last item brought me to my senses. What the fuck? Do people really do that? Have a fucking black tie engagement party? In my circle, it's a cook out and beer, if anything.

My circle. Huh. That pretty much said it all.

I glanced at the envelope, the handwriting was unfamiliar, but I knew whose it was; his, Edward Cullen's. Fucking prick.

The date was for tonight. Different ideas bounced in my brain, running from committing arson at the Cullen mansion (how satisfying), to crashing the party wildly drunk (it's not like this was a 'real' invitation) and creating a scene, to taking off for the woods and becoming some hermit mountain man (yeah, right).

An engagement party, with fancy stationary and a high-dollar caterer no doubt. That meant that all this had been in the works for sometime; she'd never had any intention of really being with me. Guess I was just kind of her own little bachelorette party, a last fling before she got herself hitched to a big name and an even bigger fortune. Bella Swan–-make that Cullen–-wouldn't have to work her way up to be a successful art dealer now. No sir.

As I sat staring at the piece of paper, there was a change in the light from the doorway and a soft knock. I looked up. It was her.

Wearing an apprehensive expression, she stepped in, standing as far as she could get from my desk.

"Jake? We need to ta-." She stopped as she saw me tapping the invitation against my open palm. "Oh. Crap. I didn't mean for you to find out that way, I wanted to tell you myself. There're things I need to-"

The hurt and bitterness inside me boiled over and I lashed out, interrupting her, "No worries. I understand. You were slumming, right? Did you like getting nailed by the guy with the greasy hands? Would it have been better if I'd worn a tool belt to fuck you?"

She flinched at the hostility in my voice, "No, Jake, no! It's not like that-"

"Isn't it?" I snapped out, interrupting her again.

"I-I'm just so confused…everything seemed so clear, till I met you…I just don't ..." Her voice quivered and ran down. She looked so forlorn that I wanted to take her in my arms, to soothe her and kiss her, to persuade her to pick me instead of him.

Either that or put her right against the wall, push my stiff dick up her and pound away till she was thoroughly convinced that she belonged with me.

Instead I did neither. I turned away and pretended a great interest in the file cabinet. Keeping my voice carefully even, I said, "What do you want from me, Bella? Hoping for a quick tune up?" She squawked a little protest, but I just talked right over her.

"Did you figure on having the house on the hill, complete with the rich husband, with a little something grittier on the side? Well, you need to look for some other chump to give you the full service treatment. I'm not going there." It was harsh, maybe, but I had to get it out.

Silence.

I knew, I knew, she wouldn't stay, but I guess I'd been hoping just the same, because my heart fell like a rock, landing with a thud in the pit of my stomach when I heard the door quietly shut.

Who knows how long I sat there, starring at nothing, breathing the whiff of her scent left floating in the air. There seemed to be no end to the lows I could hit, first the unreturned phone calls, then the party invitation, now the sound of a closing door. In the whirl of rage and disappointment was the absolutely sickening shock that Bella Swan was not the woman I had thought she was.

I wondered if Cullen knew what he was in for.

-oOo-

"…it's like someone took a knife baby

Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley

Through the middle of my soul…"

It was Friday, Jared's day to pick the radio station; as always he chose classic rock. Normally I love The Boss–-who doesn't-but today the lyrics hit too close to home. I couldn't stay here. Grabbing my coat, I called out, "Hey, Sam. Close up for me? I'm…taking an early day."

Sam's face was expressionless, not like the guys had missed Bella's arrival and abrupt departure. "Sure, no sweat. Got plans?"

"Yeah, I guess," I muttered, heading for my truck. Out on the street I couldn't really decide what to do next, so I just drove aimlessly for a while. For someone who loves cars the way I do, driving is normally a pleasure, even in the city; not this time. Echoes from the exchange with Bella bounced around painfully in my head, making the muscles of my neck tighten up with each repetition.

Every now and again I could hear the crackle and feel the stiffness of paper in the pocket of my jacket. I pulled it out, it was the invitation. The address was in a part of town I seldom visited, but I knew the way. Blaring horns sounded from irate drivers as I recklessly changed lanes.

Wide lawns, stately old trees, manicured beds full of autumn flowers, everything here said Money, in a confident, understated way. The houses were all different, of course, but also similar in their solid style and extraordinary neatness. Other than an occasional glimpse of a gardener and a couple of tired-looking, uniformed women waiting at a bus stop, the neighborhood appeared deserted.

There were signs of activity at the Cullen house, though; stashing my truck as discretely as I could, I watched as a team of men in matching windbreakers erected a tent and marquee awning by the driveway. That must be for the parking valets. Fuck me.

For about the fiftieth time I wondered what the hell I was doing here. Was I planning to storm the house and challenge Cullen to a duel? Pistols at dawn? Who was I kidding? Anyway, the lady had made her choice.

No way could a working man like me compete with what Edward Cullen had to offer. Maybe she even loved him, but I would have sworn that her response to me was real, and not just physical. And if she did love him, why the fuck had she crawled into my bed? Again, I felt the bitterness churn inside me: how could I have misread her so completely?

Time to go,; people might think I was casing the place. Turning the key in the ignition and preparing to pull out, I waited for a car coming down the street. It was a '63 white Thunderbird. Sweet.

The rag top was up, but as the car turned in front of me–-into the Cullen's driveway-I caught a glimpse of the driver: it was Bella.

All thoughts of leaving disappeared; I was helpless as I followed the car with my eyes, looking over the low wall across the immaculate grounds to the elegant house. One of the windbreaker guys hurried up as she parked and opened her door.

My insides twisted at the sight of her, all dolled up for a special evening; her hair was elaborately piled high and she was wearing what I think they call a cocktail dress, of some soft-colored, rich-looking material. So lovely, so out of reach.

For some reason, the idea occurred to me that Cullen doubtless owned a tux, no renting for him.

Bella stood in front of the massive double doors for a long moment, as if gathering her thoughts, then she opened the door and walked in. Of course, no need to knock or ring the bell; this was, or soon would be, her home.

I needed to get the fuck out of here; this was sick. With a screech of tires I sped off, intent on finding a bottle and some privacy, anything to blot out the pain and my sense of failure.

-oOo-

Trouble is, I not really that much of a drinker; after a couple of shots of bourbon (ugh) to get things started I grabbed a beer and went to sit in Dad's old chair, just letting the bottle bead up on the side table. Everywhere I looked, the window seat, the cold fireplace, the sofa…I saw Bella. Damn her. She'd fucked me over and hadn't left me any place to get away from her memory.

Eyes closed, I let my mind wander…Bella in the garage, listening seriously as we discussed her truck; Bella standing in the kitchen, swallowed up in my robe. Bella's dark lashes against her fair skin, wearing an expression of rapt concentration as she went down on me in a truly memorable fashion. There was that thing she did with her tongue…my cock stirred at the memory.

"Christ, Black, why the fuck are you doing this to yourself? She's not worth it! Forget her!" I told myself, my voice sounding hollow in the empty room.

Bella curled beside me in the bed, her head resting on the crook of her elbow, smiling as we talked and rested between rounds…

Finally, I must have dozed off, because I started awake at a noise from the street. There was a knocking at the door, but that wasn't what woke me. The knocking came again, more insistent this time, and I lurched from the chair to answer it.

It was her. All sleepiness fell away. She was still in her party clothes but…different. The satin dress was crumpled and she had on a denim jacket over it; on her feet was a pair of worn, paint-stained Chucks. Her hair was slipping out of the combs and her eye makeup was smeary, like maybe she'd been crying.

"What are you doing here?" I demanded gruffly, "Aren't you supposed to be getting engaged in front Seattle's elite tonight?" Looking past her to the street, I could see the rusty old Chevy; the sound of the aged engine had penetrated my sleep.

She pushed me back so she could come in and then kicked the door shut. "I-I'll explain later. Just for now…be quiet and-and…"

She launched herself at me and started kissing me with something like desperation. One arm locked around my neck, while the other hand slipped under the waistband of my sweats and began stroking my all-too-willing dick to hardness. Part of my mind shouted a warning that it was a game, one that I shouldn't engage in, but another part of me just wanted her so damn bad that whatever the consequences I had to have her one more time.

Now she was tugging my hand, obviously wanting to head for the bedroom, but I felt the need to make a statement of sorts, by doing as I had wanted that afternoon. Corralling her with my body, I walked her backwards till she was pressed against the wall.

Resting my weight on one forearm, I leaned in to kiss her, hungry for her lips and tongue; with the other hand I untied the sweatpants, stepping out of them and kicking them aside. Bella was hiking up her dress and fumbling with her thong. I bent and gripped her ass, lifting and sandwiching her between me and the wall. With an effort that made me tremble, I held back, my cockhead just touching her entrance.

"I hope you want it rough, baby," I snarled, my face a millimeter from hers, "because that's what you're getting this time. Whatever happens after tonight, I'm gonna make damn sure You. Don't. Forget. Me." I punctuated the last words with forceful shoves of my pelvis as I entered her. No doubts about her eagerness - she was so wet for me.

So wet and warm…no condom. She plainly didn't mind: her legs wrapped around my waist as her fingers dug into my ass, unmistakably urging me on

"Yes–-yes-–yes–-yes!" The squeaking gasps came in time to my thrusts, as I bottomed out with each stroke. The suddenness of this encounter and the almost violent quality of it were pushing me close to finishing already, but I strained to hold myself back: making her come-and come hard—was part of the statement.

Little flutters of her walls signaled her approaching climax. As the contractions strengthened, her eyes closed and she arched back, her hard nipples standing out through the satin of the dress. Strands of her hair caught on the roughness of the plaster wall behind her while I continued to rock into her.

The prettiest sight in the world is the 'o face' of the woman you love while you're fucking her brains out.

That was it for me. I could hear myself grunt and cuss, "God damn, gu-god damn!" as I was seized by a series of fiery eruptions, feeling the hot cum boiling up from my balls and jetting into her sweet, warm depths.

My forehead rested on her cheekbone, our panting breaths mingling as we spiraled down to earth. She shifted and loosened her legs as I softened inside her; we both sighed as our bodies came unjoined. Still clasping her to me, I stumbled back to the recliner. We sat huddled together for a few long moments; the dress was still bunched up around her waist, I could feel her smooth, bare legs against mine.

"So…can I get an explanation? I'm really fucking confused here."

"Um, yeah, of course. Can I…?" She indicated the bathroom with a nod, then rose and wobbled off; I hadn't noticed till now that she was still wearing the ratty old shoes.

Hastily, I mopped at myself with the discarded sweats as I went to change into jeans and a t-shirt. I'm not overly modest, but facing what was sure to be an interesting discussion nakeddidn't really do much for me.

Bella was sitting on the coffee table when I returned. Feet and knees together, her hands folded primly in her lap, she looked very like a child playing in her mother's clothes.

Taking my place in the recliner, I blurted out, "So what's up with this, Bella? Why aren't you at the party? Your party. Shouldn't you be smiling modestly at a champagne toast about now?"

"I didn't go," she said in a small voice.

"But I saw-" I gulped to a stop, would she think I was stalking her? But then, maybe I had been, a little. "I…was there. You were driving a–-where's the T-bird? You brought the truck here…?"

Heaving a deep sigh and looking down at her hands, she said quietly, "I was returning the Thunderbird. It was an engagement gift. I told Edward I couldn't keep it. Or the ring. I…called it all off."

"Why?" My throat was suddenly dry and no sound came out. "Why?" I tried again, louder.

Her eyes rose to meet mine, "I think you know."

"I'm finding out that I don't know very much about a whole lot of shit," I countered. "Enlighten me." She winced a little at my sarcastic tone.

Taking a deep breath, she began, "Okay, here goes. You have to understand, I've…always been The Good Girl, y'know? I got good grades, never snuck out of the house at night, never got into any kind of trouble. I never cheated on a test or…on a boyfriend." Here she blushed deeply. "Not that I've had that many. Pretty boring, I guess." She gave a one-shoulder shrug.

I stirred restlessly; these weren't the kind of details I was after. With a stern look she said, "You wanted an explanation, you have to listen to all of it."

"Fair enough," I muttered and schooled myself to be patient.

"It took me six years of working and going to school, but I got my Fine Arts degree, then the job at the gallery came up; it's pretty much the most glamorous thing that's ever happened to me. That is, until I met Edward Cullen at a fundraiser about a year ago and he asked me out. I…liked him and I was kind of…dazzled, I guess; he's so… well, handsome and polished -"

An inadvertent snort slipped out at that, Bella shot me a fearsome glare; as fearsome as a pretty girl you've just fucked standing up can be, anyway.

"So…things just sort of went along and when he asked me to marry him late this summer, I…agreed. You have to understand, I wouldn't have said 'yes' if I wasn't truly fond of him and I absolutely adored his family! Especially his sister Alice."

She gave a shaky little sigh here, "I guess she won't be my friend anymore, not after this." Was she really more regretful over losing the potential sister-in-law than the man himself? Things might be looking up.

With her eyes focused on her knees, she continued, "I told myself how advantageous it would be, a good life with a nice man, no worries, about money anyway, that kind of stuff. And…if it wasn't the way I'd always dreamed True Love –-" here she made little quote gestures in the air "- would be, well, there are a lot of things in life that aren't what you hope for. It was all settled."

Bella's raised her eyes to meet mine. "Then I met you. Things got really complicated in a hurry."

She cleared her throat and looked meaningfully at the Heineken sitting on the table beside me. I passed it over; the bottle was still cool in my hand. From sleeping to waking to our almost unreal encounter to this had only taken a short time.

She took a couple of grateful swallows and handed the beer back to me; I knocked back a long swig. "For the first time, I really loved that old truck, the way it kept giving me excuses to see you! But if I'd had to, I would have sabotaged the darn thing." An impish smile quirked the corners of her mouth.

"I couldn't believe the connection I felt with you right off, like two puzzle pieces clicking into place. It was so comfortable, but so…exciting." Her voice dropped to a whisper on the last word and that ever-ready blush swept over her face.

I blinked at that, we'd been on a similar wavelength there, at any rate.

"But there was that…engagement thing. After going over it in my mind about a million times, I finally decided that for once I wasn't going to be The Good Girl, this time I was going to do what I wanted! I-I'd seduce you and get you out of my system and go on with my nice life. But…that didn't exactly go as planned."

"How do you mean?" I strangled out. Cynically, I fought to push down the hope that was bubbling up inside me.

"It all just got…stronger than ever. Jacob, I have been in absolute hell ever since the other night! I just thought it was bad before, wanting you but not having you. But now…Every time you called it just about broke my heart. So, I came to the shop today to…tell you all this and to see, maybe, if I had a real chance with you.

"But I couldn't seem to get started right. You were so angry…not that I blamed you, I'm pretty disgusted with myself." Another blush, a miserable one this time. "I went home, feeling sort of…frozen, and started to get ready for the party. Then I happened to look out the window."

She held out her hand for the beer again, after a gulp or two she went on. My position in the recliner hadn't changed but I felt like I was on the edge of the seat.

"Like I said, the Thunderbird was an engagement gift. Edward called it my "fun car", he was going to get me something "more practical" for every day, like a Lexus, maybe." An involuntary huff escaped me.

"Yeah, I know," her tone was flat, "what's weird is that when you're with the Cullens things like that seem…ordinary. I guess he wanted to make sure I didn't need any more repair work done."

I couldn't help the bark of laughter that came out at that. She rolled her eyes and continued, "The two cars were parked out front of my place; he said the truck would be hauled off tomorrow."

"A '63 T-bird, that's a sweet ride," I muttered, feeling a knot of regret and envy tighten in my chest. "I always kind of wanted one of those."

Bella nodded with understanding, "That's just it, a car like that would mean something to you; for Edward it was an investment. It was more about what he could buy me, not about what I might like.

"The difference between the two somehow made everything fall into place: the old truck that brought us together, that you worked on so hard, making it right for me and…the fancy, shiny thing that Edward just orderedoff the Internet and had one of the staff pick up. It got pretty clear what I had to do."

She leaned forward, her hands knotting themselves in her lap. "I knew then that even if you don't, um, well, it would be better to be alone than going ahead with the marriage when my heart wasn't really in it. I just can't be…that dishonest. So, I went to the house and told him the truth: that I liked him, even loved him in a way, but nowhere near enough to marry him."

For once she didn't blush, instead the color drained from her face, leaving a pattern of burning red blotches behind. "It was…awful."

Alarmed, I sat upright. "He didn't…?" Images of all different kinds of scenes flashed through my mind.

"Oh no, no! Edward's very…civilized. It was just so sad. The worst part is that he knew," my eyebrows went up at that, "Not about the other night, I hope," she amended hastily, "but that I didn't feel the same way he did -does. He said he just kept hoping…but I wouldn't be surprised if he guessed that you had…something to do with my decision."

"So…what now?" I was surprised at how unemotional and distant my words sounded.

With a shaky breath, she said slowly, "Just…live my life, I guess. I don't think I'll lose my job when the gallery owners find out. Oh. They do know by now. The, um, Cullens are big clients."

Bella's eyes were huge, her lips and voice trembled slightly as she said, "The main thing I want, no, need to say, Jacob, is that I really think there's something here." She made a circling gesture indicating us both. "Today I admitted to myself that I would never feel right if I didn't…have the chance to see where it goes. I-I hope you feel the same."

There she went again: leaving me speechless. I was more moved than I could say at how much she had risked. She must have thought my silence was a bad thing, because she started to get up, saying wretchedly, "Oh, I guess that was…rather forward of me. Just because I feel a certain way doesn't mean that you want…especially after all this…Crap. How mortifying!"

Gripping her wrist, I stopped her from getting away. My voice sounded hoarse as I said, "I have sisters."

She paused and looked questioning. "I have sisters," I repeated. "They'll be your friends. You'll like them." With my free hand I patted my knee; she sort of fell into my lap, as if her legs wouldn't hold her up anymore.

Putting my arms around her and pulling her close, I went on, "What you said about where this – we - might go? I know where I want it to go and meeting each others' families will definitely be part of that. But not tonight."

Nothing of any substance was said for some time, just murmurs and whispers between kisses.

Finally, I made myself stop and pulled back to look earnestly into her face, saying seriously, "There's…just one thing Bella. Something I have to know." Her eyes were huge and apprehensive as she nodded.

"What do you want on your pizza? I'm starving." I groped for the phone and waved it playfully.

"P-pizza?" she squeaked.

"I think I forgot to eat today. And let's face it; pizza compatibility is a pretty big issue! A man needs to know these things about the woman he's falling in love with!"

-oOo-

Afterword: this was meant to be a short & sweet (and hot!) lemon-shot, but I don't seem to be able to write anything short! Perhaps I'm not cut out to be a gritty porn hack—I hope Mom's not too disappointed… :)