AN: I know this isn't an update to "Jagged Edges Heal", but I have inspiration here, and not there, so a new story it is. I am trying to get the next chapter of "JEH" done as soon as I can.

This was started as a discussion on the "Writing Challenges" thread on the Jacob-Black-N-Pack site, with the Carrie Underwood video "Before He Cheats" as the inspiration point. I'm not sure how long this will be, but I'm envisioning a short story rather than an epic. Hope you enjoy.


Bella POV

I stared out the front windshield of my car and tried to make my world return to its former shape. It was fortunate for me that I knew this road like the back of my hand, and that it was mostly a straight shot between Forks and La Push, because my eyes were so full of tears that I was blind to everything. I knew that I should pull over until I was under control, but I couldn't take the chance. I wanted to reach the safety at the end of this road, and not run the risk of him catching up to me on the shoulder.

I dragged one arm across my face, dashing away some of the tears with my sleeve. With slightly clearer vision, I kept going. Pushing the pedal down as far as possible, I managed excellent time on the trip—a definite advantage of the car over my old truck. I wasn't even ashamed of speeding, or worried about getting caught; one advantage of being a cop's daughter was that the blue code applied to me, too. Once I reached La Push, I turned the car onto the road that wound through the forest and up near the top of the cliffs—a favored diving spot by the local youths. I parked at a crooked angle, not really caring what my dad might say if he saw it—but then again, if I told him why, my parking arrangements would be the least of the situation.

I dropped the keys onto the seat and pressed my face into my hands. A touch of coolness made me pull back and regard my hands more closely. Staring back at me, mockingly glinting in the unusual glow of sunlight, was the diamond ring I'd worn for three months now. The ring given to me by my fiancé, Edward Cullen.

Edward and I had started dating in high school, only weeks after I'd moved to Forks from my old home in Jacksonville, Florida. My mom had remarried a year earlier, and I'd felt like I was encroaching on her newlywed bliss. Besides, I hadn't spent much time with my dad, and this was the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone and make both my parents happy before I went to college. Edward and I had graduated high school and gone off together to the University of Washington. We'd been blissfully happy for the first two years, until Edward decided that he needed to change majors—and schools, too. I was locked into a major that I loved, and had too many credits that wouldn't transfer, so I hadn't been able to follow him to Cornell. We'd had a long-distance relationship our final two years of college, writing letters for snail mail, emailing, texting, and Skyping, plus visiting each other on breaks.

We'd both graduated this spring. Edward had surprised me by flying out unannounced for my graduation ceremony. I'd been thrilled to see him, and hopeful of being reunited with him permanently now that we were both done with school. At the culmination of my graduation party, with many of our friends and our entire families watching, Edward had gotten down on one knee and proposed with a gorgeous 2-carat diamond ring. Surprise had been a good description of my reaction—it wasn't how I'd envisioned my proposal…

"Everyone here has been such a major part of our lives," Edward told me. "It didn't seem right to do this any other way than with them here to witness this moment."

I'd said yes, and started dreaming about wedding ideas. Ideas for a wedding that now would never happen. Watching the ring sneer at me, I wrenched it off my hand, dropping it on the seat beside the keys. I shoved the door open and slid out, slamming it behind me. Then I started walking toward the cliffs. Reaching the cleared stretch along the edge, staring out at the ocean waves below, I wondered why I hadn't seen something like this coming. Was I some kind of naïve idiot? Was I blind and oblivious to what was right in front of me? I didn't know.

Edward and I had both moved back to Forks to spend a little more time with our families while we looked for jobs and figured out what would come next for us. When I had tried to talk with Edward about even simple things like a date for our wedding, a location, a budget…he hadn't wanted to commit to anything definite.

"We don't know where we'll be working, Bella. Or what kind of vacation time we'll have available. We can't set a budget before we know what kind of salaries we'll be making." He'd had one reason after another, even when our parents offered to cover the entire cost of the wedding as a gift to us and after they suggested location and venue options. I'd tried to believe that his points were all valid ones and that we didn't have to decide everything right away. I'd tried to just enjoy being with him, and spending time with my dad and some old friends when Edward had to go out of town for job interviews.

Most of those old friends had been from the nearby Quileute Reservation of La Push. Jacob Black was almost two years younger than me, but we'd spent time together as kids anyway, even though his older sisters were only a year ahead of me; they'd been girly girls, and I most decidedly hadn't been. Jake's two friends, Quil and Embry, had been his faithful shadows, almost like the Three Amigos—or more accurately, the Three Stooges. Just watching their antics was enough to lift my mood. For some reason, though, Edward had never gotten on well with my tribal friends so my two spheres tended to be separate ones.

This week had been my turn to travel to an interview down in Texas. The job was a good one, and I thought I'd done well in the interview. There were lots of advantages to the area, and I knew that there would be lots of options for Edward, too. I'd found a few possibilities that I couldn't wait to share with him. Since I hadn't been sure exactly when I would be flying back into Seattle, I had driven my car—a 21st birthday gift from Edward—to the airport. I had ended up with an earlier flight and had stopped in a favored lingerie store to find a surprise for my fiancé; instead, I'd been the one to get a surprise. I'd pulled into the driveway of Edward's family home, and felt my heart flutter at the thought of the private reunion about to begin.

But there hadn't been anyone in the living room, the kitchen, the family room…the entire first floor of the house was utterly silent. I'd heard some music coming from upstairs and followed its audible path toward Edward's third-floor bedroom. Had he set up an alert for my flight and was waiting with a romantic surprise of his own?

Oh, he had, alright—just not for me. I'd opened his door, letting it swing back on silent hinges. But the happy smile on my face had faded into disbelief when the sight before me finally registered. Edward was on the bed, naked, and on his knees. His ass moved back and forth, pulled by the hips driving into the moaning female on her hands and knees in front of him.

"Harder, Eddie, harder! Make me scream!"

"Tanya! You feel so good, so tight! I've missed this, missed you, missed burying myself in you."

He'd thrust a few more times and shouted as his body jerked in release; Tanya screamed, too.

So had I—I'd called him a lying, cheating bastard. Maybe one day I'd find it funny how he'd shot up when I announced my presence, whipping around to display his rapidly deflating cock. Maybe one day, but not today. I'd stared at his horrified expression, at her smug one, and then bolted. Somehow I'd stumbled down the flights of stairs and back to my car. I'd managed to get back onto the highway before the tears had started to flow.

I'd known who Tanya was, of course. She'd been at Cornell, too, and in the same major as Edward. They'd had most of their classes together and been paired up more than once for projects and presentations. But I'd never had a clue that their relationship had been anything other than that of classmates and friends. Never had an inkling that their connection had turned physical at some point. Now, I was forced to question everything. When had I stopped being enough for him? When had he started sleeping with her? Why had he kept dating me? Why had he proposed to me? Was she why he hadn't wanted to start planning our wedding? Had he seen her since graduating? Was he even going to interviews, all those times he flew out of town, or was he going to see her instead? Had she come here to be with him every time I'd gone to an interview?

Sinking to the ground, I felt the next wave of tears and sobs begin. How long I stayed there, crying, head buried in my folded arms, I don't know. My first clue that I was no longer alone came when I lifted my head and started to wipe my face off again, only to realize that my sleeves were soaking wet.

"Probably won't work so well. Try this," a voice told me. A cotton t-shirt appeared in front of my face.

I nearly fell over as I whipped my head around to see who had spoken. Paul Lahote, La Push's resident bad boy, and a classmate of my childhood friend Jacob Black, crouched beside me. The shirt was obviously one he'd been wearing when he arrived; its removal put an impressive six-pack on display. Paul and Jacob hadn't really been friends, but they'd known one another—hard to avoid in a town and school as small as La Push. He hadn't come up very often in my conversations with Jacob, but I did remember hearing that he'd started a construction company with a couple of other rez guys: Sam Uley and Jared Cameron.

Paul jiggled the shirt at me again and I slowly reached out a hand to take it. I scrubbed it over my face, then regarded him as I let the shirt rest on my knees. He definitely looked like someone who did a lot of hard labor. Heavily muscled arms, one of which sported a circular tattoo near the shoulder. Ripped pecs and abs. A lean waist that disappeared into a pair of cargo jeans—jeans that encased his thighs like a pair of gloves.

"S'up, Swan? What's got you out here bawling your eyes out?"

I didn't answer. Why, indeed? I was the one who'd been cheated on, so why was I crying like I was the one who'd done something wrong?

"Come on, now, it's got to be something."

I shrugged, but still didn't say anything.

Paul shifted, and pulled some things out of his thigh pocket: my keys, cell phone, and the ring. "Found all this on the passenger seat in your car. You weren't thinking about jumping, were you?"

"No," I whispered. "I just didn't want to carry them; no pockets." I gestured to the classy yet comfortable clothes I'd worn for flying. Leaping off the cliff might have been a fine dramatic gesture in literature, but I doubted that Edward would be the one hurt most if I did it—my parents, my friends…plain and simple, he wasn't worth it.

"I get that for the keys and phone, but why the ring, too? Thought girls didn't like to take something like this off." He held my things out to me, and I took them. I noted, but ignored, the message on my phone's screen informing me of the dozen calls I'd missed. The phone and keys I dropped to the ground, but I held the ring between my thumb and first finger.

"You ever think about giving a girl one of these?" I asked randomly.

"Hell, no, girl!" Paul snorted, settling down next to me. "That's more commitment than I'm after, at least right now. Down the road…who knows? But I'm footloose and fancy-free right now, and enjoying every minute of it."

My lips quirked in an almost-smile. That was very much like what I knew about him.

"That's better," he noted, approvingly. "So, you feel like answering me now? What's the deal with you being up here crying your eyes out?"

I wasn't sure why, but somehow the look in his dark brown eyes seemed to compel me to respond. "I caught an earlier flight home from my job interview," I began, and then shared the rest of the day's events. Paul actually growled when I related finding my fiancé in his childhood bedroom, fucking the living daylights out of his college classmate.

"That bastard!" Paul's fist pounded the ground between us.

"Yeah," I agreed. "I just can't figure out how I didn't see it. Or why he let things get this far with me when he was with her, too. I mean, it's not like I was sitting there in front of him with my hand out, demanding a ring. I was totally surprised when he proposed. But ever since, it's almost been like he didn't really want to do it." I pressed my hands against my eyes. "I just can't figure anything out anymore."

"So what are you going to do now?"

My phone rang, and I glanced down to see that it was Edward calling me. I ignored it, and gave Paul another look-over. "I'm not sure. You have any ideas?" I'd had my cry at having my heart broken. So what was I going to do now?

His brows lifted and his mouth quirked as he took in my perusal. Then he looked me over in his turn. "Oh, I always have ideas. Question is…are you interested?"

I reached out and trailed a finger along the outlines of his abs. "Why don't you ask me and find out?" I had a pretty good idea of what kind of ideas he had, because I was having them myself.

His hand moved up to cover mine. "You sure about this, Bella?" Brown eyes met brown, direct and unflinching.

I did as he asked, and considered this situation. I was asking someone who, though not a complete stranger, was at least no more than a passing acquaintance, for sex. Why did I want this? Well, he was hot and sexy—I'd have to be dumb and blind not to see that, not to have always seen that. Was I asking for this only out of wounded pride? No, I decided, I wasn't; pride was part of it—I'd be honest about that—but it wasn't the only reason. I was angry as much as I was hurt. I didn't deserve something like this. I'd had plenty of interest directed my way in the last few years, from classmates and friends of friends, offers to go out for drinks or for study dates. But I hadn't paid them any more attention than I had during high school; I'd been committed to Edward and to our relationship. I'd told him about those guys and how I'd handled them—proof of my loyalty across a whole continent. And this was how he repaid me? By cheating on me with a convenient classmate? How dare he?

"I'm sure."

Paul vaulted to his feet and extended a hand to help me up. He kept hold of my hand as we walked back to the parking area. I was surprised to see that my car was the only one there.

"I was out running," he explained when I sent him a questioning glance.

He managed to fit into the passenger seat of my car, but had to push the seat all the way back to do it. Once we hit the main road, he gave me directions to his house. Like his body, the house also bore the stamp of his occupation. Unlike many males I knew, he kept his place clean and tidy. I used the cover of looking around to ask myself again if I was sure about doing this. Edward was the first and only man I'd ever had sex with. Was I turning this into a tit-for-tat arrangement? Cheating on Edward just because he'd cheated on me? No, it was different. He'd betrayed my trust, but he'd also become someone that I didn't know anymore. I'd been rash in accepting his proposal, feeling the pressure of our watching audience, but he'd been rash, too, in proposing if he wasn't completely certain about it. Should I call or text him before doing this, to make our breakup official? I didn't want to—I knew if I did it that Edward would come rushing down, and I wasn't about to let him interrupt. Besides, I'd taken his ring off earlier, and didn't plan to put it on ever again.

"Forget what I said on the cliffs, Bella. We don't have to do this," Paul had stayed remarkably quiet while I'd done my thinking.

"I know we don't have to. But I want to."

"So do I," he admitted.


"Yeah." Paul closed the distance between us, hands moving to my hips to pull me closer. As my body came into contact with his, I could feel a heavy weight pressing against my stomach. Oh, yeah, he was interested, alright. We stood in the middle of his living room for a long time, just swaying back and forth to the music playing in the background. The firm pressure against my belly started having an effect on me. My heart rate increased, breathing quickened, and a tingling began in my core.

"Paul," I murmured. "Take me to bed."

"Damn right, I will," he answered. He picked me up and I automatically wrapped my arms around his neck.

"Legs," Paul told me. I lifted them and locked my ankles behind his back. This new alignment of our bodies had him almost—almost—right where we both wanted him to be. Paul put his powerful muscles to work, and thrust lightly against me.

"Move," I commanded. He moved down the short hallway at an almost blinding speed. Inside the bedroom, he dropped me on the bed with enough force that I bounced a time or two.

"Strip, girl," Paul gave his own command, and started following it himself. He was already partway there, having not put his shirt back on when we'd left the cliffs. I couldn't help watching the play of his muscles as he sat on the edge of the bed and bent over to unlace his boots. My fingers flew at lightspeed to strip off my shirt, shoes, and pants.

"Come here," Paul's finger crooked at me. I walked on my knees over to the edge of the bed. His fingers began to trace over my skin, igniting a burn inside me, a burn that far surpassed anything Edward had evoked in me in quite a while. "Uh-oh" he commented, when his roving fingers encountered my panties. "Someone didn't follow directions."

"What are you going to do about it?" I purred.

One of his hands lightly slapped the cheek of my ass, then his hands framed my hips…and yanked. My panties tore into fragments of fabric. I'd no sooner registered that fact than I realized his hands had gone north and popped the clasp on my bra. Paul slid it off my arms and threw it somewhere in the room. When his hands closed over my breasts, I groaned loudly.

"Like this, huh?" he asked, circling my nipples with his fingers and pinching lightly.

"Mmmm," was all I could manage.

Paul pulled me to him again, and the sensation of full skin-on-skin contact had my eyes rolling back in their sockets. I could almost feel the moisture dripping from my core.

"You feel so good," Paul whispered. His hands caressed my back and kneaded my ass again before moving again to press me backward until I was lying on the bed.

"Be right back," he told me, moving along the side of the bed and opening the nightstand drawer. I was almost ashamed to admit to myself that I hadn't thought about protection. I was on the pill, so I knew I was safe regarding pregnancy, but that wouldn't cover diseases. I didn't think Paul would be doing this if he knew he had something, but neither one of us had any guarantees where Edward was concerned. Now that I thought about it, I was pretty sure he hadn't worn a condom with Tanya today.

Paul seemed to be on the same wavelength. "I'm clean, Bella, but I don't expect you to take my word for it." He hesitated, so I said it for him.

"I was fine at my last check-up, but Edward…"

Paul leaned over me and pulled me up for a hard kiss. "We aren't going to think about him tonight. I don't mind wrapping up this time. But after your next check-up…we will definitely give bareback a try."

The idea that this might not be just a one-time event sent a strange thrill through me. Maybe I'd been blinded by Edward in a different way than I'd thought—I was trying to figure out why I had never noticed Paul this way before. Or rather, I'd noticed him, but now wondered why I'd never thought of doing anything about it.

Protection in hand, Paul joined me on the bed. He pressed me back against the pillows and moved to straddle my prone body. His long, thick cock was standing rigidly away from his body, brushing against my curls.


Paul POV

I moved to crouch over the woman lying in my bed. Bella Swan was lying in my bed. How good it felt surprised me.

I'd known who she was for a few years now. She'd been friends with Jacob Black, and her dad Charlie had been friends with our chief, Billy, for most of their lives. But even though I'd known who she was, I hadn't known Bella. I'd thought she was cute, but we didn't run in the same circles, and nothing had come of my observations. She'd spent most of her time with her boyfriend before going off to college. Then when she'd come back—a total hottie—she'd had a rock on the finger. I had a strict avoidance policy where committed girls were concerned, and probably wouldn't have given my old musings any consideration if I hadn't found her sobbing on the cliffs today.

When I'd come across the car, and had seen the purse, phone, keys, and ring on the seat, I'd felt an unexplainable sense of panic. The cliffs at this spot were the highest around, and a sheer drop straight down to the ocean. Even those of us who enjoyed cliff diving weren't crazy enough to jump from this point. I'd run full-out for the cliff-edge, and had staggered to a halt in relief when I'd seen her huddled on the ground. Even though it wasn't really my style, I'd wanted to know what was wrong and what I could do about it. Then, when I'd heard what that douche-bag of a fiancé had done to her…part of me had wanted to go chase him down and tear him apart—or at least castrate him. How could he do something like that to the woman he claimed to love and to want to marry? I'd met him once, and I'd've suspected him of being gay before thinking he'd be a cheater.

I'd almost choked when Bella had asked me if I had any ideas of what she could do now, and again when she'd indicated she wanted to take me up on my ideas. I gave myself a momentary kick for having avoided her for so long, and resolved to make up for lost time.

I lowered my body closer to hers—I think we both jolted with the contact. I claimed her mouth with mine, savoring her lips before plunging my tongue into her mouth. I devoured her, imprinting the feel of my skin onto hers. Then I started to move down her body, worshiping every last inch of her, wiping away every last memory of the douche-bag. I used every last trick I'd ever learned to keep my body in check until I'd fully seen to her. When the need to claim her started to press against my control, I pulled back long enough to open the condom and roll it down onto my cock. Protection addressed, I slid back up her body, seizing her lips again and bringing my cock up against her drenched opening. I eased in carefully, accompanied by Bella's moans; when she seemed to take me easily, I pulled almost completely out and then slammed in hard. A scream tore from her throat. I set a hard and fast pace, pulling cry after cry from her. When her body clenched around me, my own shout was just as involuntary. Her hair tossed wildly, blinding us both. I knew I was close, and reached down between us to give her that extra nudge of sensation to hurtle her off the edge; as soon as she went over, I followed her.

"Wow," Bella managed when she had come back to reality.

"Thank you. Thank you very much," I offered a deliberately over-the-top Elvis impersonation, and got a punch to my shoulder for it.

"Ha-ha. Actually, I think I'm the one who ought to thank you."

I twisted until I was sure she could see my eyes. "This wasn't me offering you pity sex, Bella. This was two legally consenting adults—two hot and sexy consenting adults—showing their mutual appreciation for one another. And just in case you were wondering, I meant what I said earlier about doing this again."

"I'd like that," she replied. "I feel like I got my eyes opened, and now I can see all the possibilities that I was blind to before." The look in her eyes spoke volumes about me being one of those possibilities.

I wasn't usually one for sticking around after sex, being more the love-em-and-leave-em type; but tonight, and Bella, wasn't usual, even without considering that this was my house. Cradling her against me, I drifted off to the thought I can't wait to do that again. Yet, I did want to do this again—and do it with her, specifically. There was something hot about being someone's grudge-fuck, even more so when it was someone like Bella.

I woke up some time later to a dark house and a pounding on my door. I grumbled, but rolled out of bed and pulled on a pair of boxers before heading out to answer it—hopefully I could get there before whichever of my idiot friends was outside woke Bella up. I grabbed the knob, opened the door, and froze. Edward Cullen was on my front porch, fist lifted to pound on the door again.

"Cullen," I said, in a cool and level tone.

"Where is she?"

"She who?"

"My fiancée!" he snarled. "That's her car right there. Now where is Bella?"

I let an exaggerated expression of surprised enlightenment come over my face. "Oh, you mean your ex- fiancée. The one you cheated on today—and probably a lot of other times, too."

The stunned expression on his face was almost funny. You could just see the 'how can I get out of this?' thoughts running through his head right now.

"Bella isn't petty or vindictive," he announced, almost smugly. "She has a very forgiving nature."

"Uh-huh," I made sure he could see how little I believed that. Before either of us had time to say anything else…

"Paul…" Bella's voice drifted out from my bedroom. "Where are you?"

"Be back in a sec," I called back.

"Is someone there?" her words sounded more clearly this time, and a moment later, Bella emerged from the hallway to enter the living room. She'd obviously pulled the sheet off my bed and wrapped it around herself like a sarong. She looked incredible, sexy, and thoroughly ravished. Even a blind man could tell what she'd been up to—and Edward Cullen was no blind man, not judging by the strangled sound he made.

I knew he could see my smirk, too. "Babe, I promised you I'd be right back."

"Yeah, but there are so many other places we haven't had sex yet—the bed can wait its turn for a repeat."

"Bella—" Cullen tried to speak to her, but she wasn't having any of it.

"You cheated on me, Edward. I can't fathom why, and honestly, I don't care. You want to be with Tanya…well fine, have her. Just don't think for one nanosecond that you'll have me at the same time. If you wanted out of our relationship, all you had to do was say so—yet you didn't do that. Instead, you kept stringing me along, making a proposal you obviously didn't mean…well, I'm not going to put up with it. You've moved on, obviously, so you have no room whatsoever to complain about me doing the same thing. Here's your ring back. Have a nice life." Bella walked up to us, held the ring out to him; when he didn't take it, she let the ring fall to the porch floor. Then she turned away from him in dismissal.

"So, Paul, what spot in your house should we christen next?"

"The shower," I replied, even as I started to slam the door shut in Cullen's face. "I've seen you naked, now I want to see you wet and naked."

AN: Tweaked the timing so that all events in this chapter happen on the same day.