Hi guys! I was absolutely floored by your reviews in the previous chapter. Thanks a lot! And do keep reviewing, please. I dearly love to read your thoughts.

'Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.' – Robin Sharma

Chapter 16


Change is confusing.

Change is complicated.

It upstages believes, values, and norms.

It takes away everything normal and sane, the very harbinger of everything abnormal and insane.

It upturns lives.

Just like it was upturning my life...and Edward's.

No alarm was set off, no bedlam ensued. It was nothing earth-shattering, or even an 'in-your-face' thing.

Edward was still the same unbending, controlling, and stony ruler of vampires and humans alike. He still loved to have his way, still had situations and people bending to his will. He still inspired fear and awe in all his subjects, making them quake in their shoes. And I...I was still struggling to gain a firm footing in my new reality- in my new role, and new life- just as I have been since the day Edward first laid his eyes on me.

We still fight, have opinions as different as night and day in nearly everything. He still tries to influence my action, and I still resist him in everything I perceive as a threat to my independence.

He is arrogant, unmerciful, and formidable, and I am temperamental, opinionated, and have a newly discovered, mile long rebellious streak. Our mood swing in enough to drive a saint wild, and put a pregnant woman to shame.

Yet, despite everything, despite the impossibility of our situation, there was no denying it, denying the gradual evolution of our relationship. Chip-by-chip, piece-by-piece, it was taking on a meaning more profound.

It was becoming something more.

The change was not obvious, or sappy, or gaudy, or flamboyant, but abstruse and fine and subtle.

It was there in his hold, unyielding, yet tender, whenever he would hug me.

It was there in his eyes, ardent, yet balmy, every time he looked at me.

It was there in his touches, heated, yet reverent, as he would stroke my body as carefully as one would a spun glass.

It was there in his behaviour, finicky, yet indulging, in the privacy of our room.

"Bella," Edward called, tucking the blanket around me, "What are you thinking so hard about, love?"

And there it was again, that concern, that look. Granted that Edward has never not looked at me or treated me as if I'm anything less than spectacular even when he was raging mad at me, but this was different, more intense somehow. And the way he said love…

"Bella?" He asked concernedly, "What's wrong? What has you so distracted?"

"Nothing is wrong, Edward. I'm absolutely fine."

"But you look so dazed, love. Are you sure you are alright? You aren't coming down with something are you, Bella?"

Did he even notice how he took my name nowadays? With intonation so tender, so affectionate, he almost seemed to caress my name.

When you love someone, you say their name different. Like it's safe inside your mouth.* Unbidden the quote- one of my favourite and insightful one- surged to the forefront of my mind, jolting me, both figuratively and literally.

"Bella? Love?" Something in my expression must have given away my turmoil, as Edward turned frantic. He half rose from beside me, before I pulled him down.

"No, Edward, I am fine," I assured him, trying to pull myself together.

"Are you sure?" He eyed me dubiously, "If you are worried about our honeymoon, then we can postpone it by a day or two, and you can take rest. Nothing is more important than you for me, Bella," He said fiercely.

I smiled at him, brushing a lock of hair from his forehead.

"Edward, there's nothing to worry about. I was just thinking about something- mundane stuff," I soothed him, then added teasingly, "Are you sure you want to take me on a honeymoon, though? First, an important meeting of yours cropped up, delaying our trip by a week. Now, you are offering to postpone it further. Are you reneging your promise, Mr. Masen?"

Edward rolled his eyes.

"Trust me, Bella, holding off having you only for myself for an entire month, was one of the most difficult decision of my life. After all, I did promise you uninterrupted fun, didn't I?" He drawled, "Your well-being, and your pleasure are most important for me."

My cheeks burned, and stomach clenched at his impassioned words. Apparently, he had an uncanny ability to fluster me like no other.

"Like I said, I was just thinking, Edward, really! Uh, I believe that the Wrackspurts got me!" I chortled weakly, trying to distract him. Edward raised an eyebrow at my stellar reasoning, as if questioning my sanity.

"Sorry," I mumbled, biting my tongue in embarrassment.

"Perhaps you ought to sleep, love. You are not coherent," He said with barely suppressed amusement which irked me to no end. Mortification forgotten, I glared at him.

"Wondering whose fault is that, are we? Let's think who cannot keep his hands from wandering left, right and centre on me? Who knows no concept of personal space, and has an incorrigible tongue to boot?" I squawked indignantly.

"It takes two to tango, horizontal or vertical," Edward pointed playfully, but I was on a roll and paid him no heed.

"...The destroyer of my lingerie and clothes, the one who has christened every damn surface imaginable with me! Who has not allowed me to have some real sleep in the night in more than two months, and…" I stopped abruptly as a sudden frightening possibility occurred to me, dousing the fire of my anger.

"Bella?" Edward asked cautiously taking my hand in his, but for the life of me, I could not bring myself to give him any reply. A heavy weight dropped in my gut, and my brain felt leaden as I counted twice...arriving at the same perturbing conclusion each time.

"Sweet merciful crap!" Almost tearing my seat belt, I jumped to my feet fumbling for my cell, "This is not happening! This is so not happening!"

"What's not happening? Why are you so- shit, Bella, calm down! We are about to take off, and you need to sit down and- Bella!" He grabbed me, and before I knew it, I was once again seated, safely buckled up.

"Now, will you tell me what the hell is going on?" He snapped.

"Don't you get shirty with me, Edward Masen! And for crying out Pete, you better pray that you have not done what I think you have done, else I swear to God I'm going to make you pay!" I wagged my finger in his face threateningly. Edward arched a brow at my attempt at intimidation.

"Oh, really? Then, let me also hear what I've done that you think I've done?" My lips pressed in a thin line, hearing the smile in his voice.

"Have you…is there any chance that I am pregnant?" I blurted.

Edward stilled for a moment, clearly not expecting such a question.

"Whatever makes you think so?" He finally inquired, supremely unconcerned about my impatience. His expression was shuttered and he leaned back, steepling his fingers, appearing the very picture of leisure.

"I'm late…I mean my period is late by more than one and a half month. Not that I have ever been regular, but still that is the most-"

"No, you are not pregnant," He interrupted my nervous babbling.

That took the wind out of my sails. For a minute I stared at him, and as my heart rate lowered and my breathing evened, my brain kick-started.

"I'm not? Are you sure?"

Edward nodded curtly, observing me closely.

"Oh, thank God! Thank God I'm not pregnant- Oof!" I gasped as I was plastered to my seat with the force of take-off.

"Why?" He probed, once the plane was airborne. He took hold of my hand nearest to him, drawing vague patterns on the skin of my wrist, "Don't you want children? Or, is it just the idea of having them with me that you find abhorrent."

"Huh?" I was stumped by his question and his insinuation, if it was even that. I tried to gauge his mood, but he refused to give anything away, meeting my gaze diffidently, "Edward, what's with the question? I never gave much of a thought...I am..." I took a deep, steadying breath, "Children…I never thought to, and that was…come to think of it, is that even possible with us? I mean that was a knee-jerk reaction earlier. It just occurred to me that I have not had my period in so long, and I jumped to the first conclusion. I did not mean to hurt, or offend you in any way. It's just that I am so young- still a teenager- and-"

"You have not bled in two months due to the changes that your body has undergone due to the Mating Serum," Edward cut me off, supplying information with almost clinical detachment, "Although it is different for every human female, but after undergoing bodily changes induced by the Mating Serum, there is usually a span of five months to one year between their menstrual cycle."

"Oh!" I mumbled lamely. Thrown by his sudden spleen, and awkwardness between us, it took me a some time to gather courage to prod him further for answers, "You did not answer my question, though... Is it is possible for me to conceive?"

Edward appraised me for several long minutes, and there was only so much I could do to not squirm in my seat.

"Mating Serum doesn't affect ovulating around your time of the month. So, yes, there's a possibility that you might end up pregnant," He finally answered.

"That does happen," My voice came out hushed, as I contemplated the astounding piece of information that I had received, "Hybrids, they do exist. But everything about them is hidden...so guarded! And…and, it doesn't make any sense! How come there is no concrete information, not even a teeny-tiny mention about them? It's almost as if people turn a blind eye to that possible consequence of sex when a vampire male mates with a human female!"

"That's because we have taken pains to hide their existence from humans. It goes without saying that just because one half of their genes comes from vampires, they will become another, much vulnerable, target for some if the truth about their existence comes out. There are some things everyone shouldn't know, and this is one of those things," Edward replied shortly.

I tensed at his cold remark. It was so like him to ignore the other side of the coin.

"Yeah, just like human children are harmed by vampires."

"I never denied that," He bit out. My eyes widened in surprise. It was rare for Edward to speak anything against his kind, let alone to capitulate so easily to my opinion (admittedly not unbiased), against them.

"Okay," I said slowly, trying to alleviate his terseness, "So how do we…?"

"It will be exceedingly difficult for me to keep my hands off of you when you will be your…most fertile," He spoke suddenly, his eyes intense.

"Oh! You mean that the...Wait! I know of this! It is like going into heat, isn't it?" The words came out in a whisper.

"Good God, no! Nothing so crass! How did you come up with something like that?" Edward looked revolted.

"I read some novels with vampires as protagonists," I mumbled, feeling my cheeks burn with the heat of my discomposure, "And in each one of them, the woman went into heat, so I assumed that, well, they were…"

"Bella," He pinched the bridge of his nose, "Your scent will be enhanced and particularly appealing to me because the instinct to procreate, akin to every other instinct is more developed, more fierce in vampires. And since your chances to become with a child will be significantly higher in those few days, it will be difficult for me to not give in to my natural urges and impregnate you. As for that stuff in those trashy novels, that's just hogwash, concocted for increasing the randy quotient," His voice dripped with distaste, "Gah! We are not so unrefined as to be associated with something as ridiculous and coarse as going into heat," He struck his nose in the air arrogantly, his tone condescending.

I gawked at him for a heartbeat, before dissolving into peals of laughter.

His petulance was so adorable!

"Edward Masen," I gasped between paroxysms of giggles, "You are such a snob- such a sweet, sweet snob!"

"Have you gone mad?" He deadpanned, though his lips were twitching in amusement, "You know, if my courtiers were to hear you now, they would drop dead from sheer shock, Vampirism notwithstanding."

"That's because they don't know you," I retorted, wiping tears of mirth from my eyes.

"And you do?" Edward asked, his eyes searching mine with a burning fervency. Laughter lodged somewhere in my throat, and my heart skipped a beat. A queer thrill of anticipation and anxiety shot through me at his sudden one eighty.

"What kind of question is that?" I chuffed nervously, biting my lip.

"A very valid one if you go about making such claims."

"You are a complicated man, Edward," I began mindfully, weighing each word once the silence became uncomfortable. I could tell that it was no ordinary question meant to tease or flirt, "You have too many facets, too many layers, making it impossible for anyone to unravel you with any semblance of ease. But I guess, it's an occupational hazard...you can't really ensure the continuation of your reign by wearing your heart on your sleeve. So, no, I don't believe that anyone can claim to know you completely," I took the plunge, continuing boldly, "But I do come close enough, or rather I have the chance to come close enough…to actually know you. I know a side of you which no one has seen, nor will they ever see," I looked at him thoughtfully. Voicing them out aloud, I was surprised by how true my words sounded. I raised my chin defiantly, "Not the Emperor who rules our world with an iron fist, or even the strongest vampire in existence, but you as a person. I am the only one who will actually know you, Edward Masen...ever."

Edward had planned our entire honeymoon with the help of my mom and Aunt E. He was determined to have me enjoy it to the fullest by ensuring a visit to all my favourite places.

We started our month-long trip from home. The Great Smoky Mountains was our first stop.

We took residence in a luxurious wood log cabin, surrounded by ancient mountains, straddled by ridge upon ridge of forest. Mist billowed like a giant cloak, blurring the sharp lines of the circumambient peaks and woods, whilst a delightful array of every colour imaginable splashed the flowing span of viridescent canvas. As the fiery sun lightened the azure horizon lending brilliance of its own, the expansive valleys looked positively ethereal.

"Oh, Edward," I sighed leaning against him as we stood together in the balcony adjoining our bedroom which overlooked the Clingmans Dome*, "This place is so beautiful!"

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, revelling in the woody smell of knotty pines.

"I guess, this is my cue to say but not as beautiful as you, isn't it?" Edward teased, placing a kiss on the nape of my neck. Ever since our conversation in the plane, he has been positively jubilant and annoyingly smug, like he was privy to something I did not know.

"Overly Cocky, are we?" I sneered good-naturedly, swatting his bicep.

"Why yes, I am. Shall I show you exactly how cocky I am?" He leered suggestively, pulling me snugly against his lower body, leaving me in no doubt as to his intention. I flushed at his blatant coquetry.

"You are incorrigible!"

"Only for you, love," He whispered, his icy breath washing against my heated skin.

As gentle as the fluttering of a butterfly, Edward swept my hair aside, and pressed open mouthed kisses in the hollow of my throat.

"Hmm...so lovely, strawberries and freesias. So tempting and wild," He brushed his nose against my pulse, "You are my own personal brand of heroine, Mrs. Masen. My very own heady pleasure!"

I sucked in a sharp breath, melting against him, "Edward..." I chanted, as he expertly coaxed me into a state of arousal. He knew exactly what he had to do to make me mindless with ecstasy.

However, all was for naught as it soon turned out.

The sharp ring of my cell brought me back from the high I was riding. But it was not enough to distract Edward, who was suckling on my skin to leave a mark.

"Switch off your phone," He ordered, not raising his head.

"I...ah, can't...Might be imp...ortant. Just let me...Hello?" I struggled to maintain my tenuous hold on my senses, until the voice on the other end shocked me out of the trance I had fallen into.

Her panic and desperation, completed the job, dispelling the cobwebs of desire clouding my brain, making me jerk upright in alarm.


*Jodi Picoult in the book, 'Handle With Care'.

*Clingmans Dome- It is the highest mountain in the Smokies, and the highest point in the state of Tennessee.

AN: And so begins the honeymoon. Please share your thoughts and suggestions, especially on their conversation in the first half of the chapter. It is the cause of delay in the publishing of this chapter, as I was afflicted with the dreaded writer's block while penning it down.