Here's the last chapter! First of all, I want to thank you for being such great & amazing readers, and for supporting my story till the end. You don't know how much this means to me. I never thought that PB would be such a great success! You're the best and I love you all! As you know, I'm working on this new story, but it won't be up till next week. And I do hope to see you again in Bet Gone Wrong (that's the title of my new Mimato fic)...till then, enjoy!
Matt tied a knot in the neck of a balloon & reached for the stepladder, easily hanging it back on the ceiling hook. Mimi thanked him & went on to the freezer tucked into the back of the garage. She dug around for a while & then turned to the men. "Sora said the ice cream was in the freezer, but where is it?"
"Ice cream?" Tai said. "Damn, I forgot to pick up the ice cream. Matt, move you SUV so I can get my car out."
Matt dug into his pocket & tossed him a set of keys instead. "Use mine, we'll over for you."
"We?" Mimi asked as the SUV zoomed out of the driveway.
"Yeah, if you go back in without the ice cream, Sora will know Tai forgot it."
"And you think she won't figure that out anyway?"
"Besides, ice cream reminds me…I picked up the pictures of the kids." He pointed to a lightweight jacket tossed over the hood of Tai's car. "Take a look if you like."
Keep it light, keep it casual. Mimi picked up the jacket & took a package out of the pocket. His jacket still felt warm from his body heat, & she wanted to snuggle it close in her arms. Instead, she laid the jacket back on the car & opened the envelope.
Everything seemed brighter in the pictures than it was in her memory. She didn't remember the ice cream being quite so pink, or the twins' faces quite so intent. And she certainly didn't remember looking at Matt with quite that adoring expression in her eyes…but one of the shots caught the two of them standing on each side of the stroller, & the look on her face was embarrassingly intimate.
It was all the evidence necessary to prove that even before she realized it, she'd been falling in love. She shot a lance at Matt, who seemed absorbed in making the balloons, & slid that picture in the pocket of her jeans.
She sneaked another look at Matt & then took a second picture from the package & added it to her pocket. It was not, perhaps, the best photograph ever taken of Matt, since he was only in the background & the twins were the stars. But he was smiling…his eyes were gleaming…he looked eased & contented.
"Not bad," she said. She put the package back with his jacket, picked up a handful of limp balloons, & passed a red one to him. "I didn't buy a leash for the twins' gift after all.
"Then it's a good thing I didn't waste time looking at rhinestone dog collars."
"Actually, Ella would probably have liked one. She's getting serious into sparkly things."
Matt shuddered. "I thought girls waited till they were at least five to do that."
"I'm afraid they're born with it. How is Jun Motomiya's house doing?"
"It's all finished. We turned over the key last Friday." He looked at her almost curiously. "You haven't talked to her lately, have you?"
"No, Willis hasn't called me since the housewarming party, so I thought there was no point in pursuing Jun if she wanted to sell." Mimi forced her voice to stay steady. "After the way I dumped him, I can't say I'm surprised not to hear from him. But I must admit I wonder if that means he doesn't want the house anymore, or if he just found another real-estate person to act for him."
"I didn't give him your message that night," Matt said. "I took him back to the hotel instead. I figured it was the least I could do."
Mimi thought he was right on target there, since he was the one who caused all the trouble. She supposed it should be comforting to know that he learned something from the whole mess.
"Of course," Matt added meditatively, "he didn't stay there."
"Who? Willis? Where did he go?"
"Back to Jun's house. I'm not sure when he actually moved…but he's living there now."
Mimi's jaw dropped. "I had no idea he wanted that house so badly." She clapped a hand over her mouth. "I mean…"
"That Jun would be no prize to live with? Neither is Willis, of course, but they seemed to be quite comfortable with each other. As long as we're talking about what happened at the party, Mimi…"
"Which party are you referring to?"
He didn't seem to hear the coldness in her voice. "You asked me why I did it…why I sent the dancers to Michael's bachelor party. But then you didn't want to listen to the answer."
"I don't have to hear it. You did it because you were curious. You just wanted to see what would happen if you prodded him."
"That's true, up to a point. But it's not the whole story."
"I don't see why you should tell me all about it now, when you didn't say a word about it for two fuckin' years, Matt."
"I did it," he said meditatively, "because I didn't think he was good enough for you. And I wondered whether he'd prove it, if he was offered enough temptation."
Mimi thought it over while he blew up to four balloons. It took that long for her to get herself under control, enough to trust her voice. "You thought Michael wasn't good enough for me?"
"That's what I said, yes."
Maybe he really did care…at least a little. "And what makes you think that's any of your business, Matt? You're surely not going to expect me to believe that you were interfering because you had some sort of wild secret infatuation with me." She was proud of herself…her voice held just the right tone of cynical sarcasm & right shade of disbelief. "Because you wanted me for yourself?"
"No, no, I didn't have a wild secret infatuation with you." He sounded very calm. Apparently, the accusation wasn't important enough…or ridiculous enough to get upset about.
Mimi's chest constricted until she could barely breathe. What a fool she was. Even as she told herself that he didn't care, she still allowed herself to hope that deep down he must have felt the tiniest spark of what she found in her heart for him. This must be why people spoke of their hopes being crushed…because that was exactly what it felt like when her hopes were smashed out of existence.
She said quietly, "You were right, Matt. You did me a favor. It was Michael's nature to cheat. If he hadn't had the opportunity at the bachelor party, he'd have found it at the country club, or at work, or in a friend's house." She swallowed hard. "Thank you. End of subject…all right?"
"No, it's not all right. You asked me why I did it. That was my reason…back then."
She closed her eyes in pain. "You know, it really isn't necessary to do a full autopsy on this thing, Matt."
"I wasn't even attracted to you. I was just interested."
Mimi's voice was taut. "Spare me the definitions, all right?"
"But when you started dating again within a week of breaking your engagement, I was more than interested, I was fascinated. Every time I saw you, you were with a different guy."
"I was playing the field," Mimi said crisply.
Matt shook his head. "No, you weren't. Playing the field means dating lots of people. But each time I ran across you, you were seeing only one guy…exclusively, & apparently very serious. It was like you were trying to work your way through the entire Odaiba phone book, one man at a time. For a while, I couldn't figure out what you were doing."
"I'm sure you're going to tell me what you decided, whether I want to hear it or not."
"You were serious about the man of the moment right up to a point where he got serious about you…and then you dump him. You were making sure no one could hurt you again the way Michael had."
He was only partly correct, Mimi thought. He was right that she dated only one guy at a time, but she hadn't been serious about any one of them. However, Matt's perception of what she was doing explained the way he had habitually surveyed her with mingled fascination & irony, & then turned his attention away as if he couldn't bear to look any longer.
"You might as well call me a man-eating shark & be done with it," she said.
"I thought that's what you were, but that week we spent with the babies…as I got to know you…the picture didn't fit with the label any more."
"Well, that's comforting," she said dryly.
"It was only then I admitted what was happening to me." He filled the last balloon, tied it into the bunch, & leaned against the fender of Tai's car. "Though I think it must have actually started happening way back when I met you & Michael and decided you didn't fit together."
Mimi's hand started to tremble. Don't do this to yourself, she ordered. You've gotten your hopes up before, only to have it smashed.
"For the last couple of weeks, I've thought about it a lot," Matt said quietly. "About whether I should just leave things alone & go back to the way it was. But I don't think I can. That night when I came into the house & you made dinner…you were lighting candles on the dining room table, & the candlelight glowed on your hair in such a strange way…For just an instant, it looked like you were wearing a wedding veil."
Mimi tried to hold back tears. He looked at her so oddly that night…and now she knew that no matter how innocent she told herself that dinner was, she had been trying to show him what he was missing. She already wanted more than just friendship. No wonder he suspected her of being manipulative. He understood what she was up to even better than Mimi herself had.
Matt mused, "And I realized that's why I'd been so certain from the beginning that you & Michael didn't fit together. It was because all along…I wanted you to fit with me."
Her throat was so tight she couldn't even speak, more or less make a noise.
"I was starting to think that maybe you felt the same way. That it wasn't just a matter of getting along for the sake of the babies…Until that day on the Plaza when we were in the carriage & you saw Joe & ducked down behind Nikko. You didn't want him to see you with me, did you?"
"No," she said. It was barely a croak. "I didn't."
Matt sighed. "I shouldn't have said anything at all, I suppose, because we can't exactly avoid these family occasions."
Mimi didn't say anything. She was trying her best to hold back her tears.
"I thought it would be better to bring it out in the open," he said. "But now I've just made things uncomfortable, haven't I…because I can't miss things like the twins' birthday, & I'm not asking you to stay away either. I'm sorry. I just hoped… There's one more thing I have to know, Mimi, & then I'll shut up. Which picture did you take out of the package just now?"
The question was so unexpected that before she realized it, Mimi tripped herself up. "How did you know I… You weren't even looking this direction!"
"I don't have to look," he said quietly. "When you're anywhere around, I know what you're doing."
She was shaking so much now that she couldn't get hold of the pictures in her pocket. Finally she gave up & braced her hands against the car to lessen the trembling. "I didn't want Joe to see us together that day," she said. "But not because I was ashamed of being with you, Matt. It was because I didn't want him to spoil the magic by getting possessive & asking questions."
"He was getting serious about you."
She nodded. "Yes, but you're wrong about my reasons, Matt. I wasn't trying to get even with Michael. I wasn't serious about any of those guys. I just made it look that way when you were around, because…because I didn't wasn't you to think I was at loose ends. You were always with one of your girlfriends…& I didn't want you to know…" She swallowed hard. Now or never, she told herself & looked straight at him. "I didn't want you to know that even then, I was waiting for you. Because if you knew I was free…& you didn't care…"
Before she could finish the sentence, he pulled her away from the car, & she was in his arms.
"It was easier just to pretend that your girlfriends didn't matter," she whispered.
"But they didn't matter, baby. They were only a distraction, that's all." He seemed to decide that action was better than explanation, & his mouth came down to hers…hard, possessive, intimate, & yet with a gentle understanding that rocked her more than pure passion could ever have done.
Even when he stopped kissing her, he didn't relax his hold, & Mimi was glad of it, for she suspected she couldn't stand on her own. "What about Ingrid?"
"Ingrid?" His voice had a sandpapery edge to it. "You mean Ingrid Anderson? Did she bother you?"
"Of course not," Mimi said tartly.
Matt grinned. "Right, she bothered me, too. We were supposed to have business lunch with her husband that day to discuss my plans to build their new house, but after that performance in my office I decided not to go after the job. Of course, after Nikko chewed up their floor plans, I might not have gotten it anyway."
Mimi's jaw dropped. "But you acted as if…"
"Well, of course, I did," Matt said. "If a gorgeous woman flings herself at me in front of the one I'm trying to make jealous, I'm going to play it for all it's…"
She drew back & made a face at him.
Matt laughed & pulled her closer. "Show me the pictures in your pocket," he whispered.
She pulled the two photos out. Matt took them, keeping one arm around her as he held the pictures at arm's length. "Interesting choice, babe. I particularly like this one f you…I ordered an enlargement of that one already. But I think we can do better."
"Yes, white gown, tuxedo, flowers instead of ice cream cones…Marry me, Mimi?"
"I'll have to think about it," Mimi said simply. "For one thing, I don't think I can handle…"
"We did pretty well with the twins. Just think what we'd accomplish with regular practice."
"That's true," she took a deep breath. "All right, I'll take a chance on you."
"Good, let's go announce it. Nikko & Ella won't care if we trump their birthday party, as long as we promise they can smear cake all over our wedding, too."
But Mimi didn't move. She smiled & pulled him for a kiss, taking advantage of the freedom to hold him…to kiss him.
"Well, I guess there's no real hurry about spreading the news," Matt said huskily.
It was the sound of an approaching vehicle which drew them back to the present. The SUV pulled into the driveway & Tai got out, cradling two half-gallons of ice cream in one arm, his other hand at his brow, shading his eyes as he stared into the shadow of the garage. He looked stunned.
The back door banged & Sora came out. "Tai, darling! You'll never guess what just happened!"
"Now wait a minute," Matt groaned. "How on earth could she possibly know…?"
"A courier just made a special delivery," Sora gasped. "Because of the mess-up on our cruise, they've given us another one to make up for it. Can you believe it? Matt? Mimi? Any chance you two would agree to baby-sit again? Tai, what on earth are you goggling at?"
Tai didn't answer. He just pointed at the garage, where Matt & Mimi were still standing in each other's arms.
Sora turned toward the garage, took a long look, & smiled. "Well, it's about time you two came to your senses."
Matt moved a little. "Thank you," he said. "And as for you question, Sora, the answer is no. At least not until we've had a cruise of our own. Talk to us again after the honeymoon."
And he drew Mimi close once more, claiming her lips, & shutting out the world.
..: The End :..
AN: To all my readers, thank you so much! I'm very grateful to all of you, especially my loyal fans (you know who you are.) Hopefully I'll be seeing all of you again in my next story: Bet Gone Wrong, coming up next week! I love you all! – Paola :)
Koumi – you were the one who gave me my first review in this story, & even though you don't like me…& most of the Mimato fans…I still wanna thank you. Dark's Assassin & Assassin's Partner – I think you guys are so cool & you have a kick-ass name! Thank you for everything! Just4reviews – one of my loyal readers! Hope to see you in my next story. BetterDeadThanAlone – I'm always excited to read your reviews. You make me laugh always! Thank you, thank you! Pink-writer – you've been an awesome reader of this story, & I wanna thank you for being such a great fan! LuckyStar17, Xymi Angel Ghost, Kaye, seal-chan, Tierra, Anarchy & Blood, Yen, ellamoony, Hikari-Kawaii, satarow-raven, sashimi, mystic, Yes, Jyoura-Crip – thank you for all the review! Angel, Janay, Riven, MaRoNcOoL, hesitate, crescentmoon-cat – it's great to see your names on both my stories. You guys are the best forever! I Love You All! I'll see you in my next story, then, all right.
"Bet Gone Wrong"
"You've had a lot of crazy ideas in your time, but this one definitely gets the award."
He folded his arms across his chest & waited.
"I mean, you & me…a couple? Who's gonna believe that?"
He sighed. "Mimi…"
"And to suggest that we'd ever be able to fool anyone…I mean, there are days we have difficulty just getting on well enough to still like each other as friends!" She started pacing in front of him.
He sighed again. "If you'd just…"
"We'd have to be able to look at each other without sniggering every two minutes. And as for the kissing thing…" She stopped pacing long enough to waggle a finger at him. "You do realize if we were actually dating we'd be expected to kiss &…well, other stuff like that…"
There was a deadly silence as they stared at each other in shock. Matt swallowed hard. "I know that…"