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Thanks again for the continued support and let me know how like the story so far and if you would like to see anything happen or have any suggestions. Thanks :)

Chapter 22: Life

Kokoro took a seat on the floor behind the register and rested her head on her legs. She could not move, think or say anything; she just sat there staring at nothing. She heard the ringing of the door when a customer walked in but still did not get up. She finally saw Emma, who worked there, look at her and lean down,

"Hey Kokoro are you alright?" Emma asked.

"Yeah fine" Kokoro finally snapped back to reality, "Just felt a little dizzy, can you take care of this customer?" she asked.

"Yeah sure" Emma said walking over to the counter.

Kokoro finally stood up and went to the back room. She went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face.

"Alright get yourself together Kokoro" she said, "Just pretend like nothing happen".

She looked in the mirror and fixed her eye liner and took a deep breath before going back to work. Before Kokoro started working on a couple of cupcakes she looked at her phone and called Ken.

"Hey Babe" he said and she rolled her eyes,

"Hi" she said, "How are you?"

"I'm better now that you called"

"Listen" she said wanting to get to the point and end the call, "About that date you wanted to take me, what do you say about tonight?"

"I would love to, but why now? Last time you hung up on me" he asked.

"Let's just say I had a change of heart" she said

"Well okay then, I will pick you up tonight at eight" he said

"Okay see you then" she said hanging up.

….

Across town Hitomi was running a few errands and when she went to pick up her dry cleaning she looked at her hand and smiled at the ring on her finger.

Last night…

Hitomi was cooking dinner in Hayate's modern all metallic kitchen. She was tossing the salad when Hayate came up behind her and gave her a kiss on the neck. The shivers ran down her spine and through her whole body. She turned around and gave him a big smile.

"Hey" she said wrapping her arms around his neck and he kissed her pushing her back into the counter.

"Hi" he smiled when they parted.

"Dinner is almost ready" she said, "You want to set the table for me please".

"Of course" he said taking the table cloth and utensils to the table outside.

Hitomi smiled to herself as she put the salad into a bowl thinking that she really could get used to this life with Hayate. It was crazy to think that they had already been together for almost six months. Actually she thought it was six months tonight.

They ate dinner and enjoyed some conversation too, outside on his deck savoring the view as well. Hitomi went inside and grabbed their chocolate mousse dessert. When she got back Hayate was looking out into the city and there were two lit candles with roses on the table. She placed down the desserts and walked towards him.

"What's all this?" she asked.

"Well I know that we have been through a lot together and to be together and I just think we should enjoy this as long as possible. I also know that six months is very short so for now I would like to give you this ring" he said pulling out a silver ring with a sapphire stone in the middle, "as a promise from me to be committed to you and to trying to make you as happy as possible. Lastly I want you to accept this ring as a symbol of our new life together and not what we have been through in the past" he finished.

She was speechless, nothing to do, nothing to say. She wanted to scream out finally and she thought this was too perfect to be true but it was certainly true, especially when Hayate said,

"Hitomi what do you say?"

"Oh My God, Yes of course, I would love to start this with you" she said hugging him tightly.

He placed the ring on her right hand, because of course it was not an engagement ring just yet.

Present Time…..

Hitomi hopped in her car and drove to a nearby restaurant to have lunch with Kaleb who she had gone to the Major's Gala a few months ago. She was still good friends with him so she saw him a couple of time a month.

….

Ayane watched Hitomi going into the restaurant and saw her sit down outside with Kaleb.

Ummm she thought so you and Hayate are going strong, that's cute. And that is only because I have been dealing with other idiots. That's okay though you are next darling. If I don't get Hayate then you certainly won't.

Ayane stepped on the gas pedal and drove away thinking of plans in her mind.

Kokoro realized the end of the day had come sooner than she had hoped and Teddy had already called her twice. As she looked at her phone with two missed calls, she just threw it in her oversized bad and locked up the bakery. In the car she wondered what she could possibly say to the girls about this date. She wondered and wondered until it finally hit her,

"Oh My God!" she said out loud.

Of course, they did not know about what had happen between her and Teddy last night and so to them they were still nothing and the last talk they had things were still the same, she had not told them anything yet. So she though I can tell them that I want to try things out again with Ken since we dated for so long and he was my first serious boyfriend. It's perfect. But what about Teddy…. Oh Teddy what am I supposed to tell you? She drove into her garage and hurried upstairs checking her watch to see it was 7:15 and she only had 45 minutes to get ready.

When she got upstairs she noticed all the girls were in the patio eating dinner and they saw her come in even though she was trying to tip toe in.

"Hey you" Helena said.

"Hey" she said coming out to the patio.

"Where are you going in such a rush?" Hitomi asked noticing her checking her watch.

"On a dinner date" Kokoro said taking a breath.

"Oh, I see" Helena said smiling, "With Teddy I assume".

"You assume wrong" Kokoro said and they all gave her a strange look, "It's with Ken" she finished.

"What?" Kasumi said.

"Yeah, he called and asked nicely and I figure what do I have to lose. I mean we did date for a long time and if it will shut my mother up why not right?" Kokoro said trying not to sound suspicious.

"Okay" Hitomi said slowly, "But you said that you pretty much hated him".

"Well maybe I was a bit quick to judge and he is being really nice now" she said trying to get away.

"What about Teddy?" Helena asked and Kokoro could not help but look down.

"We are still just friends like we were before, nothing has changed" she lied.

"Does he know you are going out with Ken?" Kasumi asked.

"No I have not spoken to him today but that is none of his business. Anyways I have to go get ready" she said, "See you girls later" she finished walking to her room feeling tears coming in the mention of Teddy.

"That was a bit weird" Helena said after Kokoro was gone.

"Yeah one minute she hates him and the next she is going on a date. I seriously don't understand her sometimes" Kasumi said.

"Speaking of not understanding, I heard from Kokoro earlier this morning that Ryu was here last night and in the same bed as you" Helena said and Hitomi gasped.

"Yeah, yeah but nothing happen. The weather was really bad and I felt bad making him drive back and most of the roads were blocked off so I told him he could sleep on the couch but then I saw a bad dream so he hugged me and we fell asleep. You know like friends" Kasumi said.

"Yeah okay, last time I checked friends don't sleep in the same bed because that would be considered awkward" Helena laugh and so did Hitomi.

"Ha Ha" Kasumi said sarcastically but smiling never the less, "I don't know I guess I moved on or at least I am trying to tell my heart that I moved on so I am trying to be around him more and be okay with it"

"Yeah we understand" Hitomi said squeezing her hand.

"Okay I am off on my date" Kokoro said by the patio door wearing a green mini dress with her hair pulled up to a bun.

"Okay, have fun" they all said.

Kokoro went down stairs where she met Ken and they both got into his Mercedes and drove to the restaurant. Kokoro did not know how she made it through dinner. All he would talk about was himself and his wonderful job and it seemed like a never ending cycle. She was looking interested but mentally and emotionally she was somewhere else. Thinking of ways to break it off with Teddy. She still wanted to stay friends with him but she knew that was now impossible especially after what happen last night. It would be better to see what he says first then just be as cold as possible. Finally she saw Ken was paying for the dinner, she would be home soon. 20 minutes later he drove her home and brought her upstairs even though she insisted she was fine to go up by herself.

"Well this was great" he said.

"Yep" she said smiling, hoping to just go in and go to bed.

"I will call you tomorrow then" he said reaching down and giving her a peck on the lips.

"Okay" she said feeling nothing from his small kiss and wanting to go use mouthwash.

She stepped inside quietly and noticed that the girls were all asleep. She took her heels off and placed them down gently in the closet. She went to the kitchen and poured herself a glass of wine and a few minutes there was a knock on the door. She got up thinking it was Ken forgetting something. When she swung open the door she saw Teddy standing there.

"Hey" she said surprised.

"Hi" he said coming in, "I called you today, were you busy?"

"Yeah we have a lot of orders coming in for the summer and the holidays coming in, I'm sorry" she said putting the wine glass in the sink.

"It's okay, so are we going to talk about last night or is that why you have been avoiding me? He asked looking into her eyes and she looked away.

"Come to my room so we can talk, I don't want to wake anybody up" she said leading him to her room.

They reached her room and she closed the door behind her.

"So, what do you make of last night?" she asked wanting him to say something first.

"I mean I think it was great and maybe reassurance that we both have feelings for each other" he said and she started pacing back and forth, "Why what do you think of it?"

"I just think it was a onetime thing" she said trying to keep it short and get to the point.

"What do you mean? So you don't want anything from me? That is all you wanted? You have no feeling for me?" he bombarded her with questions.

"I like you as a friend" she lied, "and I still want us to be friends".

"Oh you want us to be friends" she could feel his voice getting angrier.

"Yeah" she said not looking at him.

"No, you know what" he said standing up and grabbing her by the waist and pushing her against the wall, she let out a little breath and he continued, "You know how hard it was for me this past year watching you throw yourself on other guys and standing on the sidelines watching and taking everything in me not to knock all those guys out and taking you but I waited patiently and now that we shared something special you want to act like nothing happen. Tell me that you don't feel anything romantically toward me into my eyes" he finished still pinning her to the wall.

She looked at him but could not say anything.

"Tell me, what is wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing" she lied, "I just don't want something like this to come between us".

"Fine if you can tell me that you don't love me, then I will never mention this again" he said.

She looked into his eyes unable to say anything for a few seconds. He held her waist and pushed his body into hers as his mouth covered hers. She was trying to resist but she sank right into his passion and ran her fingers from the back of his neck through his hair. His familiar cologne made her dizzy as he kissed her deeper. Finally he let go and she pulled herself together and removed her hands from his hair.

"Teddy, can we still be friends if I tell you what you want to hear" she said.

"It's more like what I don't want to hear but sure because being able to still see you is better than not seeing you at all" he said breaking her heart but she had to do it.

"Teddy I like you as a friend and I don't…. I don't love you like that" she finally made out with a choked voice as his hands dropped from her waist.

He stood there just nodding his head in disbelief.

"Okay, Alright well now that you have made your choice I guess I will let you get to bed and change. I guess I will see you soon" he said walking out.

Kokoro slid down the wall and sat there for an hour, rethinking about what had just happen and crying to herself. Finally she picked herself up and dragged herself on the bed still crying and grabbing one of her pillows and hugging it for comfort. She finally fell asleep after two hours, when there were no more tears left.

Next day 7am

Kokoro woke up with noises around her. She noticed the girls were getting ready for work and her bedroom door was open so one of them must have checked in on her in the morning. She slowly stood up changed from her dress from last night and after her shower and getting dressed for work she went out in the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee.

"Good Morning Sunshine" Hitomi said cheerfully.

"Hitomi sometimes the amount of cheery vibe you release in the morning is ridiculous" she said taking a seat on the bar chairs.

"Well thank you! So did you have a late night? I noticed you slept in your dress" she said.

"Yeah when I came back Teddy came and we talked for a while and then I was up thinking about all those orders we have coming up and my mom being the wedding planner and just everything" Kokoro said.

"That is too much to think about in one night" Helena said coming from the hallway.

"You think?' Kokoro said but anyways I should get going.

"I'm coming with you" Hitomi said picking up her bag.

"Okay we will see you later Helena" Kokoro said as Hitomi followed her out.

"Bye" Helena said before the door shut behind them.

"So is everything okay?" Hitomi asked while Kokoro decorated a cake to be picked up that day.

"Yeah, why?" she asked not looking up.

"I don't know, you just seem distracted or different somehow ever since yesterday when you said you were going out on that date with Ken" Hitomi said looking at her.

Kokoro let out a long breath and put down the piping instrument and shrugged her shoulders.

"Nothing is wrong; it's just that this whole thing with Ken is I don't know. He is being completely different now than what I knew before" she lied, "I feel like I would be doing myself and him an injustice if we did not try things out again but then there is Teddy, I mean you guys said he likes me but he has not said anything" she kept lying, "I don't want to keep hoping and throwing something like this away".

"I mean I don't know what to tell you, if Ken has changed like you say, who am I to stand here and tell you not to try it out, I gave Hayate a second chance and I happy maybe that is what with happen with you and Ken but then again I feel like Teddy does have feelings for you and I don't really know why he has not told you anything but you should not throw away an opportunity like that because he will not step up" Hitomi said honesty.

"Yeah" Kokoro said thinking about the past two days and how Teddy had said he loved her and she could not say anything if she wanted him alive, "I guess you are right" she forced a smile.

"But promise me that you will not stick with it if he starts acting like he did that time at Leifang's weeding" Hitomi said concerned.

"Of course I promise" Kokoro said quickly.

After a few hours of working on the cake Kokoro heard the front door ring so she made her way to the front. When she saw her mother she felt her day get worse.

"Hello Mother" she said, "What can I get you?"

"Hi darling" she said, "How are you?"

"I am fabulous" Kokoro said sarcastically, "Now how can I help you or did you come here to gloat?"

"About what?" her mother asked.

"Well since I really don't have time to deal with your guessing games, in case you did not hear Ken and I went on a date last night and we will most likely get back together so congratulations mother you were right" she said.

"Oh"

"Yeah, so now what can I get you?" Kokoro asked again.

"Can you box up six cupcakes, chocolate please?" she asked.

"Oh are you taking them back to the wedding planning team since you picked up your new profession?" Kokoro continued.

"Yeah" her mother said and handed her the money as Kokoro boxed and handed her the six cupcakes.

"Have a good day" Kokoro said handing her back the change and going to the back room.

November…..

The snow fell outside gently hitting the pavement with a soft delicacy. Inside Kokoro sat on the floor in front of the fire place wearing an oversize sweatshirt with Teddy's tee shirt underneath. She wrapped her arms around her knees and watched the fire crackle. She stood up after a while and went to her room to get ready to go to the hospital. After putting on decent clothes she locked the apartment after her and headed to her car downstairs. A few minutes later she took the elevator up to the fifth floor and found the room. When she walked in Helena and Hitomi where already there and Kasumi was on the uncomfortable bed.

"Hey" Kokoro said smiling and putting her bad down on the chair next to the bed.

"Hi" Kasumi said making out a smile.

"How are you doing?" Kokoro asked taking her hand.

"Fine I guess I just want to get this baby out of me" Kasumi said leaning her head back.

"I understand, I mean she is three days late" Kokoro said.

"I can't believe how fast time went by" Helena said, "I remember like it was yesterday when you said that you were pregnant".

"Yeah I know Kasumi said and now Hitomi has been with Hayate for almost nine months and you Helena with Kane for 9, 10 months and Kokoro with the new and improved Ken for almost four, five months" Kasumi said.

Kokoro forced a smile and said,

"Yep, now do we know the name or are you still keeping it a secret?" Kokoro asked.

"I have a few ideas but I will know when I see her" Kasumi said.

Two hours later baby Arianna was born with piercing green eyes and strawberry hair. A week later Helena and Hitomi took Kasumi home and Kokoro brought Arianna home with the car seat in her car. The next week was busy with people visiting to see Arianna and Kasumi and everybody was in and out of the apartment. Ken came only once because he was very busy with a case he was working on which Kokoro preferred better anyways. Kane and Hayate were there a lot though. Kokoro had been busy the whole week with taking care of Arianna, the orders coming in for the holidays and doing things for Kasumi seeing as Helena also was really busy with her recent fashion line coming out and special orders for the holidays. Hitomi was busy with filling in for small duties at Kasumi's store and Kokoro's bakery.

Across Town…..

Mr. Brown's security had once again been disrupted by Ayane but this time in his office at home.

"You really should get better security around here" she said making him jump not noticing her walk in and sitting down across his desk.

"Can't you just ring the doorbell or something?" he asked putting down the article he was reading.

"I could but it's not really my style. Anyways I guess congratulations are in order she said throwing a blue lollipop on his desk.

"Thank you" he said looking at the lollipop.

"How is your daughter doing? I heard she named the kid William, which is sort of generic but anyways" she said standing up.

"What do you want?" he asked trying to keep it short feeling uneasy around her.

"Well I came to remind you to have your annual snow ball for the holidays and I have a list of guests that should be invited. Oh and I almost forgot this year I want you to have it at one of your private estates and have it be an overnight event and have it be sort of intimate and special. Sounds good?" she asked but did not wait for a response, "Good, now just make sure those people are there and I will see you then" she smiled and left the room.

What do you guys think? I hope you like it so far and thank you for the continued support. I am trying to involve as many characters as possible in these chapters. Let me know if you want to see more of somebody or a couple. Thanks again. :)