As soon as I heard the garage door close, signaling that Derek had left for work, I rolled out of bed, slipping on a robe to wear over my lace-trim nightgown. I normally never wore these skimpy things to sleep, but my husband had bought it for me without my knowledge during one of our previous trips to the mall.
After I'd found out how expensive it was, I forced him to return it, but he refused, insisting that seeing me in lace would allow him to sleep better at night. In reality, he'd be out like a light every time we got to bed. There could be a serial killer pounding on our window, and he wouldn't even stir an inch.
So much for having a "sleeping problem."
Smiling at the thought of Derek, I headed downstairs to get out everything I'd need for the barbecue from the fridge. Today wasn't just a typical Saturday. It was November 14th, his 25th birthday, and I'd planned a huge surprise party for him. I had invited some of his relatives and close friends, including his COO- Keith Harrington. And of course, his parents were coming, too.
It'd also be the perfect opportunity to celebrate his career milestone. Weston Hotel Group had announced the official date of its grand opening in Sydney, and we'd recently bought plane tickets to fly over there in January right after Christmas.
Derek wouldn't be home from work until four, which gave me plenty of time to prepare the food and decorations. Heather had insisted on coming over early to assist with the cooking, but I'd kindly declined her offer. Besides, I was much more productive on my own.
Tying my hair up in a bun, I quickly got to work, setting out the marinated ribs I'd left in the fridge overnight. This way, they'd taste extra flavorful. Before grabbing the ingredients for my signature potato salad, I turned on some music from my phone.
Soon, I was dancing and singing along to Taylor Swift's Style as I swiftly moved about the kitchen, preparing several different foods at once. The mouthwatering aroma of baked BBQ chicken began to fill my nostrils, and I went to check it in the oven.
While stirring a brownie mixture, my body suddenly grew tense. For some weird reason, it felt as if I was being watched.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I slowly turned around, anxious to see if there was actually someone behind me.
My spoon instantly fell to the ground as a scream escaped my lungs.
"Oh my god, what are you doing here?! You scared me!", I exclaimed.
There, leaning against the wall, was none other than my husband. He had an amused look on his face, trying to suppress a laugh, but failed.
"You should've seen yourself! What were you gonna do with that spoon? Hit me with it?" He smiled arrogantly.
"It's not funny! I thought you were a burglar!", I protested, slapping his arm.
Derek picked up the wooden spoon and went to rinse it in the sink, laughing to himself. I just stood there, recovering from the momentary heart attack he'd given me.
"You never answered my question about why you're home so early."
"I forgot some documents this morning, so I had to come back to grab them," he explained, waving a bundle of papers in front of my face.
"Oh, I see."
"Yeah. I gotta go back to work now. I'll see you at four?"
I nodded my head and he smiled, kissing me on the forehead.
"Do you have any idea how adorable you look when you're dancing?"
Gee, how long had he watched me?
My eyes widened in surprise and immediately, a blush spread across my cheeks. Derek chuckled and leaned down to kiss my lips. His hands rested at my hips, pulling me tight against his hard chest.
Before we could get too carried away, I gently pushed him away. He had to go to work, and I still needed to finish cooking. I felt a tug at my heart when a frown formed on his perfect face.
"What was that for?"
"Sweetheart, I'm busy right now and you have to head back to work." I put on a smile and grabbed his hand, dragging him to the garage.
He turned to look at me before stepping out the door, looking absolutely flustered.
"But it's my birth-"
"Good-bye, Derek!", I said cheerfully, blowing him a kiss. Then, I shut the door in his face.
Phew, that was close, I thought to myself.
If Derek had stayed any longer, he'd figure something was up, with all the food and decorations I'd left in the living room. Hopefully, he hadn't noticed them.
The poor guy probably thought I'd forgotten his birthday. Boy, would he be in for a surprise later this evening.
After showering and putting on a dark blue long-sleeved summer dress, I left the house, driving downtown to pick up Derek's birthday cake. Everything else was already finished at home.
Around three, people started to show up, and I headed outside to fire up the grill. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for a barbecue.
"The decorations look amazing. I love your choice of colors," James complimented, walking towards me with a bottle of beer in his hand.
"Thanks, dad." I smiled.
I'd chosen gold, silver, and white of everything, including the balloons, banner, and tablecloths. There were two tables filled with food, and the cake sat on a separate one.
Heather was talking to Derek's aunts, and she acknowledged me with a sincere smile.
"The food looks amazing, dear."
"Let's hope it tastes just as good," I said.
Meanwhile, the kids were playing by the pool, and some had decided to go for a swim. Most of them were four or six, all children of Derek's cousins.
Keith Harrington and his wife were the next to arrive, and they brought a bottle of champagne to share with everyone.
"You think Derek will want to hit the club tonight? Us guys are planning on going," he asked as I was straightening out the chairs.
"You'll have to check with him."
"Sounds good. You know how he transferred Ashley Lawrence to work in my department?"
"Yeah?" I mentally gagged at the sound of her name.
"She drives me insane. She flirts with every guy in the building, including me. I know she has the hots for Derek, though. I'd hate to see her ruin your marriage, so I guess I have to deal with her now."
I gave him a sympathetic smile, and then we both started laughing. After catching up further with the Harrington's, I went back to check on the grill.
"Uncle Derek's here!", Declan- one of the kids- announced, climbing out of the pool. The rest of them followed, running towards the front lawn.
"Surprise!", we all yelled once Derek stepped into the backyard, carrying Declan in his arms.
His face broke into a huge grin, and he was at a complete loss for words. Everyone began to surround him, offering their wishes as I stood by the grill, flipping steaks.
When he approached me, I set down the spatula and threw my arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.
"Happy birthday, Derek!"
I let out a squeal as I felt my body being lifted off the ground. Sparks flew the instant Derek captured my lips in a deep kiss, and I responded, placing my hands on the sides of his face.
The moment he set me back down, he gazed at me with such love and adoration, I thought I'd melt.
"Was this whole thing your idea?", he asked.
"Yup. Sorry I rushed you out of the house earlier. I didn't want you to find out."
"No worries. You look stunning, baby." His eyes roamed the entire length of my body, and I grabbed his tie, pulling him in for another kiss.
After eating, we sat by the pool under the glare of the sun, dressed in our swimsuits. Keith and the rest of Derek's close friends took turns giving congratulatory speeches in honor of his birthday and career milestone.
"And how about you, Claire? Got anything to say to this stud?", Stephen said, playfully ruffling Derek's hair.
"You've made me a very proud wife, Derek. And with today signifying a new year of your life, I wish you nothing but continuing success with your career. I can't wait to see where our journey takes us from here."
Derek's eyes became glassy and for a moment, I thought he was going to cry. He patted his lap, motioning for me to sit on it. As soon as I made it across to him, his strong arms enveloped my frame, and I sighed in content, relishing the feel of his bare skin against mine.
"Do you have any idea how happy you make me?", he whispered against my ear.
"I'm pretty awesome, aren't I?"
"You're everything a man could ever want for a wife."
"I could say the same about you. Hey, don't party too hard tonight, alright?"
"We'll see." He smirked.
I smiled, kissing his cheek then stood up to join the other women who were in the hot tub. I watched as Derek chased around his nieces and nephews in the yard as they screamed their little heads off.
Sophia, the youngest child, wasn't as fast as the others. Derek noticed and stopped in his tracks, bending down to pick her up in his arms.
"Let's go catch your cousins!", he exclaimed with excitement.
"I want a piggy-back ride!"
"As you wish, Soph."
Derek placed her on top of his shoulders, and together, the two of them went after the other kids. Seeing this side of him made my heart melt with joy.
There was no doubt he'd make a terrific father one day. When Declan had fallen earlier and scraped his knee, Derek had been the first to take care of it. Even Declan's mother hadn't responded that quickly.
The idea of having kids with Derek didn't seem so horrifying as it had been before. Those days in the past were over, at least, that's why I hoped.
But now was definitely not the time. I was only twenty-two, and I had a huge career ahead of me. If all went well, there were possibilities of receiving a promotion in a few months' time.
Around eight, the guys left for the club, and their wives offered to stay behind and help me clean up. Those with young kids went home sooner.
Eventually, it was just me, Heather, and James. We were all sitting on the couch, flipping through old albums of Derek as a baby. He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen.
"Remember the day we first took him home from the hospital?", Heather remarked with a wistful smile. James nodded.
"Believe me honey, if I could do it all over again, I would. Only this time, I'd be a better wife and mother."
Her expression grew remorseful, and before I knew it, she was crying. James sat there in silence, comforting his wife. I decided it would be best to leave them alone for a moment, so I stood up, walking out the front door.
A gentle breeze blew through the palm trees, and I hugged my knees to my chest as I sat on the porch. Above me, the stars twinkled magnificently in the night sky.
This, I thought, was how life should always be.
James and Heather had had a rough marriage, but they'd found happiness in the end. Just like Derek and I.
After they left, I turned off all the lights and headed to bed. Derek's birthday present sat on the dresser. He'd opened everyone else's except for mine.
While I was brushing my teeth, he strolled into the bathroom, whistling to himself.
"You made it back in one piece." My voice was muffled from the toothpaste.
"Yup. And I didn't get wasted either," he stated proudly.
"Did you have fun?"
"Yeah, but I'd rather just spend time in bed with you." He smiled, wrapping his arms around my waist.
I gave his bicep a squeeze.
"And you know what? None of the girls there could compete with you," he added.
"Is that so?"
I shook my head in amusement.
When I finished brushing my teeth, we both sat on the bed, and I handed Derek the bag that contained his present.
He reached into the tissue paper, first pulling out a rectangular box. Inside was a dark gray Armani dress shirt and striped tie.
"You didn't have to get me something this fancy," he remarked.
"Does it look okay?"
"I love it, sweetheart. And I love you, too." He grinned, briefly kissing my lips.
"There's more things in the bag." I couldn't hide the blush on my cheeks.
"Damn, Claire, how many things did you get me?"
Derek pulled out the watch I bought him, and then at the bottom of the bag were a pair of concert tickets for The Script in Sydney. His entire face instantly lit up, and he gave me the biggest bear hug.
"The Script tickets? You're the best!"
"I figured since we'll be in Sydney that week, why not go to their concert, too?"
"I can't believe it. Front row seats. You never cease to surprise me, Mrs. Weston."
I smiled, toying with my wedding ring.
"Thank you for these lovely gifts. And the party, too. Getting everyone together was a wonderful idea."
"Anything for you, Derek."
He began to put everything back in the bag then suddenly paused.
"Wait, you said there was a fourth gift. What is it?"
A mischievous grin formed on my lips, and I felt my skin burn hot with anticipation.
I stood up, letting the silky robe I had on slip off my shoulders as it pooled to the ground, leaving me in a light pink lingerie set.
A deep, throaty groan escaped Derek's chest, and it sent excitement coursing through my veins. His eyes immediately grew dark with lust and desire, drinking in the sight of my almost naked body.
The longer I'd been intimate with Derek, the more confident I felt. I wasn't shy and insecure like I used to be. Every time we made love, he made me feel beautiful- sexy, even.
"This, by far, is the best birthday surprise of all," he spoke huskily, reaching out to pull me onto his lap.
And the remainder of that night was spent lost in the sheets- the icing on the cake.
A/N- Wow, I can't believe how long it's been since I last updated! Fortunately, I'm done with school for the year and currently on summer vacation. On the bad side, I still have college entrance tests to study for since I'll be a senior this fall. Next week, I'm touring Northwestern University in Illinois. Hopefully, the Hawks win the Cup so I can get a chance to see them(: Anyway, I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. I'll try to update again soon! Like always, remember to like and comment!