"Sweetheart, we're here," Derek's velvety voice spoke in my ear, waking me from my deep slumber.
I slowly opened my eyes to see his gorgeous face hovering just inches from mine, his lips curled into a bright smile. He planted a brief kiss on my lips, his stubble lightly tickling my cheek before standing back up to retrieve our suitcases.
"Where are Keith and Jessica?", I asked, undoing my seat belt.
"They already got out of the plane," Derek replied, fixing his tie.
"Oh, well let's go then."
The moment we stepped into the airport, sounds of buzzing activity rang in my ears as herds of people in formal business wear rushed throughout the gate area, busy chattering away with each other or on their phones. After all, Sydney was a very popular destination for not only tourists but also conference meetings.
After completing customs, Derek and I walked outside towards the car rental building, inhaling the fresh morning air. It was a beautiful, sunny day without a single cloud in sight. Never had I ever seen a sky so blue.
While waiting for Derek to fill out the paperwork, I decided to head back inside the airport to buy two coffees and some donuts for the both of us. Nothing could beat a good ol' cup of Gloria Jean's Aussie blended cappuccino.
Since Derek had never been to Australia before, I had a feeling that I'd be the one directing us on this trip. There wasn't a single destination in Sydney my family hadn't discovered the last time we came here.
The moment I headed back to Derek, a huge gasp escaped my lips as I took in the sleek, black convertible parked next to him. I blinked my eyes twice to make sure they weren't playing tricks with me. He stood there with his hands shoved in his pockets, grinning like the Cheshire cat.
"Nice, huh?", he said, stroking the hood of the car. "It's a Mercedes Sl550- runs like a beast and looks sick as shit."
"We're driving this for the entire week?"
"Yup. Now hop in and let's take this baby for a ride."
"How much did it cost?"
"Nothing my wallet couldn't handle," he said with a wink.
After throwing our suitcases into the trunk, Derek eagerly jumped into the driver's seat then pressed the power button as the engine purred to life, barely making a sound.
"Oh, and there's one thing you should know," I remarked with a serious tone.
"What is it, babe?" Derek raised a brow, his hand on the stick shift.
"Sydney drivers are crazy. Not even kidding."
To my astonishment, Derek barked out a laugh, shaking his head as he began to drive out of the airport.
"Oh, Claire-Bear you're such a worry wart. I've driven in New York and LA, so I'm sure Sydney is a piece of cake."
Less than half an hour later, Derek was on a rant, and I'd lost track of how many times he'd flipped a driver off as we neared our hotel.
"Did you see that guy on the freeway? He nearly slammed into our car when he changed lanes! The bastard didn't even signal!"
"Like you ever signal when you change lanes," I muttered under my breath, rolling my eyes.
Derek let out a sigh of frustration then the car came to a screeching halt as he slammed on the brakes. The SUV in front of us had tried to weave into our lane at the traffic light without signaling. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest.
"You can say it now," Derek spoke through gritted teeth, slamming his hands on the steering wheel in defeat.
"Say what?", I asked innocently. "That I was right all along about Sydney drivers being reckless?"
"Hell, even the word 'reckless' isn't enough to describe them. And these lanes, could they be any smaller?"
I tried to stifle a laugh but failed. Derek glanced over at me, a smirk forming on his lips.
"How about you drive then?"
"Eh, I'm not as good as you, but I'll drive us over to Bondi later today," I acquiesced.
Soon, we were pulling up into the main entrance of Weston Hotel and Suites in Sydney Harbour. It was a towering one-hundred stories and had a spectacular view of the Opera House.
Derek handed his keys over to the valet attendant and then we both stepped inside the grand lobby. I was at an utter loss of words as I took in the magnificent chandelier hanging from the painted ceiling, marble floors, and Italian leather couches.
The hotel felt more classical than contemporary but nonetheless had elements of both. Next to me, Derek was marveling in the finished product of his company's hard work with a look of pride in his eyes. I took his hand in mine and gave it an affectionate squeeze.
"It's beautiful," I said, gazing up at my husband in awe.
"Wait til you see the outdoor garden and presidential suite we'll be staying in." He smiled, bending his head down to capture my lips in a kiss.
After giving me a complete tour of the hotel, he and Keith went to check out the ballroom where the grand opening celebration would take place while Jessica and I unpacked our things.
Around noon, the four of us drove to the world-famous, Bondi Beach. While Derek sat in the passenger seat, he kept complaining about how I drove like his grandmother, and it took every fiber of my being to not throw his body to the sharks. After all, the Pacific Ocean was just a short drive away.
"Holy shit, I don't think I've ever seen water this blue before," Keith commented as we were walking down towards the beach.
"I know right? It's fucking beautiful," Derek added, taking off his sunglasses.
We all took a bunch of pictures then made ourselves comfortable on the sand. I spread out a towel and slipped off my dress, leaving me in my black designer bikini. Before the guys were about to go rent surfboards, I took out a bottle of suntan lotion, handing it to Derek.
"Could you put some of this on my back?", I asked him, tossing my hair to the side.
"Um, sure," Derek gulped as his eyes began to grow dark with lust. He ran a hand over his hair, looking sexier than ever with his glorious abs on display.
"Thanks." I flashed him a smile.
"What I'd do to be inside you right now on this beach," he whispered huskily into my ear, sending shivers of delight down my spine.
"Patience, babe. We have all of tonight to fool around." I winked at him.
A groan rumbled in the back of Derek's throat as my eyes trailed downwards and indeed, he was already getting a hard-on through his swim trunks.
Yup, this was gonna be a long day.
While the guys surfed, Jessica and I tanned. I was also able to read several more chapters of the novel I'd recently started called Collide. When I'd decided that I'd been burnt enough, I joined Derek in the water.
He ended up teaching me how to surf and I enjoyed every minute of it, especially since he was such a wonderful instructor. Later, as we went to go return our surfboards, his stomach began to grumble.
"You hungry?", I asked.
"For you," he replied with a smirk.
"Sorry, they don't sell Claires at the restaurants here."
Derek swatted my ass and I let out a little squeal. I glared at him and he grinned wickedly.
"So, what do they sell here?"
"Fish and chips. Trust me, they're so much better than in America," I stated.
After changing back into fresh clothes, we walked up to Bondi Pavilion for a late lunch. More people had shown up to the beach over the hours. We were the only Americans, though. Everyone around us all had Australian accents, and my ears couldn't get enough of hearing them.
"Man, the guys in Sydney are so hot," Jessica remarked with a sigh as the two of us went shopping later that evening.
"Tell me about it."
"But hey, they can't stand a chance against our men, right?"
We both burst out laughing. It was true. Of all the Aussie guys I'd seen so far today, Derek's looks surpassed them all. I was honestly the luckiest girl alive.
Jessica and I had each bought two dresses- one for the grand opening ceremony and one for the New Year's Eve party. Once we were satisfied that we'd stopped by all our favorite stores, we met up with the guys at the Sydney Opera House.
Each time I saw the intricate structure, it never ceased to take my breath away. It was architecture at its finest.
We took several pictures there and then walked along Circular Quay, admiring the shops and restaurants by the water's edge. After having dinner, Keith and Jessica drove back to our hotel. Derek, on the other hand, wanted to do some more exploring. So, we ended up driving over Harbour Bridge.
Later, Derek would quote it as being "one of the scariest experiences in his life."
For one thing, the cars were so close to each other that if one were to slightly swerve, it'd hit oncoming traffic. There was nothing to separate the lanes on that bridge. Second, the exit signs were difficult to read, making it even harder to navigate.
When we finally made it back to our hotel, Derek was beat. He swore that driving in Sydney on a regular basis would shorten his lifespan.
"Thank god I can sleep now." Derek let out a massive yawn, collapsing onto the bed after we'd brush our teeth.
"Did you sleep at all on the plane?", I asked.
"Nope. I had work to do."
Not less than five minutes later, we were both fast asleep in each other's arms, all thoughts of 'fooling around' forgotten.
The following morning, Justin and his girlfriend arrived at the airport and I went to go pick them up. They'd insisted on renting their own car, but I told them it was unnecessary. They could just use Derek's or Keith's if they needed to.
"So, anything exciting happened since I saw you on Christmas?", my brother asked as we drove to the hotel.
"No, not really. We went to Bondi yesterday. It was so fun. You should go there, too."
"I most certainly will. And I can't wait for tonight. So many people are gonna show up to the grand opening of Weston Hotel and Suites." He flashed me a smile.
"Like who?", his girlfriend, Lauren, asked. She was a pretty blonde and had a bubbly personality, the perfect match for Justin.
"Celebrities, business moguls, the governor, you name it."
The car ride was thoroughly entertaining as Justin and I brought back memories of our childhood and joked around. Over the years, his looks had grown to resemble our father's even more. Whenever he smiled, crinkles formed by his warm, brown eyes and he even laughed the way Dad used to, all out and hearty.
"Hey, man. How's it going?", Derek greeted Justin when we arrived at the hotel, pulling him in for a brotherly hug.
"It's all good, bro."
After Lauren was introduced to Keith, we all headed outside to the garden to catch up on events and lay out the schedule for tonight. There would be food, music, and prize giveaways.
We spent the day doing some more sightseeing and lunched at Darling Harbour. As evening approached, everyone drove back to the hotel to get ready for the event.
I showered then put on my black, formal dress. It had a plunging neckline and accentuated my figure perfectly. Everything about it screamed classy and professional.
"You look absolutely ravishing, Mrs. Weston," Derek complimented, snaking his arms around my waist. He buried his head in the crook of my neck, inhaling my perfume. "And you smell amazing, too."
The room suddenly felt ten times hotter as Derek mentally undressed me with his eyes. Not able to contain my need for him, I stood up on my tippy toes, melting my lips onto his.
"W-we should probably go now," Derek breathed as my tongue explored every inch of his mouth. With reluctance, I broke our kiss.
"Tonight, you can have me any way you want, ok?" He cradled my cheek in his hand, his blue eyes burning into the very depths of my soul.
God, I was so in love with this man.
But I wouldn't tell him...yet.
"Ok," I whispered with a smile.
We took the elevator downstairs and then entered the ballroom which was elegantly decorated from head to toe. All eyes landed on us and several men in suits came up to congratulate Derek. Across the room, Justin and Keith were receiving the same amount of attention.
A slow jazz song played in the background as Derek introduced me to the mayor of Sydney and his wife. And like Justin had said, the governor of New South Wales was present, too.
We were about to go meet Keith and Justin at our table when a familiar female voice called out Derek's name. I felt him freeze in his step as his body tensed. Turning our heads around, we came face to face with Ashley Lawrence- my worst nightmare.
"Ashley, fancy meeting you here." Derek's tone was clipped and cold as ice.
"Well, I know that neither you nor Keith invited me to come here for this, but since I also work for the company, I felt obligated to," she said, smiling solely at Derek.
"I see. Well, I hope you have a wonderful time."
"Wait, I have something to say. To both of you." She finally acknowledged my presence, giving me a nod.
"What is it?" Derek asked in a bored tone.
"I wanted to apologize to you and your wife personally for what happened that day in your office. My behavior was completely inappropriate."
"I appreciate your apology, Ashley, but what's done is done. Now if you'll excuse us, we have to get to our table now."
Before Ashley could utter another word, Derek dragged us away from her, anger radiating from his body in waves.
"I swear, if she tries to pull something, I would be more than happy to escort her out of this hotel," he said, his jaw clenched.
"It's ok, sweetheart. She'll leave us alone," I reassured, lacing his fingers through mine.
When we got to our table, Derek poured himself a glass of champagne, downing it all in a matter of seconds.
"You alright, man? You seem pissed," Keith observed.
"I'm fine. I just didn't expect Ashley to be here."
"She is? Fuck."
"Hopefully, she'll mind her own business."
As the remainder of the guests got seated, Derek made his way onstage. He was handed a microphone and then the music stopped playing.
"Ooh, it's speech time," Jessica said, playfully elbowing my rib. "Let's see if you're in it."
"Good evening, everyone. On behalf of Weston Hotel Group, I'd like to thank you all for attending the grand opening of Weston Hotel and Suites. It means a lot to me.
"As you have already known, countless hours at the office and months of planning were necessary to complete this project. Some nights, I'd come home a grumpy old oaf."
The audience erupted into laughter. Derek then directed his attention right at me.
"So next, I'd like to thank my beautiful wife, Claire, for putting up with my behavior during those busy months. I don't know what I would've done if I'd let my work get in the way of our marriage.
"Here's to Claire Weston, the most wonderful woman I've ever met and the love of my life."
Derek raised his champagne glass, flashing me a breathtaking smile.
I could feel my eyes watering as cheers and applause sounded throughout the entire room.
"And last, I'd like to thank my COO, Keith Harrington, and Justin Delaney, CEO of Delaney Corp. None of this would've been possible without their contribution."
After wrapping up his speech, Derek stepped off the stage, walking with pure confidence back to our table. He paused at my seat, leaning down to give me a passionate kiss that left my body wanting more.
"Dude, you're gonna suffocate her," Keith joked. Derek flicked him off, and everyone laughed.
"How was my speech?", he asked, finally sitting down.
"Absolutely beautiful," I said, resting my hand on his thigh.
"It was perfect. Claire here almost cried," Justin spoke.
"Oh really?", Derek turned towards me, his blue eyes lit up in amusement.
I nodded my head, simply staring at his handsome face- the face I'd come to love more and more each passing day.
A/N- Wow, I can't believe it's already been two months since I last updated! School is starting soon for me, but I decided to squeeze in one last chapter for the summer. So, it looks like our beloved Claire is indeed in love with Derek. When will she tell him? You guys will find out soon enough. Until then, remember to like and comment!