I lost track of how many times I'd awaken during the early dawn, simply because I was too overwhelmed with joy to sleep. Each time I opened my eyes, my heart would warm at the sight of the woman I loved dearly lying by my side. The one whom had confessed her love for me just hours ago.
Until last night, I had thought that she'd never be capable of loving anyone else after Nick passed away. But she managed to surprise me.
The truth was, I knew that Claire always felt something for me. I could see it in her eyes. They were always filled with affection when she smiled, and the way she cared for me was beyond anything my mother had ever done.
God, how'd I get so lucky?
A huge grin formed on my lips as I gazed down at my beautiful, sleeping Claire Bear. With her dark hair fanned across my chest and smooth glowing skin, she looked like an absolute goddess. I traced small circles on her back, and slowly, she began to stir awake.
"Good morning, sweetheart," I greeted, placing a tender kiss on her lips.
She smiled, pulling me down as our lips moved in unison, and I slipped my tongue inside of her mouth, savoring her sweet taste. When we broke apart for air, she nestled against my chest, and I slipped an arm around her.
"Last night was amazing," she said blissfully.
"I know. I'll never forget it as long as I live."
I was quiet, simply enjoying the feel of holding her in my arms. She directed her warm gaze at me and suddenly began to blush.
"What?", I asked her with a chuckle.
"I love you, Derek."
It amazed me how easily the words rolled off her tongue , as if she'd been saying them for years.
"I love you more," I murmured, kissing her neck, and she laughed.
God, I loved that sound more than anything. Just knowing that she was no longer hurting or crying meant the world to me, and as her husband, I would always strive to make her happy. After all she'd been through, it was the least I could do.
"Oh, I almost forgot. Have you seen my pills?", she asked.
"What pills?" I raised a brow.
"The birth control ones. I swear I packed them with me, but they're not here."
My face instantly grew pale.
"Hold on, you're saying that you haven't been taking them ever since we got to Sydney?"
She nodded her head.
In my head, I quickly counted off the times we'd had sex the past couple of days, and then I began to feel sick to my stomach.
"Derek, what's wrong?" Her face was filled with concern, and she gently touched my cheek.
I exhaled sharply then began shaking my head in disbelief.
"This can't be happening," I muttered.
"What? Please tell me," she pleaded.
"We haven't been using protection. You stopped taking the pills ever since we got here, but I had no idea." I let out an agitated sigh.
She looked utterly confused.
"So? Who cares?"
My eyes widened at her casual behavior, and immediately, I grabbed her shoulders.
"Don't you get it Claire? I could've gotten you pregnant!"
"I know," she said simply.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
"Aren't you gonna kill me now or something?"
To my surprise, she began to laugh, and I couldn't help but watch as the blanket slipped off of her naked body, momentarily distracting me. God, she was so mesmerizing.
"Why would I kill you? Derek, this is wonderful. We could actually become parents!"
When she saw that I was silent as a rock, sadness flooded over her features, and she pulled me into her arms.
"Are you thinking about what I said back then?", she asked softly.
"You'd rather die than be a mother to my children," I said with a hint of bitterness.
Even now, it tore me to hear those words. I knew I'd been a terrible husband in the past, but still, what she'd said that night had hurt more than a bullet to my chest.
"Derek, listen to me. You and I have gotten so far in our relationship since then. I love you, and that's all that matters."
"But you don't love me enough to have children with me."
The moment those cold words left my mouth, I instantly regretted them. Tears began to stream down Claire's face, and I felt a knot in my stomach.
"Why are you doing this to me?" Her voice cracked.
"Baby, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to say that." I held her tight against me, stroking her hair with my fingers as I kissed away her tears.
"I do want to have children with you. Why can't you believe that? We're not like how we used to be."
"I know, sweetheart. I'm sorry."
She stopped crying then looked up at me with her beautiful, sad eyes. The thought of Claire as a mother brought a smile to my face. She'd be the perfect role model for our kids- compassionate, intelligent, and strong.
"You'd make a wonderful mother, you know."
She managed to smile, and I kissed her temple.
"I haven't got the slightest clue about how to be a parent."
"You'll learn fast." I grinned.
"I'm sure you'll be a great dad. I've seen the way you are with Declan and the other kids. They absolutely adore you."
It was true. I loved kids. In fact, I even considered myself an expert on the whole changing diapers thing. Back in high school, I'd always babysit my cousin's kids whenever he and his wife went out.
I could only imagine how incredible it'd be to have children of my own one day.
"What are you thinking about?", Claire asked. I gave her a wicked grin.
"Nothing. Just hoping that I finally knocked you up this time."
"We'll see about that." She playfully threw a pillow at me.
I pretended to pout, and just as she was about to get up, I grabbed her elbow and pulled her on top of me. There was no way I'd let her go this easily, not when she was looking so ravishing this morning.
"What are you-",
My lips landed on hers and she immediately shut up, completely melting into my body. I rolled over so that she was underneath me then began sucking the sweet spot below her ear, eliciting a low moan from her lips.
With my elbows propped on the bed, I worshipped every inch of her skin, paying special attention to her breasts, and she groaned loudly as I brought one into my mouth while fondling the other with my palm.
"Derek, I need you," she panted, tangling her fingers in my hair.
I smirked and pulled down the sheets, tossing them to the side so that Claire lay completely bare to me. Just seeing how wet she was made me ten times harder, if that was even possible.
At that moment, my stomach suddenly began to growl, and Claire laughed. I hadn't even realized how hungry I was. After all, it was past ten o'clock and the last time I ate was at six last night.
"Someone's hungry," she said teasingly.
"I guess. But for now, I'll just have to feast on you."
She blushed furiously, and for the next hour, I did just that, bringing her body to heaven and back as we both fell even deeper in love.
No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't stop smiling. Everything about this trip so far had been perfect, with memories that I was sure to keep with me forever. Of course, the best part was finding out that Derek and I were ready to take on the next step of our relationship- parenthood.
The thought of having a family with him both excited and scared me at the same time, since we were both still so young. But as long as we were together, then everything would be ok.
Currently, we were enjoying a hearty breakfast in bed after having mind-blowing sex, which had left us too tired and lazy to go anywhere.
"Wow, you made it on the newspaper," I remarked.
"I did?" Derek looked surprised.
I handed him a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald that was left outside our hotel door, and he grinned in amusement as he read the headline out loud:
"Derek Weston- CEO or The Next Justin Timberlake?"
On the front page was a picture of Derek dancing in the club last night that someone had managed to take. His face was turned away from the camera, but his hips, as Shakira would've said, "did not lie."
We spent most of our day cuddling in bed and watching the College Bowl games that were happening back home in the US. Stanford had sealed a spot in the semifinals and was currently playing against Utah, who had been undefeated this season.
On Tuesday, Derek and I flew down to Melbourne to visit my grandma. She'd been a widow for the past five years after my grandpa died from a heart attack, just like my father had.
Luckily, my uncle and aunt lived nearby, so if there was ever an emergency, they could easily stop by her house.
"I still think about your father all the time," my grandma spoke when we were having a family dinner later that week. "After he moved to the States to be with your mom, I rarely got to see him."
Her voice began to crack, and Derek reached out to touch her hand as a gesture of comfort.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Delaney," he said apologetically.
"I just wish I could've been closer to him. My husband and I wanted to fly over there ourselves, but his health didn't allow us to. We knew Mark was a busy man, so we never blamed him for not visiting."
A smile touched the corner of her lips as she glanced at me.
"However, we did get to witness the day you were born, and believe me sweetheart, as soon as I got to hold you in my arms, I knew that your father had made the right choice in leaving Australia to marry your mom."
Tears began to well up in my eyes, but I quickly brushed them away. The last thing I wanted for this day to be filled with sadness and grief. That night, I decided to sleep in my dad's childhood room, hoping to feel connected to him once again.
However, being surrounded by his old belongings and pictures was just too painful, and Derek simply held me as I cried into his chest, missing my dad more than anything in this world.
The following day, we celebrated my 23rd birthday and our one-year wedding anniversary. Technically, our anniversary would've been tomorrow because of the different time zones, but I didn't want to have to spend two separate days celebrating, so we decided to just combine everything.
Derek had made dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant down by the Yarra River. Prior to that, we spent the afternoon with my aunt and uncle at Eastern Beach in Geelong since it was warm and sunny out.
On our way back to my grandma's, I stopped by an elegant gift shop to pick up the custom-made accent light I'd bought for Derek. It was rectangular-shaped with a black frame and displayed a picture of our names traced in sand encircled by a heart. In the corner was our wedding date- January 8th.
Around seven, Derek and I arrived at the restaurant. He looked absolutely dashing in a light blue dress shirt that brought out the color of his eyes and black pants. I wore a melon colored maxi skirt and white lace top.
We chose a table outside that had a breathtaking view of the Yarra River and towering skyscrapers. I decided to order a steak, and Derek opted for the classic Lobster bake.
They were both absolutely delicious, and afterwards, we shared a slice of tiramisu. At one point, he leaned in to lick away a dab of whipped cream that had gotten on the corner of my mouth, and I couldn't help but blush.
"You're so adorable," he said with a grin then reached down beneath the table to grab his present for me. "Happy birthday, sweetheart."
He handed me a small silver bag, which contained a matching box with a sparkling ribbon on it. I slowly opened the lid and inside lay the most beautiful diamond necklace I'd ever seen.
Two hearts had been woven together to form an infinity symbol. It held so much meaning, and as I clutched it to my chest, I looked at Derek lovingly.
"Do you like it?", he asked, reaching out to touch my hand.
"I love it. Thank you, honey," I smiled and pulled his face towards me for a kiss.
"You wanna know why I chose it?", he mumbled against my lips.
"Because I want forever with you."
I stared into his deep, blue eyes and saw nothing but pure devotion in them. If we weren't in public, I would've crawled onto his lap and kiss him senselessly.
With reluctance, I pulled away from him then settled back in my chair. I handed Derek his gift and as soon as he unwrapped it, a huge smile lit up his face.
"Did you make this yourself?", he asked.
"No, I bought it. I'm not an electrical genius."
He laughed at my bluntness.
"It's beautiful. I'll leave it on our nightstand. Thank you, Claire."
He gave me a brief kiss and I put our gifts back in their bags as Derek paid the bill. Afterwards, we walked along the river hand in hand, admiring the city lights.
"I can't believe it's already been a year," Derek said, pausing to look at the beautiful scenery.
"I know right? But hey, we made it."
He smiled and bent down to kiss my lips.
"Happy anniversary, Claire."
"Happy anniversary, Derek."
The sun began to set, painting the sky with vivid hues of orange and pink as we stood there in each other's arms, happy and in love, just like how it should be.
A/N- I can't believe how long it's been since I last updated! I managed to squeeze in this chapter today since I had some free time. I know it probably isn't the best, but I didn't want you guys to have to wait too long. Senior year has been pretty hectic for me, but good news is, I got accepted into one of my top 3 colleges(: Like always, remember to like and comment!