I woke up one October morning to the bright sunlight peeking through the curtains, and I stretched out my arms as I inhaled the cool dawn air. Next to me, Derek lay fast asleep, the blanket falling just above his waist.
Even though we'd been married for nearly two years already, the sight of his bare torso never ceased to make my stomach flutter. Recently, he'd gone on a business trip in Miami, which left his skin the perfect shade of tan.
His abs were more sculpted than ever- if that was even possible- and I suddenly had a dying urge to run my tongue over them.
Ok, Claire, now you're just being creepy.
In the end, I just settled for watching him sleep, snuggling closer to his side as I lay my head on his chest. Tilting my neck upwards, I peered at the face I loved most. He was beautiful beyond words, but it was the gradual revelation of his true character that captivated my heart as time went by.
Derek was a man of many parts- dominating businessman, devoted husband, and soon, loving father. Yes, there was no doubt he'd love our son. That's just who he was. When Derek loved someone, it was for life and with his entire being.
The truth was, I wished there could be a more distinct line between his roles as husband and CEO. His job was extremely demanding- I understood that- but whenever we were both home, I wanted nothing more than to just spend time with him.
Unfortunately, he'd often have work to do. So on weekends, I mostly hung out with Charlotte while he worked in his home office.
Maybe one day, he'd realize that life wasn't all about making big bucks. But he was passionate about what he did, too, so there was no stopping him. I myself loved my job at Wells Fargo, and the thought of getting promoted in the future didn't hurt either.
As soon as Derek Jr. was born, though, my time would be fully dedicated to him. Besides, my boss had already secured my position for when I would return from maternity leave. He'd said that I was a valuable asset to the company he couldn't bear to let go.
I felt Derek shift slightly beneath me, and his strong arm wrapped around my waist as his eyes slowly opened, gazing down boldly into mine.
"Morning, beautiful," he said with a wide grin.
"Morning, sexy." He chuckled, and I sighed as his smooth hand ran up and down my bare back.
"Our poor son is probably cringing right now," he remarked. I laughed.
"Don't worry, we'll have a special morning nickname for him, too."
If all went well, I'd be giving birth to Derek Jr. within the next two weeks. Words couldn't describe how elated I was. Derek and I had finished the last of our shopping for baby clothes, and the nursery was completely furnished. It looked like something straight out of a magazine.
"I should probably go make breakfast now. We have to be at your parents' at eleven," I spoke, about to get up when Derek pulled me back into his body.
"Relax, babe. It's only eight. I wanna lie with you longer."
"No sex though. God knows we won't get out of bed for hours."
"So what? My parents can wait," he rasped, brushing his fingers across my collarbone.
"But it's your dad's 60th birthday," I protested.
"I know, and a year from now, he'll turn 61."
Next thing I knew, his mouth was on my neck, and any attempt I had to make a smart comment was lost as I submitted to the pleasure that only he could give me.
The following weekend, Derek and I attended a charity gala downtown hosted by his company. Since Halloween was right around the corner, he'd decided to have it be a masquerade. Guests could either wear their most elegant or gruesome face masks.
We both opted to wear elegant masks. Mine was a jeweled Venetian-inspired one with silver and aqua hues that covered the top half of my face. Since my dress was a light aqua color, it matched perfectly.
Derek always looked hot in a black suit, but Derek wearing a mask with his suit set my body on fire. The moment he put it on when we stepped out of his car, I was left completely breathless as my heart raced in my chest.
His intricate silver and black mask was 'Phantom of the Opera' styled and covered the left half of his face. It emphasized his already sharp features and strong jawline, making him look dark, mysterious, and haunting in the sexiest way. No doubt he'd become every woman's fantasy once they laid eyes on him.
"Jesus, Claire, you look like you want to maul me or something," Derek commented, his eyes gleaming in amusement.
"You have no idea," I said, biting my bottom lip.
He laughed, shaking his head then pulled me close to his side as we began walking into the ballroom.
"For someone that's nine months pregnant, you look more stunning than all of the women here. Those damn guys won't stop staring at you." Derek nodded his head towards the group of young businessmen that had followed us from the valet area.
"That's because they probably haven't seen my huge belly yet," I said with a playful smile.
"I hope they do. Then they'll know that you're stuck with me for life." Derek smirked.
"Yup. Poor you." He gave my ass a squeeze, and I let out a yelp, swatting his hand away.
"Derek! Someone could have seen that!", I scolded.
"Let them see." He grinned devilishly.
"How on earth did I even fall in love with you...," I muttered under my breath, hearing his quiet laugh.
When we arrived at our table, the ladies rushed to ask about our baby. I'd met them at previous events, and we'd gone out for lunch a few times. Jessica Harrington was the one I was closest to since her husband and mine were best friends.
After eating, the men went outside to the courtyard to discuss business while us ladies stayed behind to listen to the music. So far, I'd mostly seen elegant masks, but there were a couple extremely horrifying ones.
A woman came into the restroom when I was washing my hands earlier wearing a gruesome, bloody mask, and yes, I did scream. Luckily, we were the only ones in there, and I ended up laughing afterwards.
Michael Jackson's Thriller started playing over the speakers, and everyone at my table got up to go dance. My feet itched to join them, but I was way too pregnant to move a muscle. I'd just look like a bobbing watermelon on the dance floor.
Derek was coming back inside just as I felt a contraction, and immediately, my hands darted to my stomach, clutching it tightly. The sensation lasted about forty seconds, but it wasn't too painful. Just slightly discomforting.
I was hunched over in my seat, and in a flash, Derek was standing beside me, his firm hand on my shoulder.
"Are you alright, sweetheart?", he asked in a concerned tone.
"I'm fine. Just experienced a contraction. I've had a few of them the past two days, too," I reassured. His eyes immediately lit up.
"The baby's almost coming, isn't it?"
"I'm pretty sure. Maybe in the next couple of days." I smiled.
"I can't wait." He beamed, leaning down to press a kiss to my forehead.
However, as the night progressed, my contractions returned, each one more painful than the previous. It reached the point where I couldn't even sit and needed to lie down. So, Derek took me home and by the time I made it to the couch, I was panting for breath.
"What?", I snapped without meaning to.
"Does the couch feel damp to you?"
I sat up, looking at where Derek was sitting by my feet and sure enough, it was wet.
That could only mean one thing...
My eyes shot to the area between my legs as I lifted up my dress and saw a huge gush of fluids spilling out.
"Oh my god, Derek."
"What is it, baby?"
"My water broke!", I exclaimed. His eyes instantly widened.
He leapt off the couch and ran to grab his car keys and the bag we'd already packed that had the necessary materials for the hospital.
Then he was back at my side, helping me up and out to the car. On the way to UCSD Medical Center, my contractions intensified, and with each wail and painful cry, Derek slammed harder on the gas.
"You're gonna be ok, babe. I'm right here. We're almost there," he spoke in a nervous, breathless tone, giving my knee a squeeze. If anything, he was trying to calm himself down with his words.
The maternity unit was already informed of our arrival because Derek had called them before we left, so the minute we made it into the parking lot, they rushed to take over control of everything.
"Looks like you're going into labor, Mrs. Weston," the nurse said excitedly as she wheeled me inside on the stretcher.
I managed to give her a weak smile, and then my limbs went numb as I writhed in pain.
"I love you, Claire!", I heard Derek call before my eyes began to flutter shut.
This was it. After all these months, I was finally going into active labor...wearing an evening gown.
The hours that followed were a blur, but all I knew was that Derek never left my side. He still wore his suit from when we'd first arrived at the hospital, but he'd taken off the jacket and tie. I told him to go home and change into more comfortable clothes in case we had to stay for a long time, but he refused.
My contractions were as strong as ever, and the pain radiated down to my legs. Derek looked torn seeing me like this, however, the doctor continued to reassure us that my cervix was simply dilating.
"Would you like an epidural to relieve the pain? That option is always available," she offered.
"Yes! Anything that will make her feel better," Derek responded quickly.
"No," I croaked, my voice weak. He shot me a glare.
"No? Why not?"
I reached my hand out to him, and he held it tightly, caressing my knuckles with his thumb.
"I want to experience it all naturally. No pain relievers. Nothing," I rasped.
He gaped at me in utter disbelief then turned towards the doctor.
"Is my wife out of her mind?"
"Not at all. In fact, a lot of women are the same way. They think of everything that comes with childbirth- especially the pain- as beautiful and special," she replied with a smile. "Right, Claire?"
I weakly nodded my head.
Derek groaned in frustration, raking his fingers through his hair and directed his attention back to me.
"Fine. I get it. But if the pain becomes unbearable, you tell someone. Got it?"
"Yes." I offered him a weak smile and he brought my hand up to his lips, gently kissing it.
"I'm gonna go grab something to eat real quick. You want a snack?"
"Alright then. I'll be back in a bit."
We shared a brief kiss and then he left the room. Eventually, another round of contractions came that left me thrashing wildly on the bed. I screamed for the doctor, and she rushed in, along with several other nurses.
After a thorough inspection, she declared that I'd finally dilated to ten centimeters and was ready to deliver the baby. They wheeled me into a separate room for the delivery process, where Derek was already waiting. The joyful look on his face reflected my own, and I felt like crying tears of happiness.
"This last part is gonna hurt, but all you have to do for me is try to breath normally, alright? And push when I tell you, too."
"Yes," I breathed as a layer of sweat formed on my forehead.
"This is really happening," Derek spoke, stroking my hair.
"I know. I love-,"
My response was cut off by a loud cry as a contraction hit me.
"Relax, sweetheart. You've come so far. It'll all be over soon," Derek soothed, giving my hand reassuring squeezes.
With every push, it felt as if my entire body was violently ripping apart, and I clawed at the sheets and Derek's arm. Tears poured down my face as the sound of my own cries echoed in my ears.
"He's almost out. Ok, Claire, push," the doctor urged.
"Oh, god! Derek!", I wailed, choking on my sobs.
"I'm right here, baby. I love you, and I'm so proud of you." He caressed my face tenderly, his voice the only thing keeping me sane.
With the final push, I let out an earth-shattering scream, and immediately, the sound of a baby's shrill cry filled my ears, making my heart swell.
Derek Jr.'s cry...my very first child.
"You did it, Claire. Well done," the doctor praised. "Your baby came out face up, and guess who was the very first person he laid eyes on?"
"Who?", I asked weakly.
"Me. God, he's beautiful, sweetheart," I heard Derek speak, his voice thick with emotion.
"Very. Just like his parents. Congratulations, you two," the doctor said cheerfully.
My chest was heaving, and I fought to steady my breaths as I sat up against the pillows, adjusting my hospital gown.
The moment I finally got to hold my baby in my arms was one I'd never forget as long as I lived.
He was so small and precious, and the profound rush of love I instantly felt for him was utterly surreal. Derek sat right next to me on the bed as we both cherished this life-changing moment together.
"He has your beautiful blue eyes," I whispered, nestling into his arms.
"But his face shape is yours. And his lips, too," Derek observed.
"He's gonna grow up to be handsome like his daddy."
"And smart-mouthed like his mommy."
I gave him a mock glare, and he laughed, kissing the tip of my nose.
"Now, for the most important part. What are we naming this little bundle of joy?", the doctor asked as she strolled back into the room.
"Nicholas. Nicholas Scott Weston," Derek replied without the slightest pause. Then, he glanced over at me. "In honor of your best friend."
I was at an utter loss for words as tears began to stream down my face. The fact that he thought of Nick was so moving and touching. Even I hadn't thought to name our son after him. And 'Scott', I knew, was his grandfather's name. In that moment, my undying love for Derek grew, running deep into the once dark recesses of my heart.
"Is that ok with you, sweetheart?", he asked, wiping away my tears with his thumb.
"It's perfect. You have no idea how much this means to me." I pulled his face close to mine and gently brushed my lips over his.
"I love you so much, Claire. With everything that I am," he breathed. His eyes were glistening with tears as well.
"I love you, too. God, I'm so happy you're mine."
"Always," he vowed.
We both looked down at our son, who was peacefully asleep in my arms. No matter what happened, he'd forever bind our lives together.
"Welcome to the world, Nicholas," I said with a smile, gently touching his cheek.
"Mommy and daddy love you, buddy. Just don't give us too much trouble, alright?", Derek said with a playful tone. I laughed.
"Do you wanna carry him now?", I asked him. His eyes immediately lit up.
"Of course you can, Mr. Weston," the doctor assured with a warm smile. "I can already tell you two are going to be wonderful parents."
"Thanks, doc," Derek said.
"I'll give you some alone time with your son now for a bit. Let me know if you need anything."
We thanked her and then I carefully settled Nicholas into Derek's awaiting arms.
As I watched the love of my life cradle our newborn son in his arms, I couldn't help but shed more tears. This was an image I wanted ingrained in my mind forever.
"Can you believe we've come this far?", I spoke, laying my head on his shoulder.
"It doesn't even seem real sometimes. I still remember those months in the beginning we spent hating each other."
"But getting to wake up next to you every morning...that's as real as it gets for me, sweetheart."
At that moment, Nicholas let out a yawn, his mouth forming a perfect little 'o', and Derek began making ridiculous baby noises while kissing his tiny feet. I absolutely adored this new fatherly side of him.
Until I met Derek, my whole life, I'd only experienced death and the pain and suffering that accompanied it. But today, I was able to witness the creation of a new life for the very first time.
Nicholas was a blessing, and I couldn't wait to nurture him alongside my husband in the years to come.
A/N- I'm finally back, folks! I apologize for my super long absence. Let me fill you in on what's been happening in my life since the last update. First of all, I graduated high school and registered for all of my classes at the university. I'm going to be majoring in chemical engineering. Then, my family went on a one month vacation to Vietnam, and we came back Sunday. It was so much fun! I finally had some free time to write today. There's only two chapters left of this book, and I promise I'll finish them before I leave for college. Thank you to everyone who's been so supportive and patient with me! (: Like always, remember to like and comment.