22-year old Claire Delaney's life turns upside down following the death of her beloved father, Mark Delaney, who happens to be the CEO of Delaney Corp.- one of the most successful hotel chains worldwide. She thought things would go back to the way they were once her older brother took over the business...but unfortunately that wasn't the case. Mark's last dying wish? Marry off his daughter to the owner of Weston Hotel Group, in order to maintain the partnership between both thriving companies an
It was a dark, stormy night in San Diego. Rain poured heavily onto the streets as the howling of the wind caused the palm trees to shake violently.
I stood next to my bedroom window, watching as a streak of lightning illuminated the sky before closing the curtains. Thunderstorms had always scared me ever since I was a little girl. I mean, everyone's afraid of something, right?
After shutting all of the windows in my ridiculously large "home", I headed into the living room and turned on the TV, making myself comfortable on the leather couch.
Today marked the start of the NHL draft, an annual event that brought joy and pride to many hopeful young hockey players around the nation. But to me, the draft would always be a constant reminder of the day I lost my best friend- Nick Schneider.
To begin with, my older brother and I were born and raised in California, in a small town just a few miles south of here. At the age of three, my family moved to Minnesota since Dad's company was relocated there. He eventually went on to become the CEO of his own hotel business, but that's a different story.
Nick and I met my first day of preschool. He was an adorable little boy, with stunning hazel eyes and thick brown hair. I was playing with a group of kids and one of them suddenly grabbed the Barbie doll that was in my hand and yelled, "mine!".
Tears rolled down my chubby cheeks and immediately, Nick sought to get me my doll back.
"Give it back to her, you bully!", he ordered, attempting to take it from the kid, whose name was Mike.
Right away, he handed the doll over to Nick, with a frightened expression on his face. I didn't blame him for being scared because at the time, he was the tallest kid in our class.
The moment Nick returned the doll to me, I knew that we'd become the best of friends. And indeed we were.
He and I both started playing hockey once we turned four since it was our favorite sport and we attended the same school all the way through our senior year.
We were inseparable. In fact, I'd spent most of my days growing up over at the Schneider's place because my parents were always busy with work and away on business trips. Nick's family had become really close to me as well.
When it came time for us to go to college, Nick and I had to head our own ways. I was done with hockey after high school, but he went on to play for the University of Minnesota. He'd become a sensational athlete. I on the other hand, had received a full scholarship to attend Stanford, my dream college.
Although Nick and I were in separate states, we always kept in touch. Just three years ago, the Chicago Blackhawks- our favorite hockey team- won the Stanley Cup and we had the chance to watch the game, thanks to my dad who bought the tickets.
I couldn't have been any happier, but little did I know that my life would begin to fall apart later that month.
The NHL Draft was held in Minneapolis that year two weeks after the Hawks had claimed the Cup. I had high hopes for Nick and he insisted I attend the draft with him and his family, so I did.
At that point in time, my feelings for Nick had escalated and I realized that I loved him. I couldn't imagine life without him and I wanted us to take our friendship to the next step. Hopefully, he'd feel the same way once I told him later.
Nick ended up getting drafted by none other than the Chicago Blackhawks that day as their third overall pick. I remembered the huge smile he had on his face as he stood on stage with his parents like it was just yesterday.
The fact that Nicholas Andrew Schneider- my Nick- would be playing in the NHL was just mind boggling. I was unbelievably proud of him, and I bet his friends and family were too.
Following the draft, Nick and I had some alone time as we walked around downtown. And that's when I confessed my love for him. At first, I was afraid that I had ruined our friendship and that he didn't feel the same way, but to my surprise, he grabbed my face and kissed me.
"I love you too, Claire. I always have," Nick had said with a grin on his boyish face.
Hallelujah, I thought to myself.
"Promise you won't forget about me once you become rich and famous?", I asked teasingly.
"I promise. I'll even tell Kaner you say hi once I meet him."
"Oh my gosh, you will?! Schneider, you're honestly the best," I exclaimed, throwing my arms around Nick.
After all, Patrick Kane was my favorite Blackhawk. I'd only met him once before a game back in tenth grade, and that was the day he had signed my jersey.
"I know I am, Delaney," he said with a smirk.
That night, Nick and a few of his college buddies went out to celebrate at a club downtown. I had decided to stay home and spend time with my family even though he had begged me to come with him.
It was eleven as I was getting ready for bed when the home phone rang. I ran to the kitchen to answer it, wondering who could possibly be calling at this hour.
"Hello?", I spoke.
"Claire? It's me. You have to come here now."
I recognized the voice as Nick's mom, but why on earth did she sound so nervous and panicky?
"Mrs. Schneider? What are you talking about? Go where?"
"The hospital. Nick...h-he's been in an accident," she replied, her voice trembling.
"Oh my god," I gasped, dropping the phone.
A half hour later, I was at Fairview Hospital in the ER, dressed in my pjs.
The doctor explained that Nick and his friends had gotten into a car accident due to a drunk driver on their way back from the club. What caused me to sink even deeper was the fact that most of the damage was on the driver's side...where Nick had sat.
According to the doctor and nurses, he had the smallest chance of surviving. His injuries were too serious and there was little they could do. And that's when I began to lose it.
"How can you possibly say that?! You're just going to let him die like this?!", I lashed out at the medical staff.
"Miss, I'm sorry to say it, but your friend has lost too much blood," the doctor said calmly.
"So his friends get to live but he doesn't?"
"I'm afraid that's going to be the case."
My lips began to quiver as tears flooded my eyes and I rushed to the nearest chair. I completely broke down, the pain and grief consuming me.
I wished for all of this to be a nightmare and that I'd wake up eventually. But it was as real as the salty taste of my tears.
When I finally was able to regain my composure, I headed back to the hallway and asked to see Nick.
The doctor led me to his room, located at the end of the hall on the left. My mom and dad were already in there, seeking to comfort his parents.
"We should probably leave you two alone for a bit," Nick's dad spoke, looking at me and then his son, who was lying on the bed.
"Thank you," I said quietly, giving him and his wife a hug before they all left.
I pulled out a chair and sat down besides Nick, observing his facial features. I did my best to avoid glancing at his torso and lower body, which were severely wounded.
There was no doubt that he had been the best-looking guy in our high school class. The girls were always crazy about him. I still remembered how strikingly handsome he looked at our prom last year.
Not only that, but Nick was the kindest, most thoughtful guy I'd ever met. He would always be the first person I went to if anything was wrong.
He also had a sense of leadership, hence why he was the captain of the boys' hockey team back in high school. I bet Nick would've made a great captain for the Hawks too if he'd gotten the chance.
I took his hand in mine and stroked it with my thumb, wishing that he would open his eyes so I could look into those mesmerizing hazel orbs one last time.
I began to shut my tired eyelids when I heard a muffled cough coming from Nick.
"Nick, can you hear me?!", I quickly exclaimed, stroking his pale, lifeless face with the palm of my hand.
"Please say something," I pleaded.
He coughed some more, barely holding on. But he was still alive. For now.
"Listen to me. I'm so grateful to have had you in my life and no matter what happens, you'll always be my best friend...and I'll never stop loving you," I said gently, placing a kiss on his forehead.
"Claire?", I heard him moan.
Oh thank God.
"Shh. I'm right here," I whispered, stroking his hand reassuringly.
"I-I want you to keep my draft jersey. So that you'll never forget me," he spoke, his voice barely audible.
"Nick, I will never forget you. Just please, don't leave me," I begged, my body shaking as I cried.
"I love you," he whispered before everything went silent.
Nick Schneider died that night in my arms, at the young age of nineteen. The drunk driver guilty of killing him had taken away his hopes and dreams of becoming the pro hockey player that he was supposed to be.
And because of that guy, I had also lost the love of my life. Oh how I prayed that he'd rot in hell for an eternity for what he did.
My world just wasn't the same after Nick left, and there wasn't a single day that I didn't think about him. His funeral had been the saddest day of my life, and I'd never forget it.
I kept his Blackhawks jersey in a box and whenever I missed him, I'd take it out, reminiscing about the memories of the day he first put it on.
It had been three years since Nick's death that summer. College was going well for me. In fact, I would be receiving my bachelor's degree in business this coming spring.
On a different note, my dad's company was becoming extremely successful, and he even managed to get a partnership deal with this other hotel company that was based in California. Weston Hotel Group was its name. I heard that the owner was quite young too, in his early 20s or something.
Unfortunately, my poor father wasn't able to live to see the day his company reached success around the globe. He suffered a major heart attack on Christmas Day and passed away. My older brother, Justin, became the new CEO of Delaney Corp. shortly after.
Why were all the people I loved and cared about leaving me? First Nick, now my father?
My mother went through an emotional breakdown for months and as for me, let's say my life turned into hell. Just when I thought that I was going to get my bachelor's, I was forced to drop out of college.
Apparently, while he was still alive, my father had plans to marry me off to the owner of Weston Hotel Group once I turned twenty-two, so that both companies would maintain their partnership. And the marriage was also supposed to prevent any competition between them.
I was absolutely outraged. For god's sake, I had a bright future planned for myself! And getting married was definitely not a part of it! How could my father do this to me? Did he even love me?
The night before my wedding in California, since that was where my husband-to-be lived, I lied in bed, crying for hours as I thought about how horrible my life was about to become.
I had only met Derek Weston once, but already, I could tell that I'd hate him. Who even cared if he was good-looking?
It was then that I wished I could've been up in heaven with Nick because honestly, what was the point of living when I'd lost everything?
A/N- Remember to favorite and comment!