The first thing that came to mind when I woke up the following morning was the fact that it was Friday- which meant that I'd finally get to hang out with my best friend, Charlotte Decker.
A smile grew on my face as I got out of bed, but it disappeared as soon as I saw Nick's jersey lying there. Before putting it away, I sat down and said my prayers for him, fighting the urge to cry. I still couldn't believe that it had already been three years since that tragic day.
I glanced at my alarm clock and realized that I only had an hour to get ready. Charlotte and I were planning on having breakfast together and then go shopping til we dropped.
I met her my first year of college at one of the football games. She was a really funny and outgoing person, and we instantly bonded. I guessed the quote, "Every brunette needs a blonde best friend," held true to every girl. Well, for me at least.
Last month, Charlotte received her bachelor's in finance and then immediately got a job offer downtown at Wells Fargo. I wasn't surprised. After all, she was a pretty intelligent girl. In fact, she and I had been in the top five of our class my last year at Stanford.
Following their graduation, Charlotte and her boyfriend of two years, Elliot, went on a trip to Paris for one week. Then afterwards, they flew to Germany and spent another three weeks there with her aunt. She just came back home a few days ago.
Since the weather looked warm and promising today, I decided to wear a strapless white summer dress with my favorite pair of tan-colored wedges. I left my hair in a ponytail and put on some mascara before heading out of my room.
My parents and friends had always told me that my brown eyes were my best feature. "With those beauties, you'll never need to put on eyeshadow," my mother used to say.
And according to Nick, my eyes "sparkled" whenever I smiled. I mean, how is that even possible? It's not like they're made of diamonds or anything.
I grabbed my keys from the kitchen counter then went to the garage, which to me looked more like a car dealership because of how spacious it was. I drove a silver Mercedes Benz c250 sports sedan, and I loved it like the child I'd never have.
My father had given it to me on my eighteenth birthday as a gift. Before that, I just drove a Chevy Malibu. I would never forget that old Chevy. It was my first car, one that I had bought with my own savings.
When the day came for me to sell it, I was pretty sad. But I just kept reminding myself that I had a new Mercedes waiting for me back home.
Now don't even get me started on my husband's cars. He owns four- a Cadillac Escalade, Range Rover, BMW i8, and Ford F-150 truck. He mostly drives the Range Rover, though.
I mean seriously, is it really necessary for one person to have four freaking cars?
At least Lamborghinis and Ferraris weren't on the list. I asked him once why he didn't have one, and he told me that he was never that crazy about them like other guys were. Personally, I always found those cars to be ridiculously expensive and overrated myself.
Finally, something Derek and I shared in common.
It was nine thirty by the time I arrived at Richard Walker's Pancake House. I spotted Charlotte sitting at one of the tables and she motioned for me to come over.
"Hey, girlie!", she greeted cheerfully, giving me a huge hug.
"Welcome home, Char! I've missed you so much."
"Tell me about it. Here, sit down. I already ordered for us."
"Two plates of apple pancakes?"
"You bet," she replied with a wink.
Charlotte and I always ordered that whenever we came here. This was our favorite breakfast place in all of San Diego. The restaurant itself looked like a five-star hotel on the inside, but it was quite inexpensive. And the food was to die for.
"So, how was Paris and Germany?", I asked her eagerly.
"Oh my god, Paris was absolutely breathtaking. Here, I'll show you the pictures. And them French boys though...talk about sex appeal," she said, pretending to fan herself.
"Oh, Char," I chided, laughing at her as the both of us went through the photos she had taken on her phone.
"And Germany was so cool, too. I loved the Berlin Wall and Heidelberg Castle. Elliot- being the athlete that he is- completely freaked when we went to Olympic Stadium. I admit, it's pretty impressive."
"Sounds like you two had a great time," I remarked with a smile. I sometimes envied her for getting to be with the man of her dreams. It reminded me of what Nick and I used to be like.
"It was better than great, trust me. Oh, and before I forget, I got you a little something while I was in Munich," she said, handing me a small silver bag.
"Aww thanks, Char."
"No problem. So, what have you and Mr. Grumpy-Sexypants been up to?"
I burst out laughing and choked on my water the second those words left her mouth.
"What type of nickname is that?!", I exclaimed.
"Well, it's true. Derek is super sexy, but he's also a grumpy old oaf. You combine the two and that's what you get," she explained matter-of-factly.
God, this girl was killing me.
"He's not even that sexy. And to answer your question, nothing. You know the man hates my guts."
"Oh come on, you're exaggerating. Who could possibly hate a pretty thang like you?"
And this, ladies and gents, is exactly why Charlotte Decker is my best friend.
"Well for one thing, he acts like I don't even exist. And two, he's rude and bossy," I said.
"Um, I think that was three things. 'Rude' and 'bossy' are two already," Charlotte corrected.
"You get the point. I mean, I know it's his job to act bossy 'cause he's a CEO, but couldn't he at least act a bit nicer to me?"
"Derek may seem all cold on the outside, but inside, I bet he's hopelessly in love with you."
I swore, Charlotte had alcohol this morning...
"Ooh look, our food's here," she blurted, directing her attention to our waiter, who was carrying the pancakes.
"Derek is a-,"
"Yummy, it looks delicious!"
"Will you listen to-!,"
I gave up.
Nine hours later, Charlotte and I were heading back to our cars, each of us with over eight shopping bags in our hands. We had spent the entire day at La Jolla Beach and then went to Westfield UTC to buy a ton of clothes and jewelry.
"Ugh, I don't think I'll ever be able to walk again," I groaned.
"Says the girl that used to play hockey and runs a mile everyday," Charlotte added with a teasing smile.
"Yeah, but you don't run in wedges. God, I really should've worn flip flops today."
"But you look cute. I don't know about you, but as long as my shoes look good on me, then I don't care how much they hurt."
"I'd much prefer comfort," I stated.
Charlotte suddenly stopped walking then turned to face me. Her face lit up as if something exciting had just popped into her head.
"You got any plans after this?", she asked.
"Let's go clubbing tonight!", she exclaimed with a squeal, grabbing my arm as she dragged me over to my car.
"But I'm so tired!", I protested.
"You won't be when we get there. Now go home and make yourself look hot. I'll come by and pick you up at nine."
She didn't even give me a chance to speak before rushing towards her car. I laughed to myself as I watched her stumble in her heels. Oh Char...
The idea of going to the club suddenly didn't seem so bad. I mean, what else was there for me to do at home besides get scolded by my husband?
I left all my bags in the trunk then drove back home, avoiding the traffic by taking an inner road that Derek had shown me once. He knew this entire state inside and out. I pretty much did myself too, since I used to go to college up in northern California and would always drive down South to visit the beaches.
As soon as I got home, I went to take a shower then changed into a black dress. It was tight and reached mid-thigh, emphasizing all of my curves and tan legs. But my favorite part about the dress was its sweetheart neckline, which was sparkly silver.
I curled my hair and left it down, then applied some mascara, lipstick, and eyeshadow. To finish it all off, I put on my new pair of black heels that I had just bought earlier today.
The doorbell rang at exactly nine and I headed downstairs to open it for Charlotte. She was always on time, and that was another thing I loved about her.
"All set? My, you look smokalicious," she complimented when she saw me, nodding with approval.
"Right back atcha. Where'd you get that dress?", I asked her.
"Elliot bought it for me a few months ago."
"Oh, no wonder it's a bit on the 'low' side," I said jokingly. Charlotte immediately looked down at her chest.
"Is it that bad?"
"Not at all. You look great," I assured. I especially loved her makeup because it brought out her deep blue eyes.
"Thanks. Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go!"
We got to the club downtown called, Stingaree, forty minutes later. I had only been here once with Charlotte last year during our spring break. It was one of the more high-end clubs in San Diego.
After presenting our IDs, we headed inside, hearing Calvin Harris's, Summer, blare through the bass speakers. Everyone was dancing and having a good time, the atmosphere wild and entertaining.
"You want anything to drink first?", Charlotte asked me.
"Sure," I replied.
We walked over to the bar and each ordered a shot of tequila. I usually never drank alcohol, but tonight, I'd let loose for a change. I wasn't planning on getting drunk though.
Once the liquid reached my throat, my face scrunched up and Charlotte laughed. Unlike me, she was a pro at drinking. Between the both of us, she'd always been the party girl.
"We should go dance now!", I yelled over the loud music.
"Good idea! We can get more drinks later!"
Charlotte and I headed onto the dance floor and right away, I could feel everyone's eyes on us. There was a group of college-aged guys in particular that wouldn't stop looking in our direction.
At that moment, my favorite song came on and I began dancing to the music, letting my hips move freely as I felt hot, sweaty bodies all around me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the guys from earlier approach us. Even though it was dark, I could tell that they were all extremely attractive, especially the tall blonde one.
"Hey, wanna dance?"
Of course Mr. Blondie would be the one to ask me. Could this day possibly get any better?
"Sure," I replied with a smile.
As we danced, he and I also had a steady conversation. Apparently, his name was Dustin and he had just finished his fifth year of engineering at UCLA. He played football, too.
"So, what do you say we heat things up a bit?", he spoke huskily into my ear as I felt both of his hands on my hips.
I immediately thought of Derek and although he and I weren't exactly close, he was still my husband. And cheating on him by grinding with some hot college dude was definitely against my morals.
"Dustin, I can't," I declined, removing his hands from my waist before turning around to look up at him.
"Why not, babe?"
"I'm married," I stated, showing him the diamond ring on my finger.
"Whoa, what?! You look like twenty, though. Isn't that a bit young to get married?", he asked with a stunned expression.
"Twenty-two. And yeah, I know. But it happens, right?"
"Um...I guess? Hey, how about we go get something to drink then?", Dustin offered.
"Ok," I replied with a smile. He smiled back, revealing his perfectly straight teeth. Man, this guy was a killer.
We weaved around a bunch of people then headed to the bar. I ordered a Margarita and Dustin had some vodka.
I realized that I hadn't seen Charlotte for a while, but then immediately located her on the other side of the counter. She gave me a wave before resuming her conversation with one of the other college guys.
"So, who's the lucky dude that gets to be your husband?", Dustin asked with a cheeky grin. I couldn't help but blush.
"His name is Derek Weston. You probably don't know him."
"You're married to that guy?! Isn't he the owner of some giant hotel company?", he exclaimed in disbelief.
"Yeah. So you do know him."
"Hell, everyone in this state does. My ex used to have this insane crush on him, too. Wow, so you're, like, famous almost."
"Not really," I said with a modest smile.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Is he as good in bed as all the girls say? I heard he used to sleep with a different model every night."
Dustin had just taken the word, 'surprise', to a whole new level.
"Um, can we change the topic?", I asked, feeling extremely uncomfortable.
So Derek was a playboy. I knew it...
"Sorry, I couldn't help it. I was just really curious. So, did you watch the draft yesterday?", he asked nonchalantly with a grin.
The hours flew by and before I knew it, the time had become one in the morning. To be honest, I liked talking to Dustin a lot. He and I had a lot in common, especially when it came to sports. He was also a huge hockey fan, too.
"Well, I should probably go find my friend now. It was really nice getting to know you," I told him.
"I had a great time, too. I'll see you around, Claire."
Once Dustin left, I began my search for Charlotte. When I couldn't find her at the bar, I went back on to the dance floor. And just like I had suspected, there she was, grinding with a bunch of guys.
"Char!", I called, making my way over to her.
"Oh, hey Claire!", she slurred.
"We need to go home," I stated with disapproval, dragging her away from everyone.
"But I was dancing!", she protested with a whine.
"You're drunk! And don't forget, you have Elliot," I reminded her in a serious tone. At the mention of her boyfriend's name, Charlotte immediately got herself together.
"Oh shit! Promise me you won't tell him about tonight? You know how much I love him. Please, Claire," she begged.
"I won't. Now give me your keys, I'll drive. 'Cause you can't, obviously."
We took the long way back to my house so that Charlotte could have some time to sober up. By the time we reached my neighborhood, it was past two.
"You sure you can drive?", I asked her once we were parked in my driveway.
"Positive. Besides, I only live, like, ten minutes away from you."
I looked towards the giant house and noticed that one of the lights was still on inside. Was Derek awake? Hopefully not.
Charlotte gave me a hug and I watched as she drove off before making my way up the steps to the porch. I was still digging for the house keys in my purse when the front door suddenly swung open, scaring the living daylights out of me.
Derek stood there, still in his suit from work, and he did not look happy.
A/N- First of all, I NEED a friend like Charlotte in my life. And second, what do you guys think will happen in the next chapter between Claire and Derek?