Chapter 17- CloserMature

My eyes fluttered open at the feeling of the cool, ocean breeze as it blew through my hair, slightly tickling my face. I brushed a strand away with my hand then heard a low groan coming from behind me.

"Go back to sleep," Derek mumbled, his warm breath fanning my neck.

I was lying on my side with my back facing him. His arm was slipped around my waist, pressing me to his firm chest.

Holy crap, we were practically spooning, I thought to myself as my body began to do all sorts of things. And I couldn't help the face-splitting grin that was forming on my lips either.

It was an indescribable feeling waking up next to my husband. I felt so content and safe in his arms. I'd never shared a bed with any guy before, not even Nick, so this was all new to me.

"No, I'm already awake." I sighed, stretching both of my arms before turning around so that I was facing Derek.

His dark brown hair was all tousled up, making him look even sexier. I suddenly had an urge to run my fingers through it, just to see if it was as soft as it looked.

Ok, now I was just being plain creepy.

Moments later, Derek's eyes finally opened and he gave me a swoon-worthy smile, revealing his perfectly straight, white teeth.

"Good morning," he said.

Damn, he had a sexy morning voice.

"Did you sleep well?", I asked. He nodded in response.

"You know, I think that was the best time I'd ever slept in months," he remarked, propping himself up on one elbow as he gazed down at me.

"Me too," I agreed.

"That's good. Oh, and I forgot to ask you about how the Padres game went last night. Did they win?"

"Yup. Charlotte was beyond ecstatic," I said, laughing lightly.

"And what about you?"

"I was happy, too. I've never really been a fan of baseball, though," I replied.

"Why not? It's probably one of my favorite sports besides football."

"There isn't any action. It's just so...boring."

Derek looked at me like I was some foreign ape from outer space and began to shake his head in mock disapproval.

"You don't know what you're talking about," he chided. I playfully rolled my eyes at him.

"Oh puh-lease, hockey games are so much better."

"Of course you'd say that. What is it with you Minnesotans and your hockey obsessions?", he teased. I pretended to clear my throat before speaking.

"Well first of all, we are the State of Hockey. And second, hockey is the greatest sport ever known to mankind. It requires a lot of skill, but man is it fun to play, especially when you get to be center like me."

Derek had a bemused expression on his face as he stared intently at me.

"When's the last time you went to an NHL game?"

"Three years ago."

"That long?" Derek's eyes widened in utter surprise. I slowly nodded my head.

"Yeah, it was two weeks before Nick's death. He's the reason I don't go to hockey games anymore. I'm afraid that if I step foot inside any ice rink, it'd bring back too many sad memories.

"You know, he was also the one that had encouraged me to play in the first place," I said quietly, feeling the familiar ache in my chest that I knew all too well.

Derek furrowed his brows in worry and reached out to touch my chin, lifting it up so that our eyes made contact.

"Claire, you have no idea how much it hurts me to see you like this. I know it's tough to lose someone you love, but I'll help you get through it.

"And who knows how long it'll take? But just promise me that you'll never keep all the pain and sadness to yourself. I'm always here to talk if you need me, ok?", he spoke gently.

"Ok," I whispered, burying my face in his chest as I wrapped my arms around him.

He hugged me back, brushing his lips against my hair, and we just lay there like that, all curled up in each other's bodies.

Eventually, I glanced over at my alarm clock and saw that it was only eight-thirty. I still had plenty of time to go jogging before it got too sunny.

"I'm gonna get up now," I said to Derek as I felt him slide his arms off of me.

"You going for a jog?", he asked.

"Yeah. Do you wanna come, too?"

"Sure. I haven't ran in quite a while, so this should be interesting," he replied with a lopsided grin.

We both got out of bed and Derek went back to his own room to change. It wasn't quite that warm this morning, so I decided to put on a pair of black Under Armour leggings and my favorite hot pink Lululemon zip-up hoodie.

I tied my hair up in a ponytail after brushing my teeth then headed downstairs to grab two bottles of water. Derek was already waiting in the garage when I got there, wearing a pair of athletic shorts and a gray Nike hoodie.

"Do you wanna drive over to La Jolla or run in the neighborhood?", he asked.

"Ooh, La Jolla does sound pretty nice right now."

"We'll go there then. And you know what else is nice?"

"What?"

"Your leggings. You've got a pretty impressive ass," he said with a smirk, and indeed, his eyes were glued to my behind.

"Ugh, you perv!", I scolded, slapping his shoulder. But inside, I could feel my inner goddess beaming.

"You have no idea, babe. Now come on, let's go."

What the hell was that supposed to mean? And did he just call me 'babe'?

Instead of getting into the Range Rover like we normally would, Derek walked over to the other side of the garage where his sleek silver BMW i8 was parked.

He unlocked the doors, and they swung upward while I just stood there gaping with unblinking eyes.

Holy shit, that was so cool.

I'd never ridden inside his BMW before, but it hands down had to be one of the hottest sports cars I'd ever seen. Both sides of the exterior had a thin blue streak near the bottom, giving it a signature look.

I couldn't even begin to imagine how much it had cost- definitely over a hundred grand at least.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Hop in," I heard Derek say.

I couldn't help but let out a little squeal as I climbed into the passenger seat, my eyes roaming over every inch of the luxurious interior. It was practically a sex god on wheels.

Just like your husband- only he doesn't have wheels, my subconscious chimed in. I immediately dismissed it.

Derek pressed the 'start' button and the car roared to life. Before I knew it, we were speeding on I-5 with the windows all the down and the radio blasting. I leaned back in the plush leather seat and inhaled the fresh California air. 

Man, this was the life.

"Having fun over there?", Derek asked cheerfully.

"You bet. God, I love this car so much," I sighed.

"I know right?" He grinned.

Derek pressed down further on the accelerator, and that's when I began to feel on edge. We were really moving now. Out of curiosity, I glanced over at the speedometer, and my eyes immediately bulged open.

"You're going ninety miles an hour?!", I exclaimed in horror.

"Do you have a problem with that?" He raised an eyebrow.

"Yes! The speed limit is only seventy!"

Derek rolled his eyes and then began to slow down.

"There, you happy now?"

I huffed, crossing my arms in front of my chest as I glared at him.

"You could've been pulled over by a cop or worse, we could've gotten into a fucking accident!"

Was my husband honestly that stupid?

At the mention of the word, 'accident', Derek's face instantly grew serious, and he looked over at me apologetically.

"I'm sorry, Claire," he mumbled, resting his hand on my thigh.

"It's fine," I said with a heavy sigh.

I placed my hand on top of his and he interlaced our fingers. The gesture made me calm down, and I managed to give him a small smile.

A couple minutes later, we arrived at La Jolla. Everyone that was either driving or walking past us paused to catch a glimpse of Derek's insane car.

He was probably used to getting that type of attention wherever he went. I, on the other hand, preferred to avoid the spotlight as much as possible. But ever since I became his wife, that definitely hadn't been the easiest thing to do.

After driving around for a bit, Derek found a spot to park the car and then we headed down to the beach. The sound of the waves crashing against the rocks filled the air, getting louder as the wind began to pick up.

While we were running, I saw a bride and groom up ahead taking wedding pictures by the shore. The seagulls were flying all around them as the palm trees swayed back and forth in the distance. It was absolutely beautiful.

Derek was also looking at them as well, and we both decided to stop to catch our breaths for a moment.

"Man, that was a good workout," I remarked breathlessly, wiping off the sweat from my face.

"Yeah. How much did we run?" Derek was bent over with his hands on his knees, his breath coming out in pants.

"Three miles."

"Damn, that's a lot."

He took his hoodie off and threw it over his shoulder, directing his attention to the newlywed couple as he continued to stare at them with a wistful expression on his face.

"Do you remember what our wedding was like?", he asked.

"Not really."

I didn't want to tell my husband that all I remembered that day was how angry and upset I'd felt knowing that I had to spend the rest of my life with him. He'd been a complete stranger to me back then.

At the hotel reception, I'd avoided talking to him as much as I could, which had been easy to do since he hadn't paid any attention to me in the first place.

Like other brides, I got to wear a stunning white dress that day and I'd felt like the most beautiful woman on earth.

However, what separated me from them was that the fact that they were happy and in love with their groom. Unlike me, who had despised my husband and everything about him with a burning passion.

But now, I could feel myself growing closer to Derek. He was slowly getting under my skin, and I bet that with time, I'd maybe even begin to like him.

A/N- Ooh, things sure are looking good for our beloved Claire and her husband. Read on to see what happens next.

The End

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