Derek and I were sitting at Richard Walker's Pancake house having breakfast after our long run. Like always, I had ordered a giant plate of apple pancakes.
"I get why you and Charlotte go here all the time now. This tastes like heaven in my mouth," he remarked.
"I bet. It sure looks good," I said, practically drooling at the sight of the Santa Fe omelet on his plate.
"Do you want to try some?", he offered. I eagerly nodded my head.
Derek held his fork up, and I opened my mouth as he fed me a piece of the omelet. I moaned in delight, letting my senses indulge in the delicious taste of it.
"Holy shit, that is one good omelet," I commented.
"You can have some more if you want."
"No, that's alright."
I didn't want my husband to think that I was a pig. I mean, I've already eaten way more than him.
When we were finished with our food, the waitress came back to give us the bill. Ever since Derek first walked into the restaurant, she hadn't been able to take her eyes off of him. I didn't blame her. After all, my husband was quite the sight for any woman.
On our way home, we stopped by his office downtown so he could pick up some papers that he needed to fill out for Monday. He truly was a busy guy. Even on weekends, he'd have work to do.
That night, I'd just finished taking a shower while Derek was in his room doing whatever it was he normally did in there. I snuggled under my blanket and watched some TV since I wasn't quite sleepy yet.
When it started to get late, I decided to go to bed. I attempted to fall asleep, but for some reason, I just couldn't. It was weird because my body was truly craving sleep right now, too.
I kept tossing and turning and eventually, I got up and went to stand outside on my balcony for a little bit. Maybe it was fresh air that I needed.
What I enjoyed most about living high up on the mountain was the stunning view I had of everything below.
Lights from neighboring houses illuminated the otherwise dark valley and hills. In the distance, I could make out downtown San Diego's tall, lit-up buildings and the outline of Coronado Bridge. The ocean was calm and tranquil, reflecting the stars above as they twinkled brightly in the night sky.
I could stay out here forever if I had to...
A couple minutes later, it began to get slightly chilly so I headed back inside. After shutting the balcony door completely, I walked over to my bed, adjusting the pillows to see if that'd help me to fall asleep before lying back down.
An hour passed and I was still wide awake. My bed seemed strangely empty all of a sudden, and I felt this longing in my chest that I couldn't quite describe.
I realized then that it was Derek I needed. The memories of last night when he was holding me in his arms as he sought to comfort me flooded my mind, and at that moment, I longed to feel his presence next to me. That was the only way I could fall asleep.
I got out of bed and walked to my husband's room at the other end of the hall. His light turned off right when I was about to knock on the door, which he had left ajar.
"Claire, is that you?", his voice called out.
Crap, he'd heard me.
I slowly opened the door the rest of the way and stepped inside Derek's room. He was lying on his bed wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.
"Um, can I sleep here tonight?", I mumbled timidly.
"Why?", he asked, raising an eyebrow.
I could feel my cheeks start to burn, and I mentally scolded myself for even coming in here. What was I thinking?
"I'm just messing with you," Derek said with a teasing smile, patting the empty space next to him.
I breathed a sigh of relief and crawled into his bed. He pulled me close to his chest, the scent of his aftershave and musk-scented body wash intoxicating my senses.
God, he smelled so good.
"You should probably just sleep here with me from now on. I get lonely sometimes," Derek mumbled as he nuzzled my hair, inhaling deeply.
"I do too," I admitted, feeling my cheeks flush.
"And besides, aren't husbands and wives supposed to share the same bed?"
"Um...I guess," I said dumbly. I heard him chuckle.
He looked down at me and smiled before placing a kiss on the tip of my nose. I immediately felt my insides churning oh-so-sweetly as I nestled closer to his chest.
"Mmm, you feel so soft and cuddly," Derek breathed.
"Mm-hmm. Like a teddy bear."
His face suddenly lit up like a child that had just received their Christmas presents.
"What's the matter?", I asked him.
"Nothing. I just came up with the greatest nickname for you," he replied, his blue eyes sparkling.
"Claire-Bear. Because your name is Claire and you're cuddly like a teddy bear," he said with a huge grin, and I laughed at my husband's adorable and kiddish behavior.
We both lay there in silence, and I slowly began drifting off to sleep when the sound of Derek's voice woke me back up.
"What's your family like?"
I glanced up at him and saw that he was still wide awake. His eyes didn't look the least bit tired, which was definitely not the case for me. But if he wanted to talk, then I guessed I would, too.
"Well, you already know that I have a mother and older brother...and a father that passed away."
"Yeah. I'm sorry about his loss by the way," Derek said sympathetically.
"I wanna know more about your father. I've met him on several of my business trips in the past, and he seemed like a very interesting man."
"Well, first of all, he was born and raised in Australia," I began.
"Yeah, I could definitely tell by his accent," Derek remarked as his fingers played with my hair. "Have you been there before?"
"Yes. It's a very lovely country."
"I bet. Anyways, continue."
"Alright. So, the year my father graduated from college, he went to visit California with a few of his closest friends. And there, he met my mother, Elizabeth, who was still studying for her master's at UCSD. 'It was love at first sight', she had told me.
"When my dad flew back to Australia, he kept in touch with her through phone calls, and they even wrote letters to each other."
"What happened then?", Derek asked, his eyes lighting up with pure interest.
"Once my mother finished college, she flew over to Australia to stay with him for a couple of months. During that time, he proposed to her, and they had a huge wedding in Melbourne.
"Eventually, my mother became homesick and couldn't stand to be away from her family that lived here in the US. So, you know what my father did then?"
"Did he move to California to be with her?", Derek hinted.
"Yes. He loved her so much that he was willing to live halfway across the world from his parents," I replied.
"Wow." He was in utter awe.
"I know right? I always hoped that one day, someone would love me as much as my dad loved my mother."
"But anyways, he got a job right away here in San Diego and soon, my brother was born. Then two years later, they had me. However, we had to move to Minnesota once I turned three because of my dad's work."
"Oh, I see," Derek remarked.
"His boss told him that he had the potential to start his own business. So he did. And who knew it'd ever become this huge?
"But he passed away before he could even see the grand opening of his newest hotel in London. It had been one of his biggest achievements, too," I said, feeling my eyes begin to water.
"I remember hearing about Mark's death. Ashley was the one that had told me. She'd been watching the news. But man, the fact that he died on Christmas? That's terrible," Derek spoke.
"I know. I became a total mess. I-I even thought about taking my own life that night." My voice was shaking and barely reached a whisper.
"I felt like I had nothing else to live for. Nick was gone, and now my father, too. But I kept reminding myself that I still had my mom and brother. I couldn't just leave when they needed me to be there with them after a tragedy like that," I said.
Derek had a solemn expression on his face once I'd finished talking, and he cupped his hand under my chin as I looked into his sad blue eyes.
"How could God put you through all of that? No one ever deserves to suffer like this, especially you, Claire," he spoke quietly.
"I guess you just have to accept whatever life throws at you," I sighed deeply.
"You're a tough woman, you know that?" He was gazing at me in pure admiration. I smiled at him and ran my fingers through his thick, dark hair.
Holy crap, it was softer than I even imagined.
"Enough about me. So, what's your family like?", I asked, propping myself up on one elbow. Hopefully, Derek could change the mood of our conversation.
His face suddenly grew tense and he exhaled sharply.
"Well for one thing, my parents didn't love each other like yours did."
Uh-oh, this wasn't going to be a happy story.
"What do you mean?"
"Can't we talk about this some other time?" Derek seemed hesitant for some reason.
"No. I already told you everything about my family. It's only fair if you do the same," I insisted.
"My family isn't perfect like you probably think it is," he murmured, his lips pressed in a hard line.
"I don't care, Derek. Just go on."
"Fine....You know my mother, right?"
"Ah, Heather. I absolutely adore her." My voice was laced with sarcasm. Derek ignored my comment and continued.
"Back when I was growing up, she'd always go out and get drunk with a bunch of her girlfriends. And when she came home, she'd say the cruelest things to me and my dad.
"I don't even remember how many times I encountered her sleeping with these strangers in the bedroom that she and my dad shared. It seemed like she'd bring home a different guy every night. My dad found out eventually though, and it tore him apart."
"Oh my god...," I gasped in shock, my mouth twisting into a grimace.
"Although he was constantly at work, my father had always been more of a mother to me than Heather ever was. She treated the both of us like crap. I mean, can you believe that during the eighteen years I lived with her, she never even told me once that she loved me?
"Sometimes, I wished that I had a sibling, but thinking back to my childhood, I'm glad I didn't. I wouldn't want them to go through what I had to."
Derek frowned and I could see the pain in his eyes. I was at a complete loss for words as my heart began to ache for him and his father. I felt so sorry for the both of them.
Who knew Heather used to be like that? And god, just thinking about her sleeping with a bunch of guys while her husband and son were still around made me feel sick.
"Was she always like that?", I asked.
"No. Later on in life, she became mentally unstable and suffered from major depression. She had to see a psychologist for a long period of time, and fortunately, she's gotten better since then.
"But to this day, my mom still hates herself for being a terrible wife and mother and everything else she's done in the past."
"Why didn't your father ever divorce her?", I remarked. Derek sighed.
"He had hope for their relationship and that one day, she'd become a good person. Well luckily, she is now, except for the fact that she still tends to be really rude.
"Usually, my father and I just let her say whatever she wants because we don't want her to feel more ashamed than she already is of herself."
Derek gave me a knowing glance and at that moment, it clicked in my brain why he'd said that his mother was sensitive that night when we were having dinner. She literally was. Everything made perfect sense now.
"You know, my whole life, all I've tried to do is show my mom that I didn't need her from the start in order to become successful.
"She was always calling me a failure back then. I worked so hard to build up my career, just to prove her wrong. And I wanted her to be proud of me, too," Derek said as his eyes gazed up at the ceiling.
"I guarantee you that she's extremely proud of you. I mean, look at you, you've managed to become a multimillionaire at the age of twenty-four," I remarked, lying back down next to him.
We were both silent, and I could feel the calm breeze blowing through the balcony window. It felt like an eternity until Derek finally spoke again.
"I don't know why I'm always saying that my mom wasn't much of a wife to my father when there's me. Hell, I've barely even acted like a husband ever since we got married.
"But believe me, Claire, I'm trying. I want to be someone that you can trust and who'll always be there for you. I just need you to give me a chance to show you that I can be the husband that you deserve." His tone was thick with remorse.
"Oh, Derek, of course I will," I breathed as I reached out to smooth the wrinkles on his forehead.
He grabbed my hand and kissed it before wrapping his arms around my body, pulling me tight against his bare chest.
"You have no idea how thankful I am that you didn't take away your life that night," Derek whispered, his blue eyes gazing intensely into my brown ones.
"Why is that?"
"I wouldn't have gotten to be with you like we are right now."
Ok, Derek was seriously going to make me cry.
I couldn't form any words in my head at that moment, so instead, I kissed him tenderly on the cheek. He exhaled deeply as I let my lips linger on his face for a moment before backing away.
"We should probably go to sleep now. It's really late," I murmured, closing my eyes.
Derek let out a massive yawn and then soon, the both of us drifted into a peaceful sleep.
I had always thought that I knew exactly the type of person my husband was, but until tonight, I'd had no idea that underneath all of the wealth, power, and good looks, lay a man with a wounded past, whose mother had failed to provide him with the love and affection that every child deserved.
The fact that Derek and I had been able to open up to each other about the rough events we've both been through in our lives had made me realize one thing- our relationship was finally deepening.
A/N- Well, there you have it- Derek's own little sob story. It sure gave us more background on his mother that we all hate so much. On a different note, Claire and her husband are finally going to sleep in the same room. That's definitely a step up from before. Like always, remember to favorite and comment!