The Boss’s Love –
Happy New Year
Takes place around 6 months after Taken Love.
Derrick Murphy stood over the cold grave site of his younger brother. Hands shoved into his black wool coat, he stared at the marker, melancholy. He missed his brother, especially as of late. He wasn’t sure why but something within him caused him to venture to the cemetery on a regular basis to stand in front of his brother and not say a word. Like today, allowing the bitter wind to whip around him, the silence of the cemetery to submerge him into memories of days when his brother had been alive. Not their younger days, but the time after college, when they’d both found their way in this world. Derrick as an attorney and Darren as the man who began an underworld empire that couldn’t be rivaled.
He pulled frigid air into his lungs, allowing the burn to wake him. He had been due home fifteen minutes ago. Courtney would soon become worried. He could guarantee a missed call on his phone awaited him in the SUV parked along the small road that wound throughout the silent tombstones. He lifted his head to the overcast sky, the snow storm due to hit the area tomorrow threatening the horizon. He glanced at this watch. Four forty-five. Guests for their annual New Year’s Eve party would be arriving in less than an hour. Their closest friends and family would be joining them to ring in yet another year.
Maybe that was his issue. Time moved so fast that Derrick couldn’t believe the number of years that had passed since his brother’s untimely death. Part of him feared he’d forget his brother.
He glanced at the grave site next to Darren, where his father was buried three months ago. He missed his dad. Maybe that was the issue. The only two men he’d been truly close to all his life had left him. The men that had been his core and strength and his world for so many years. His work ethic he got from his father. His empire, he inherited from his brother.
“Mr. Murphy, Mrs. Murphy is calling.” Smith’s quiet voice came from behind him.
“How many times?” His eyes didn’t leave his father’s tombstone.
“I’ll call her when I’m in the car,” he said.
Maybe that was the issue as well. He’d come too close to losing Courtney this past summer. Every time she undressed, the scar of the bullet hole on her body mocked him, evidence of how he was truly unable to fully protect her at all times. It seemed like only yesterday he’d been holding her bloody body in his arms, begging her to fight to stay alive. Her glassy eyes staring up at him with fear as her hands shook. Nightmares haunted him, waking him in a cold sweat, the feel of her life leaving her body too real in his dreams for even his subconscious state to handle.
He caught a whiff of cigarette smoke, Forester’s disgusting habit irritating him. “Tell Forester to either put out the cigarette or he’ll be walking home.”
Smith snickered. “All right.”
A moment later, a muffled curse and the slamming of the SUV door sounded behind him.
He didn’t know how much longer he stood graveside. Courtney wasn’t aware of how often he came here. He refused to confess that he missed his brother. Though he knew she did. She continued to murmur Darren’s name in her sleep at times, years after his death. Derrick was unsure how to handle that situation. She had no clue she called out to her first husband. Derrick didn’t want to upset her. He knew her reaction would be that she feared Derrick would think she didn’t love him. Derrick was fully aware she truly did. To her core. But a piece of her heart would always belong to his brother. Part of him resented that he would never be able to fill that void. Part of him never wanted Courtney to forget his brother. Though they had a reminder of his brother in little Caitlin, making it impossible for Darren to ever leave them. He saw so much of his brother in his daughter. From a little smile to the devious sparkle of her blue eyes.
Derrick sighed, turning and leaving his brother and father, again. He went to the SUV, where Smith patiently waited by the back door, opening it for him to slide inside. As soon as he was settled, he called his lovely wife.
“Are you all right?” Her demand didn’t shock him.
“I’m fine, sweetheart.” He sank back into the warmth of the heated leather seats.
He loved that his wife worried about him. If she ever didn’t, he would become concerned.
“Where are you?”
“I’m on my way home now. I should be there in fifteen minutes.” He refused to confess his pit stop.
She grew silent for a moment. “Was it business?”
“You know I will never discuss that topic with you.” His tone went stern.
Every now and then Courtney overstepped her bounds as a mob boss’s wife. He always had to nip that tendency.
She huffed, which was her expected reaction. “I’m just concerned. When you tell me you’re going to be home at a certain time, I expect you to arrive on time. You are not a man who likes to be late. So it makes me nervous.”
He couldn’t fault her. She was absolutely correct. Punctuality was a trait he relished. He loathed a late start or arrival to any scheduled plan. Whether it was a movie, dinner, or business meeting, he expected times to be strictly adhered to.
“I apologize. I lost track of time and left my phone in the car,” he said.
“Derrick, you’re not all right. Something’s wrong. What is it? You can talk to me.” Her voice went soft and shaky.
He opened his mouth, about to confess his recent visits to his brother but stopped. “There’s nothing I can’t handle, Courtney. You don’t need to worry about me. I’m fine.”
He couldn’t upset or stress her with his mood. Not tonight, when they were to ring in the new year with new hope, new resolutions, new ambitions.
She let out a small growl. “If that’s the way you want to play this, Mr. Murphy, then fine. Have it your way.”
He grinned. She really was his match and had come into her own over the past few years as his wife. God, he loved her and was thankful each and every day that she belonged to him.
“I’ll see you soon.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out the black velvet box that he’d picked up earlier in the day.
He disconnected the call and flipped open the lid of the box, admiring the ruby and diamond teardrop earrings that glistened off the interior lights. His wife deserved far more than jewels. Tonight, he was going to show her how much she actually meant to him.
Derrick laid an exhausted Caitlin in her bed, brushing her long chocolate brown hair off her forehead. She’d been too excited with the house full of people to go to sleep at a decent hour and managed to stay up with the adults. It was the one time a year that Courtney and Derrick allowed her to join them that late at night.
He left her pink bedroom, closing the door behind him, catching Russ carrying a passed out Daniel to his room. Derrick followed.
Russ gently laid Daniel in his race car bed and turned on the nightstand light. Derrick quietly approached the bed, leaned down and gave his son a kiss on the forehead. He covered him with blankets as Russ slid out of the room, leaving him to finish putting his son down for the night.
Derrick closed the door behind him and went to his and Courtney’s bedroom. Three in the morning and the majority of their guests were staying the night in spare rooms and on sofas and floors. They refused to allow anyone to drive home this evening. Especially when given a warning by a detective friend that the police were out in full force this evening, pulling over drivers. His attorney, Dan Turner, did not need that extra income earned. Derrick paid him well enough with other projects to handle.
He stepped into their room, pulling off his tie as he opened the door. Courtney stood with her back to him, looking out the bedroom window, the streetlamp glowing through the glass.
“It’s lightly snowing. It’s beautiful,” she said softly.
He shut the door and flipped the lock. Derrick went over to her, wrapping his arms around her slim waist, the feel of the white satin gown under his hands smooth and cool. He kissed her shoulder, where the spaghetti strap gave her no protection from the chill that radiated from the window pane.
“It is,” he agreed, watching the flurries settle on the front yard, covering the cars in the driveway and blanketing the street out front.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the velvet box. “For you, my love.”
“Derrick, you didn’t have to. You gave me so much at Christmas,” she breathed.
He gave her diamonds, like he did every year since they’d married. She deserved nothing less.
She opened the box and gasped.
“They’re beautiful.” Her voice caught in her throat.
He spun her to face him. “Let me see them on you.”
He helped pull them out of the box and handed her each one as she placed the stunning jewels in her ears. They shined, dangling off her ears brilliantly as she pulled back her blond hair. Derrick leaned down and kissed her on the lips, the connection he’d never get used to. A mere touch or embrace did him in when it came to her.
She stepped back, out of his reach, her eyes softening. “Tell me why you’ve been visiting Darren’s grave.”
He would have gaped in surprise, if he didn’t respect the hell out of the fact she found out his secret. Fucking Forester, who probably blabbed to Mackenzie about his visits. He made a mental note to address the man’s gossipy mouth.
Derrick straightened, his hands going into the pants of his pocket. He didn’t want to have this conversation with her. He didn’t want to spill his guts or bare his soul to her. That wasn’t him. He wasn’t a man who confessed his secrets to his wife. It was the opposite. She was to confide in him and he gave her support, as it should be. Not the opposite.
“Tell me,” she insisted.
He raised a brow at her order. She knew better. He was not told what to do, by anyone, including his beautiful wife.
“Derrick, why won’t you tell me?” Her voice wavered.
She squared her shoulder, as if preparing for battle. “I tell you everything. You’re my best friend, my lover, my husband, my soulmate. I don’t hesitate when something is bothering me to come to you. Yet, you deny me the position of your wife to give you the same in return. Am I not your best friend? Your lover? Your soulmate? If I’m not, then please tell me and I’ll do everything I can to rectify that.”
His eye twitched. Now came the dramatic Courtney. “You know better than that. You know very well that you’re my lover, my soulmate, my wife, my beating heart. Do not ever call that into question again.”
“Then tell me why?”
She wanted to know why, fine. “Because I almost lost you and would have had to bury you in the ground next to my brother. You have no idea how close you came to dying in my arms. You have no idea how much blood I had of yours literally dripping off my hands. You have no idea how much I fear that I will never be able to fully protect you and you’ll end up beside Darren for the rest of my days. I’m having a hard time dealing with it, Courtney. I wake up at night with visions of that day, you on the ground, a gaping hole in your chest. It rips me to shreds every single night.”
She gasped, her hand flying to her mouth. “Derrick, I had no idea. Why haven’t you said anything?”
He waved off the question.
She wagged a finger at him. “Don’t you dare do that to me. I’m your wife, not one of your minions.”
He arched a brow, considering the word. Minion? He liked the term.
She approached him, her hands sliding up his crisp, white Oxford shirt. “You didn’t lose me. You kept me alive.”
“How so?” His hands found their way to her waist, again.
“You were there, putting pressure on the wound to keep me from bleeding out. But more than anything, the thought of dying and leaving you, kept me alive. When I was looking at you, all I could think about was centering in on you, to keep me here, grounded. I needed to concentrate on you so I wouldn’t cave to the pain and darkness that wanted to swallow me. I didn’t want to leave you and the kids. My time with you isn’t close to being over and I wasn’t about to allow anyone to take that away from us. You, kept me alive,” she said vehemently.
His heart swelled at the pride that streamed through him. She was so incredibly tough inside. He didn’t necessarily buy her perspective but he refused to take it from her. If she felt that he saved her, so be it. He wouldn’t argue.
Derrick leaned down and kissed her on the forehead, pulling her into him, needing to hold her. She wrapped her arms around him, her warmth radiating off her body and through his clothing. He nestled his nose into her hair, closing his eyes, inhaling her intoxicating scent.
The snow came down a bit harder. The dark sky and quiet night reminding him of all that he had and all that he lost. The white blanket dusting was like a clean slate, showcasing the world at its most lovely and peaceful time. It was the Earth’s version of heaven. And it suddenly occurred to him, he hadn’t been the one to save Courtney. It had to have been his brother. His brother wouldn’t have allowed her to join him yet. His brother would have selflessly made sure she stayed with his daughter and Daniel and him. That had to be why he’d felt the need to go to Darren’s grave for the past months. Darren had been there that day. It made perfect sense. Courtney’s glassy eyes hadn’t been looking at him, they’d been focused above him while he put pressure on the wound. He’d held her right hand but she kept putting up her left hand for someone to hold. When she spoke to Derrick, telling him that she loved him, she had turned to her left side and spoken the same words to his brother. Derrick had thought she’d been hallucinating. But that wasn’t it. Darren had saved Courtney. He’d protected her when Derrick hadn’t been able to. Deep down, Derrick had known this information but never acknowledged that he had Darren to thank for making sure Courtney was still with him. Why had it taken so long? Why had it taken Courtney’s little speech to hit him upside the head with the obvious answer as to why he had to visit his brother?
Derrick leaned his chin on the top of his wife’s head and closed his eyes. “Thank you, Darren. Thank you.”
Derrick kissed Courtney again. “Happy New Year, my love.”
She smiled up at him, her eyes shining. “Happy New Year.”
Derrick stroked her soft cheek. It was going to be a happy new year, he would make certain of it, and he had his brother to thank for it.