Fuck, what was I doing? Was it too late to change my mind about this?
It wasn’t too late until she actually started the video. But I couldn’t turn back now, could I? I’d never be able to stop wondering what secrets Stacy held about Hudson.
Maybe I should have asked him about it instead of showing up here.
“Well, I set up in case you did come. I just have to load the file. Hold on. It’s here somewhere.”
It seemed to take hours for Stacy to search through her computer. Each second that passed felt like agony. Thoughts of what could be on her video nagged at the edges of my mind—Hudson betraying me in various forms. I tried to shake the images away, but they clung, nipping at me, begging for my attention.
I’d chewed half of my nails ragged before I finally sought to relieve the tension. “Perhaps you could tell me what’s on it while we wait.”
“Oh, I couldn’t do that.” She gave me another warm smile. “You won’t believe it until you see it. But trust me. It will change everything you know about Hudson. He’s a liar, you know.” She never smiled this much. It was as if she took pleasure in my discomfort. As if she were delighted to destroy my relationship with Hudson.
“He’s not a liar. I trust him.” I was the one who’d lied to him. Hudson had done nothing but proven himself over and over.
Her certainty sent goose bumps down my skin. There was no way she was right. I knew Hudson. He didn’t have secrets from me.
“Ah! Found it!” Stacy said in a sing-song voice. “Are you sure you don’t want anything before I start this? Water? Iced tea?”
I gritted my teeth, the knot in my belly tightening with every passing second. “I said, no thank you.”
“Popcorn?” She laughed. “I always like popcorn when I’m watching TV. Popcorn and M&M’s.”
“Look, Stacy, this isn’t entertainment for me. You say you have something that will make me feel differently about Hudson. Do you think I’m looking forward to this?”
This was ridiculous. What was I doing here, behind Hudson’s back no less? I should be talking to him, asking him about this stupid video instead of sneaking off to watch it. I didn’t even know if I could trust the woman in front of me. Maybe this whole video thing was a trick.
I stood to leave. “I shouldn’t be here. I have to go.” I headed toward the door.
“No! Wait! It’s already playing.”
Again, curiosity got the better of me. I turned back to the TV. The screen was dark, but there was a muffled voice in the background. Little by little, the voice became clearer. It was Hudson.
“I want you, precious. Whatever it takes to make that happen. Whatever I have to do. Whatever I have to say. I have to have you in my life.”
The screen was still dark, but I recognized the words. He’d said them to me—earlier. At the club.
“Is this some kind of a sick joke?”
“Just be patient.” Stacy giggled.
The screen began to lighten and the picture came into focus. Hudson lay on a bed facing away from the camera, completely naked. I glanced at Stacy, furious that she had seen my boyfriend without clothing, but Hudson’s next words drew me back to him. “Whatever I have to say, precious. I have to have you in my life.”
They were familiar words, but I’d never seen this scene before. I didn’t know that bed or that room. I hadn’t been there when this had been filmed. I shook my head—no, no, no. Those were my words. Precious was my name. Whom was he sharing my words with?
The camera began to move, zooming around Hudson. I held my breath, waiting to see whom he was speaking to, not wanting the confirmation.
But as the camera zoomed closer, the focus blurred. So much so that it was impossible to make out what was going on or who was on screen. It was like looking through a dirty windshield or a cloudy contact lens. I blinked over and over, hoping to clear the blur, to bring the picture into clarity. I was desperate to see what was going on, desperate to see who was there. Even though I didn’t want to, I was compelled.
I went to the TV and slapped my hand on its side, trying to sharpen the image. “Show me, dammit,” I screamed at the picture. “Show me what you’re hiding!”
I hit the television again and again, my hands red from the force, my breath ragged from the effort. I had to see, had to know. My gut told me the truth—the video held the answers. What I needed, what I was meant to see was here on this screen. Beyond the blur was what I dreaded most, my deepest fears, my darkest imaginings—the thing that could ruin everything.
The thing that could tear me and Hudson apart for good.
I awoke in a panic, sweat beaded along my brow, my heart racing. I knew it was a dream, but the feeling it left was intense and vivid. Stupid, really. It wasn’t real.
But it wasn’t the dream video that had me in a panic—it was what might be on Stacy’s real life video. She’d said it was some sort of evidence about Hudson and Celia. I’d blown it off earlier in the night, but maybe I shouldn’t have because now it was seeping into my subconscious thoughts.
I glanced over at Hudson asleep next to me. Usually we remained in constant contact while we slept. His missing warmth exacerbated the “off” feeling that still clung to me after my nightmare. Not wanting to disturb my lover, I ignored the pull to snuggle into him and instead climbed out of bed, grabbed my robe, and headed to the bathroom.
Splashing cold water on my face, I took deep breaths and tried to calm down. I’d never been prone to nightmares. Even when my parents had died, my dreams had remained sweet and calm. My obsessive mind did enough work during the waking hours—sleep wasn’t where I fleshed out my problems.
I wasn’t obsessing like I had in the past, though. And there were problems still to be worked out. Yes, I was happy and in love. But the past week had been heartbreaking and stressful with Hudson in Japan and our relationship in limbo. I’d kept secrets that I wasn’t sure he could ever completely forgive me for. And he’d betrayed me in his own ways—going behind my back to remove David as the manager of The Sky Launch. Then, the worst, he hadn’t defended me. He’d chosen to listen to the lies of his childhood friend who was playing her own game where I was the pawn.
I knew our love outweighed the heaviness of those mistakes. He proved he knew it too when he arrived at the club earlier that evening, surprising me with his declaration of commitment to our relationship. Though he still hadn’t said the three words I longed to hear, I didn’t need them. I felt his love in every fiber of my being. Felt it as he’d made love to me on the dance floor with care and attention that spoke volumes. We were together for the long run, through thick and thin—it was apparent now and with that knowledge there should be a freedom from anxiety.