Fiction Series: Heaven's Dew - Part 8
“This should do.” Mrs. Camren is tapping her French tips on her wine glass. I’m gripping the glass of 50-year-old scotch resting on the table in front of me. “The weather is always so nice this time of year. Isn’t it, Noelani?” I turn my gaze from the lawn to her. “Yes, Mrs. Camren.” She tilts her head to peer over her glasses in my direction. “My God, sit up straight and smooth your hair.” She sips from her glass. “Your mother should have told you self-loathing is unbecoming.”
“She was dead before she could teach me much of anything.” I take a sip from my glass. She takes her sunglasses off and sets them down on the table.
“Noelani, you don’t seem appreciative.”
“Should I be?”
Mrs. Camren scoffs. I sit up and take a deep breath. “You’re right. Thank you, Mrs. Camren.” The sarcasm drips from my voice. A throat clears at the door behind us, Mrs. Camren’s associate. “It’s done.”
“…and the security footage?”
“Upstairs in his office watching his cameras.”
Mrs. Camren puts her sunglasses back on. “Well, that’ll be all then.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He disappears inside. I let out a breath. “See, there’s the gratefulness I was hoping for.” I stand. I think to respond but decide not to. I take up my glass in one hand and smooth my dress with the other. “I guess it’s my turn.”
Mrs. Camren smirks. “I guess it is.”
I walk over to the deck bar, set my glass down and pull out another. I pour scotch into both. Then, taking up both glasses, I turn and make my way inside and up the stairs to Paxton’s office. I ease the door open just enough to see him shaking his head. There are documents scattered all over his desk. He’s reviewing what should have been the security footage from the last week. The flat screens on the wall opposite him show several angles of the house both inside and out. He rewinds and stops the tape at the same spot. He does this several times becoming more and more frustrated. I attempt to see what he’s looking for but I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
“Baby, come in.” His voice startles me. I gather myself, push the door further using my foot and walk to him. He looks me over and reaches for the scotch in my hand. I use my knee to separate his legs and sit down in his lap. “You look pretty.” I sip from my glass. “Thank you, Pax.”
Silence. I bite my bottom lip. “You look stressed.” He looks up at me, rubs my back. “I just don’t understand it.” He downs his drink. I take the glass and he rubs his free hand down his face.
“I mean, at least he’s gone, right?”
“Yeah, right.” He runs his hand up my back and grips the back of my neck. “Baby, that’s a little tight.” I try to pull away but his grip tightens. “Paxton. You’re hurting me---Paxton, let go.”
His eyes narrow and shift quickly from me to the security screens. He does this multiple times before he takes up the remote from his desk and pauses on the scene that troubled him just moments before. “Fuck, Noelani.” He slams the remote down on the desk. My eyes widen unsure of what he’s thinking. “Why couldn’t you just love me? Why couldn’t you control yourself? I’ve given you everything!” He still hasn’t let go of me. His grip tightens with every word. “Paxton, please…” My voice seems to trigger something in him.
With little effort he stands, slamming me face down onto the desk in front of him. He buries his face into my hair. I can feel his breathing getting heavy. “Is this how he held you, Noelani?”
Tears have formed in my eyes. I whimper. “Paxton, I don’t know what you mean. How who held me?” He wipes my hair back from my face and bites my jaw. It pinches as he pulls my skin between his teeth. “You think I’m stupid. Do you think I’m stupid, Noelani?” The tears begin to fall from my eyes. “Paxton, let me go. We can talk about whatever you think you know.” He laughs. He growls. “Did you ask him to let you go? Did you tell him he was hurting you?”
He stands up straight with his hand still holding me firmly to the desk. “All I’ve done is love you.” He pushes me away, releasing me and falling back into his chair. I fall to his feet with my back to his desk. Attempting to calm the tantrum threatening to burst from inside I plant my hands to the ground.
Paxton rests his head in his hands. “All I’ve done is love you, maybe not perfectly, and maybe not always how you needed me to but always---I have loved you.” My breathing calms but my tears don’t stop falling. “Pax, just tell me what you mean. We can talk about it. We can fix it.”
“How can we go back now, Noelani?” Paxton grabs the remote from the desk again and hits play. This time the volume is on. I don’t have to turn around to see what’s there. I hear Cruz’s voice. I hear the desire coursing through my own. How did he get this video? It was supposed to be done. Mrs. Camren said it was done. “Pax, I---“
“Don’t say anything, Lani. Don’t talk.” He stops the video. “I’ve been playing this spot over and over again; this one segment. Cruz just… disappears into thin air. You just disappear. It cuts to my security team storming the room and I’m asking myself, how it’s even possible.”
“I did it for us, Paxton.”
Paxton doubles over in laughter. “You fucked my best friend and business partner---for us?”
“That’s not what I meant.” I move until I’m on my knees in front of him. “That’s not what I meant. He had to go, Paxton. He was threatening to come between us.”
“How Noelani? How was he coming between us besides the fact that you’ve apparently been helping him in his scheme to take Seoul from me? To take Camren Enterprises? To take you?” Paxton pushes me away as I attempt to touch him.
“I love you, Paxton. Only you. I chose you over Erin. I chose you over Cruz. I love you.” I’m pleading now. “You don’t love me. You’ve never loved me.” He brushes my hands from his lap. I pull him back in. “That’s not true. You know it’s not true.” I climb into his lap. He doesn’t fight me this time.
“Look at me, Paxton.” He turns his head towards me and I see his face fully now. He’s crying. “Pax, when Cruz first introduced us I had no idea I would love you. I didn’t plan on it. It just happened but I wouldn’t change anything.” He scoffs. “Fine. You want the truth? The truth is you were a mark. We all had a plan and I fucked it up.” His face turns cold. “Is that what you wanted to hear? Does that make you feel better?”
He remains silent. “Paxton, everything I’ve done in the time we’ve been together, I’ve done to keep you---to keep us. I went to Cruz to kill him. You have to believe me.” I place my right hand to his face. For a moment, he finds comfort but then realizes he isn’t satisfied with my explanation.
“Noelani. You are a whore and scam artist, at best. You are not a murderer.” I look down in my lap. I search for the words I need to defend myself without traveling any further down the rabbit hole. “You are also not a video editor. Whoever edited this video wanted to make sure I saw you with Cruz.” My fear and desperation is replaced with anger as he speaks.
“If you went to Cruz to kill him, where is he now and who helped you?”
I don’t respond. I search his face for some kind of sign that what I say next will turn things in my favor. I can’t lose him now, not after all that has happened. Suddenly, the door to his office is pushed all the way open.
“What are you two up to, now? The wedding planner is here for final approvals.” Mrs. Camren enters the office. The smile leaves her face when she looks at Paxton. His eyes are red and the fallen tears are evident. “Pax, what happened?” She looks at me.
I look from him to her and without any additional thought---I choose me.
“He knows.” I whisper.