She’s holding a tray of food and smiling at me. Her hair is red and curly, and her eyes are a soft brown color. She’s bigger than me, probably at least five inches taller, with an athletic build. She’s dressed very casually, in a pair of jean shorts and a white tank top, with flip-flops on her feet.

I think about attacking her. She’s a woman, and I have a small chance of winning against her in a fight. I have no chance against Julian.

Her smile widens, as though she’s reading my mind. “Please don’t jump me,” she says, and I can hear the amusement in her voice. “It’s quite pointless, I promise. I know you want to escape, but there is really nowhere to go. We’re on a private island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

The sinking feeling in my stomach worsens. “Whose private island?” I ask, though I already know the answer.

“Who is he? Who are you people?” My voice is relatively steady as I speak to her. She doesn’t make me nervous the way Julian does.

She puts down the tray. “You’ll learn everything in due time. I’m here to take care of you and the property. My name is Beth, by the way.”

I take a deep breath. “Why am I here, Beth?”

“You’re here because Julian wants you.”

“And you don’t see anything wrong with that?” I can hear the hysterical edge in my tone. I don’t understand how this woman is going along with that madman, how she’s acting like this is normal.

She shrugs. “Julian does whatever he wants. It’s not for me to judge.”

“Because I owe him my life,” she says seriously and walks out of the room.

I eat the food Beth brought me. It’s pretty good actually, even though it’s not traditional breakfast food. There is grilled fish in some kind of mushroom sauce and roasted potatoes with a side of green salad. For dessert, there’s some cut-up mango. Local fruit, I’m guessing.

Despite my inner turmoil, I manage to eat everything. If I were less of a coward, I would resist by refusing to eat his food—but I fear hunger as much as I fear pain.

So far he hasn’t really hurt me. Well, it did hurt when he put his cock inside me, but he hadn’t been purposefully rough. I suspect it would’ve hurt the first time regardless of the circumstances.

The first time. It suddenly dawns on me that it had been my first time. Now I’m no longer a virgin.

Strangely, I don’t feel like I lost anything. The thin membrane inside me had never held any particular meaning for me. I never intended to wait until marriage or anything else like that. I regret that my first time was with a monster, but I don’t mourn the loss of the ‘virgin’ designation. I would’ve gladly gone all the way with Jake, if I’d only had a chance.

Jake! My stomach lurches. I can’t believe I haven’t thought about him since Julian told me he was safe. The guy I’ve been crazy about for months had been the furthest thing from my mind when I was in the arms of my captor.

Hot shame burns inside me. Shouldn’t I have been thinking of Jake last night? Shouldn’t I have been picturing his face when Julian touched me so intimately? If I truly wanted Jake, shouldn’t he have been the one on my mind during my forced sexual encounter?

I’m suddenly filled with bitter hatred for the man who did this to me—the man who shattered my illusions about the world, about myself. I’d never thought much about what I would do if I got kidnapped, how I would react. Who thinks about stuff like that? But I guess I’d always assumed I would be brave, fighting to my last breath. Isn’t that what they do in all the books and movies? Fight, even when it’s useless, even when doing so means getting hurt? Shouldn’t I have done that too? Yes, he’s stronger than me, but I didn’t have to give in so easily. He didn’t tie me up; he didn’t threaten me with a knife or a gun. All he’d done was chase me down when I tried to run.

That run had been the grand total of my resistance thus far.

I don’t recognize this person who had given in so easily. And yet I know she’s me. A part of me that had never come to light before. A part of me that I would’ve never known if Julian hadn’t taken me.

Thinking about this is so upsetting that I focus on my captor instead. Who is he? How can someone afford to have an entire private island? How does Beth owe him her life? And, most importantly, what does he intend to do with me?

A million different scenarios run through my mind, each one more horrifying than the next. I know there’s such a thing as human trafficking. It happens all the time, especially to women from poorer countries. Is that the fate that awaits me? Am I going to end up in a brothel somewhere, drugged out of my mind and used daily by dozens of men? Is Julian simply sampling the merchandise before he delivers it to its final destination?

Before panic can take over my mind, I inhale deeply and try to think logically. While the human trafficking is a possibility, it doesn’t seem likely to me. For one thing, Julian appears to be very possessive of me—far too possessive for someone just testing out the merchandise. And besides, why bring me here, to his private island, if he’s just planning to sell me?

My pet, he had called me. Is that just a meaningless endearment, or is that how he sees me? Does he have some fetish that involves keeping women captive? I think about it for a while, and decide that he probably does. Why else would a wealthy, good-looking man do this? Surely he has no problem getting dates the usual way. In fact, I might’ve gone out with him myself if I hadn’t gotten that strange vibe from him in the club.