Fortunately, he just looks amused at my daring. “At the moment,” he says softly, “I’m into you.”

I look away and reach for the rice, my hand shaking slightly.

“Here, let me help you with that.” He takes the plate from me, his fingers briefly brushing against mine. Before I can say anything, my plate is filled with a healthy portion of everything that’s on the table.

He puts the plate back in front of me, and I stare at it in dismay. I’m too nervous to eat in front of him. My stomach is all tied into knots.

When I look up, I see that he has no such problem. He’s eating with gusto, clearly enjoying Beth’s cooking.

“What’s the matter?” he asks between bites. “You’re not hungry?”

I shake my head, even though I was ravenous before he came.

He frowns, putting down his fork. “Why not? Beth said you spent the day at the beach and swam quite a bit. Shouldn’t you be hungry after all that exercise?”

I shrug. “I’m okay.” I’m not about to tell him that he’s the cause of my lack of appetite.

His eyes narrow at me. “Are you playing games with me? Eat, Nora. You’re already slim. I don’t want you to lose weight.”

I gulp nervously and start to pick at the food. There’s something about him that makes me think it would be unwise to oppose him on this issue.

On any issue, really.

My instincts are screaming that this man is as dangerous as they come. He hasn’t really been cruel to me, but there is cruelty within him. I can sense it.

“Good girl,” he says approvingly after I eat a few bites.

I continue eating, even though I don’t really taste the food and I have to force each bite past the restriction in my throat. I keep my eyes trained on my plate. I have an easier time eating if I don’t see his piercing blue gaze.

“So Beth tells me you had a nice day swimming,” he comments after I’ve had a chance to eat about half of my portion.

I nod in response and look up to find him staring at me.

“What do you think of the island?” he asks, as though genuinely interested in my opinion. He’s studying me with a thoughtful look on his face.

“It’s pretty,” I tell him honestly. Then, pausing for a second, I add, “But I don’t want to be here.”

“Of course.” He looks almost understanding. “But you’ll get used to it. This is your new home, Nora. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better.”

My stomach lurches, and I feel like the food that I just ate is in danger of coming up. I swallow convulsively, trying to control the sick feeling inside me. “And my family?” The words come out low and bitter. “How are they supposed to come to terms with it?”

Some emotion flickers briefly across his face. “What if they didn’t think you were dead?” he asks quietly, holding my gaze. “Would that make you feel better, my pet?”

“Of course it would!” I can hardly believe what I’m hearing. “Can you do that? Can you let them know I’m alive? Maybe I can just call them and—”

He reaches out to cover my hand with his own, stopping my hopeful rambling. “No.” His tone leaves no room for arguments. “I will contact them myself.”

I swallow my disappointment. “What are you going to tell them?”

“That you are alive and well.” His large thumb is gently massaging the inside of my palm, his touch distracting me, turning my bones to jelly.

“But—” I almost moan when he presses on one particularly sensitive spot, “—but they wouldn’t believe you—”

“They would.” He withdraws his hand, leaving me feeling strangely bereft. “You can trust me on that.”

Trust him? Yeah, right. “Why are you doing this to me?” I ask in frustration. “Is it because I talked to you in the club?”

He shakes his head. “No, Nora. It’s because you’re you. You’re everything I’ve been looking for. Everything I’ve always wanted.”

“You know that’s crazy, right?” I’m so upset I forget to be afraid for a moment. “You don’t even know me!”

“That’s true,” he says softly. “But I don’t need to know you. I just need to know what I feel.”

“Are you saying you’re in love with me?” For some reason, that idea frightens me more than when I thought he just had weird sexual preferences.

He laughs, throwing his head back. I stare at him, irrationally offended. I don’t want him to be in love with me, but does he have to find the idea so funny?

“Of course not,” he says after he’s finally done laughing. He’s still grinning, though.

“Then what are you talking about?” I ask in frustration.

His smile slowly fades. “It doesn’t matter, Nora,” he says quietly. “All you need to know is that you’re special to me.”

“So why didn’t you just ask me out on a date?” I’m struggling to comprehend the incomprehensible. “Why did you have to kidnap me?”

“Because you went on a date with that boy.” There is sudden rage in Julian’s voice, and icy terror spreads through my veins. “You kissed him when you were already mine.”

I swallow. “But I didn’t even know you wanted me.” My voice shakes a little. “I only saw you at the club—”