I think about it and decide it’s probably the best course of action at this point. Sooner or later, Beth or Julian will find me. The island is not that big, and I would not be able to hide from them for long. And I can’t risk procrastinating, in case Julian returns sooner than expected. Two against one are terrible odds.

I’m also getting hungrier by the minute, and I tend to get light-headed if I don’t eat regularly. I could probably find fresh water to drink, but food is more iffy. I don’t know where Beth gets those mangos from. If I try to hide for another couple of days, I might be too weak to attack anyone, much less a woman who could be a freaking warrior princess.

Besides, she might not be expecting me quite yet, and I could really use an element of surprise.

So I take a deep breath and start walking—or rather, limping—back toward the house. I know this might not end well for me, but I have no choice. I either fight now, or I will forever be a victim.

It takes me about two hours to get back. I end up having to stop and take breaks when I can no longer tolerate the agony in my feet.

It’s kind of ironic that I escaped because I’m afraid of pain, and I ended up hurting myself so badly in the process. Julian would probably love to see me like this. That perverted bastard.

Finally, I reach the house and crouch behind some large bushes near the front door. I don’t know if it’s locked or not, but I don’t think I can just stroll in through the main entrance. For all I know, Beth is right there in the living room.

No, I need to be more strategic about it.

After a few minutes, I carefully make my way to the back of the house, toward the large screened porch where I had attacked Beth yesterday.

To my relief, no one is there.

Taking care not to make a sound, I open the screen door and slip inside. In my hand I’m holding a large rock. I would much rather have a knife or a gun, but a rock will have to do for now.

Crab-walking to one of the windows, I glance inside and am gratified to find the living room empty.

Straightening, I walk up to the glass door that leads to the living room, quietly slide it open, and step inside.

The house is completely silent. There’s no one cooking in the kitchen or setting the table.

The digital clock in the living room reads 7:12. I’m hoping that Beth is still asleep.

Still clutching the rock, I sneak into the kitchen and find another knife. Holding both, I carefully head upstairs.

Beth’s bedroom is the first one on the left. I know because she showed it to me during the house tour.

Holding my breath, I quietly push open the door . . . and freeze.

Sitting there on the bed is the person I fear most.

His voice is deceptively soft, his perfect face expressionless. Yet I can feel the rage burning quietly underneath.

For a second, I just stare at him, paralyzed by terror. I can’t hear anything but the roaring of my own heartbeat in my ears. And then I start to back away, still keeping my eyes trained on his face. My hands are raised defensively in front of me, rock and knife clutched tightly in each.

At that moment, steely hands grip my arms from behind, painfully squeezing my wrists. I scream, struggling, but Beth is too strong. The knife twists backward in my hand, nearly reaching my shoulder.

In a flash, Julian is on me, and both the knife and the rock are wrenched out of my hands. Beth releases me and Julian grabs me, holding me tightly as I scream and writhe hysterically in his arms.

The harder I fight, the tighter his arms become around me, until I go limp, almost fainting from lack of air.

Then he picks me up and carries me out of Beth’s room.

To my surprise, he brings me downstairs and stops in front of the door that leads to his office. A tiny panel opens on the side, and I can see a red light moving over Julian’s face, like a laser at a supermarket checkout.

I stifle a gasp of surprise. His office door opens via a retina scan—something I’ve only seen before in spy movies.

As he carries me inside, I try to struggle again, but it’s futile. His arms are completely immovable, holding me securely in his grip.

I’m once again helpless in his embrace.

Tears of bitter frustration slide down my face. I hate being so weak, so easily handled. He’s not even winded from our struggle.

I’m not sure what I’m expecting him to do. Perhaps beat me, or brutally take me.

But he simply places me on my feet when we’re inside his office.

As soon as he releases me, I take a few steps back, needing to put at least some distance between us.

He smiles at me, and there’s something disturbing in the beauty of that smile. “Relax, my pet. I won’t hurt you. Not now, at least.”

And as I watch, he walks over to a large desk and slides open the drawer, taking out a remote control. Then he points it at a wall behind me.

I turn around warily and stare at two large flat-panel TV screens. They look very high-tech, not at all like the ones I’m used to seeing at home.

The left screen lights up. The image is strange because it’s so unexpected.

It looks like a regular bedroom in someone’s house. The bed is unmade, sheets bunched up carelessly on the mattress. Posters of various football players line the walls, and there is a laptop sitting on the desk.

“Good,” he says. “I’m glad about that.”