“Then you better go to sleep soon because I’ll come by your room early,” she warns.

I nod, finishing up my dinner. Then I head upstairs to my room and cry myself to sleep again.

“When is Julian coming back?” I ask, watching Beth as she carefully arranges the bait at the end of the hook. What she’s doing looks disgusting, and I’m glad she’s not making me help her.

“I don’t know,” Beth says. “He’ll come back when he’s done taking care of business.”

“What kind of business?” I’ve asked this before, but I’m hoping one of these days Beth will answer me.

“What’s the big deal if I know?” I give her a frustrated look. “It’s not like I’m going anywhere anytime soon. I just want to know what he is, that’s all. Don’t you think it’s normal to be curious in my situation?”

She sighs again and casts the lure into the ocean with a smooth, practiced motion. “Of course it is. But Julian will tell you everything himself if he wants you to know.”

I take a deep breath. I’m obviously not going to get anywhere with that line of questioning. “You’re really loyal to him, huh?”

“Yes,” Beth says simply, sitting down beside me. “I am.”

Because he saved her life. I’m curious about that too, but I know she’s touchy on that subject. So instead I ask, “How long have you known him?”

“How did you two meet?”

Her jaw hardens. “That’s none of your business.”

Uh-huh. I sense I’m again approaching the difficult subject. I decide to proceed anyway. “Was that when he saved your life? Is that how you met him?”

She gives me a narrow-eyed look. “Nora, what did I tell you about prying?”

“Okay, fine . . .” Her non-answer is answer enough for me. I move on to another topic of interest. “So why did Julian bring me here? To this island, I mean? He’s not even here himself.”

“He’ll come back soon enough.” She gives me an ironic look. “Why, do you miss him?”

“No, of course not!” I give her an offended glare.

She raises her eyebrows. “Really? Not even a little bit?”

“Why would I miss that monster?” I hiss at her, uncontrollable anger suddenly boiling up from the pit of my stomach. “After what he did to me? To Jake?”

She laughs softly. “Methinks the lady doth protest too much . . .”

I jump to my feet, unable to bear the mockery in her voice any longer. In this moment, I hate her so much I would’ve gladly stabbed her with a knife if I had it handy. I’ve never had much of a temper, but something about Beth brings out the worst in me.

Thankfully, I regain control over myself before I storm off and make a complete fool of myself. Taking a deep breath, I pretend that I intended to get up all along. Walking to the water, I test the temperature with my toe and then walk back toward Beth, sitting down again.

“Really warm water on this side of the island,” I say calmly, as though I’m not still burning with anger inside.

“Yeah, the fish seem to like it here,” she replies in the same even tone. “I always catch some nice ones in this area.”

I nod and look out over the water. The sound of the waves is soothing, helping me control whatever it was that came over me. I don’t fully understand why I reacted so strongly to her teasing. Surely I should’ve just given her a contemptuous look and coldly dismissed her ridiculous suggestion. Instead I’d risen to her bait.

Could there be some truth to her words? Is that why they irritated me so much? Am I actually missing Julian?

The idea is so sickening that I want to throw up.

I try to think about it rationally for a bit, to sort through the confusing jumble of feelings in my chest.

Okay, yes, a small part of me does resent the fact that he left me here on this island, with only Beth for company. For someone who supposedly wanted me enough to steal me, Julian is certainly not being very attentive.

Not that I want his attentions. I want him to stay as far away from me as possible. But at the same time, I am oddly insulted that he’s staying away. It’s like I’m not desirable enough for him to want to be here.

As soon as I analyze it all logically, I see the absurdity of my contradictory emotions. The whole thing is so silly, I have to mentally kick myself.

I’m not going to be one of those girls who falls in love with their kidnapper. I refuse to be. I know being here on this island is screwing with my head, and I’m determined not to let it.

Perhaps I can’t escape from Julian, but I can keep him from getting under my skin.

I learn about it when he wakes me up from my nap on the beach.

At first, I think I’m having a dream. In my dream, I’m warm and safe in my bed. Gentle hands start stroking my body, soothing me, caressing me. I arch toward them, loving their touch on my skin, reveling in the pleasure they’re giving me.

And then I feel hot lips on my face, my neck, my collarbone. I moan softly, and the hands become more demanding, pulling at the straps of my bikini top, tugging the bikini bottoms off my legs . . .

The realization of what’s happening filters through to my half-conscious brain, and I wake up with a sudden gasp, adrenaline rushing through my veins.