Julian is crouched over me, looking down at me with that darkly angelic smile of his. I’m already naked, lying on top of the large beach towel that Beth gave me this morning. He’s naked too—and fully aroused.

I stare up at him, my heart racing with a mixture of excitement and dread. “You’re back,” I say, stating the obvious.

“I am,” he murmurs, leaning down and kissing my neck again. Before I can gather my scattered thoughts, he’s already lying on top of me, his knee parting my thighs and his erection prodding at my tender opening.

I squeeze my eyes shut as he begins to push inside me. I’m wet, but I still feel uncomfortably stretched as he slides in all the way. He pauses for a second, letting me adjust, and then he begins to move, slowly at first and then with increasing pace.

His thrusts press me into the towel, and I can feel the sand shifting under my back. I clutch at his hard shoulders, needing something to hold on to as the familiar tension starts to gather low in my belly. The head of his cock brushes against that sensitive spot somewhere inside me, and I gasp, arching to take him deeper, needing more of that intense sensation, wanting him to bring me over the edge.

“Did you miss me?” he breathes into my ear, slowing down just enough to prevent me from reaching my peak.

I’m coherent enough to shake my head.

“Liar,” he whispers, and his thrusts become harder, more punishing. He’s ruthlessly driving me higher and higher until I’m screaming, my nails raking down his back in frustration as the elusive release hovers just beyond my reach.

And then I’m finally there, my body flying apart as a powerful orgasm sweeps through me, leaving me weak and panting in its wake.

With a suddenness that startles me, he pulls out and flips me over, onto my stomach.

I cry out, frightened, but he merely pushes inside me again and resumes fucking me from behind, his body large and heavy on top of mine. I am surrounded by him; my face is pressed into the towel and I can hardly breathe. All I can feel is him: the back-and-forth movement of his thick cock inside my body, the heat emanating from his skin. In this position, he goes deep, even deeper than usual, and I can’t help the pained gasps that escape my throat as the head of his cock bumps against my cervix with each thrust of his hips. Yet the discomfort doesn’t seem to prevent the pressure growing inside me again, and I climax again, my inner muscles clenching helplessly around his shaft.

He groans harshly, and then I can feel him coming too, his cock pulsing and jerking within me, his pelvis grinding into my buttocks. It enhances my own orgasm, draws out my pleasure. It’s like we’re linked together, because my contractions don’t stop until his are fully over.

Afterwards, he rolls over onto his back, releasing me, and I draw in a shaky breath. With limbs that feel weak and heavy, I get up on all fours and find my bikini, then pull it on while he watches me, a lazy smile on his beautiful lips. He doesn’t seem to be in a rush to get dressed himself, but I can’t stand to be naked around him. It makes me feel too vulnerable.

The irony of that doesn’t escape me. Of course I’m vulnerable. I’m as vulnerable as a woman can be: completely at the mercy of a ruthless madman. A couple of tiny patches of material aren’t going to protect me from him.

Nothing will, if he decides to really hurt me.

I decide not to think about that. Instead I ask, “Where were you?”

Julian’s smile widens. “You did miss me after all.”

I give him a sardonic look, trying to ignore the fact that he’s naked and sprawled out only a couple of feet away from me. “Yeah, I missed you.”

He laughs, not the least bit put off by my snarky attitude. “I knew you would,” he says. Then he gets up and pulls on a pair of swimming trunks that were lying on the sand next to us. Turning toward me, he offers me his hand. “A swim?”

I stare at him. Is he serious? He expects me to go for a swim with him like we’re friends or something?

He frowns a little. “Why not, Nora? You can’t swim?”

“Of course I can swim,” I say indignantly. “I just don’t want to swim with you.”

“Um . . . maybe because I hate you?” I don’t know why I’m being so brave today, but it seems like the time apart made me less afraid of him. Or maybe it’s because he appears to be in a light, playful mood, and is thus just a bit less scary.

He smiles again. “You don’t know what hatred is, my pet. You might not like my actions, but you don’t hate me. You can’t. It’s not in your nature.”

“What do you know about my nature?” For some reason, I find his words offensive. How dare he say that I can’t hate my kidnapper? Who does he think he is, telling me what I can and cannot feel?

He looks at me, his lips still curved in that smile. “I know you’ve had what they call a normal upbringing, Nora,” he says softly. “I know that you were raised in a loving family, that you had good friends, decent boyfriends. How could you possibly know what real hatred is?”

I stare at him. “And you know? You know what real hatred is?”

His expression hardens. “Unfortunately, yes,” he says, and I can hear the truth in his voice.

A sick feeling floods my stomach. “Am I the one you hate?” I whisper. “Is that why you’re doing this to me?”