And I will respond to him, like I always do.
That last part is the worst. He beat up Jake in front of my eyes. He admitted to being a murdering sociopath. I should be disgusted. I should look at him with nothing but fear and contempt. The fact that I can feel even a smidgen of desire for him is beyond sick.
So I sit there, picking at my food, my stomach filled with lead. I would get up and go to my room, but I’m afraid it will just speed up the inevitable.
Finally, the meal is over. Julian takes my hand and leads me upstairs. I feel like I’m going to my execution, though that’s probably too dramatic. He said he wouldn’t kill me.
When we’re in the room, he sits down on the bed and pulls me between his legs. I want to resist, to put up at least some kind of fight, but my brain and my body don’t seem to be on speaking terms these days. Instead, I stand there mutely, trembling from head to toe, while he looks at me. His eyes trace over my facial features, lingering on my mouth, then drop down to my neckline, where my nipples are visible through the thin fabric of my sundress. They’re peaked, as though from arousal, but I think it’s because I’m chilled. Beth must’ve turned on air-conditioning for the night.
“Very pretty,” he says finally, lifting his hand and stroking the edge of my jaw with his fingers. “Such soft golden skin.”
I close my eyes, not wanting to look at the monster in front of me. I wanted to kill more . . . I wanted to kill more . . . His words repeat over and over in my mind, like a song that’s stuck on replay. I don’t know how to turn it off, how to go back in time and scrub the memories of this afternoon from my mind. Why did I insist on knowing this about him? Why did I probe and pry until I got these kind of answers? Now I can’t think about anything but the fact that the man touching me is a ruthless killer.
He leans closer to me, and I can feel his hot breath on my neck. “Are you sorry you asked me all those questions today?” he whispers in my ear. “Are you, Nora?”
I flinch, my eyes flying open. Does he also read minds?
At my reaction, he pulls back and smiles. There’s something in that smile that makes my chill ten times worse. I don’t know what’s going on with him tonight, but whatever it is, it frightens me more than anything he’s done before.
“You’re scared of me, aren’t you, my pet?” he says softly, still holding me prisoner between his legs. “I can feel you shaking like a leaf.”
I want to deny it, to be brave, but I can’t. I am scared, and I am shaking. “Please,” I whisper, not even knowing why I’m begging. He hasn’t done anything to me yet.
He gives me a light push then, releasing me from his hold. I take a few steps back, glad to put some distance between us.
He gets up off the bed and walks out of the room.
I stare after him, unable to believe he just left me alone. Could it be that he doesn’t want sex right now? He did already have me once on the beach earlier today.
And just as I’m about to let myself feel relief, Julian returns, a black gym bag in his hands.
All blood drains from my face. Horrifying thoughts run through my mind. What does he have in there—knives, guns, some kind of torture devices?
When he takes out a blindfold and a small dildo, I’m almost grateful. Sex toys. He just has some sex toys in that bag. I would take sex over torture any day of the week.
Of course, with Julian the two are not necessarily separate, as I learn this night.
“Strip, Nora,” he tells me, walking over to sit down on the bed again. He lays the blindfold and the dildo on the mattress. “Take off your clothes, slowly.”
I freeze. He wants me to disrobe while he watches? For a moment, I think about refusing, but then I start to undress with clumsy fingers. He has already seen me naked today. What would I achieve by being modest now? Besides, I’m still sensing that strange vibe from him. His eyes are glittering with excitement that goes beyond simple lust.
It’s an excitement that makes my blood run cold.
He watches as the dress falls off my body and I kick off my flip-flops. My movements are wooden, stiff with fear. I doubt a normal man would find this striptease arousing, but I can see that it turns Julian on. Under the dress, I’m wearing only a pair of cream-colored lacy panties. The cold air washes over my skin, making my nipples harden even more.
“Now the underwear,” he says.
I swallow and push the panties down my legs. Then I step out of them.
“Good girl,” he says approvingly. “Now come here.”
This time I’m unable to obey him. My self-preservation instinct is screaming that I need to run, but there’s nowhere to run to. Julian would catch me if I tried to make it out the door right now—and it’s not like I can get off this island anyway.
So I just stand there, naked and shivering, frozen in place.
Julian gets up himself. Contrary to my expectations, he doesn’t look angry. Instead he seems almost . . . pleased. “I see that I was right to begin training you tonight,” he says as he comes up to me. “I’ve been too soft with you because of your inexperience. I didn’t want to break you, to damage you beyond repair—”
My shaking intensifies as he circles around me like a shark.
“—but I need to start molding you into what I want you to be, Nora. You’re already so close to perfection, but there are these occasional lapses . . .” He traces his fingers down my body, ignoring the way I’m cringing from his touch.