My curiosity gets the best of me again, and I ask if Julian’s company does a lot of business in the Middle East.

He smiles at me as he spears a piece of shrimp with his fork. “Yes, my pet, it does.”

“Is that where you went on this trip?”

“No,” he says, biting into the juicy shrimp. “I was in Hong Kong this time.”

I make a mental note of that. Hong Kong had to be close enough to the island for him to fly there, conduct his business, and fly back—all within two days. I picture a map of the Pacific Ocean in my head. It’s a bit fuzzy, as geography is not my strong point, but I think this island must not be that far from the Philippines.

Beth offers me some curried potatoes to go with my shrimp, and I take them, thanking her with a smile. I’ve noticed that we get more food variety shortly after Julian comes back from the mainland. I’m guessing he brings us food supplies from wherever he goes to.

Beth smiles back at me, and I see that she’s in a good mood. In general, she seems happier when Julian is here, more lighthearted. I’m sure it’s not fun for her, dealing with my attitude all the time. One could almost feel bad for her—‘almost’ being the key word.

“I’ve never been to Asia,” I tell Julian. “Is Hong Kong really how they show it in movies?”

Julian grins at me. “Pretty much. It’s amazing. Probably one of my favorite cities. The architecture is fascinating, and the food . . .” He makes a show of licking his lips. “The food is just to die for.” He rubs his belly, and I laugh, charmed despite myself.

The rest of the dinner passes in the same pleasant manner. Julian tells me amusing stories about the different places he’s been to in Asia, and I listen in fascination, occasionally gasping and laughing at some of the more outrageous tales. Beth sometimes chimes in, but for the most part, it’s as though it’s just Julian and me, having fun on a date.

Like that time when we had dinner alone, I find myself falling under Julian’s spell. He’s more than charming; he’s simply mesmerizing. His allure goes beyond his looks, although I can’t deny the physical attraction between us. When he laughs or gives me one of his genuine smiles, I feel a warm glow, like he’s the sun and I’m basking in his rays. Everything about him appeals to me—the way he talks, how he gestures to emphasize a point, the way his eyes crinkle at the corners when he grins at me. He’s also an excellent storyteller, and three hours simply fly by as he entertains me with tales of his adventures in Japan, where he once lived for a year as a teenager.

I don’t want this dinner to end, so I try to stretch it out as much as I can, helping myself to second, third, and fourth helpings of the fruit Beth prepared as dessert. I’m sure Julian is aware of my delaying tactics, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

Finally, everything has been eaten, and Beth gets up to wash the dishes. Julian smiles at me, and for the first time this evening, I feel a flicker of fear. I can again sense that dark undercurrent in his smile, and I realize that it’s been present all along—that it’s always there with Julian. The charming man that I’ve just spent three hours with is about as real as a figment of my imagination.

Still smiling, he offers me his hand. It’s a courtly gesture, but I can’t help the chill that runs down my spine as I see a familiar gleam in his blue eyes. He again looks like a dark angel, his sublime beauty tinted with a faint shadow of evil.

Swallowing to get rid of the sudden knot in my throat, I place my hand in his and let him lead me upstairs. It’s better this way, more civilized. It allows me to pretend for a few moments longer—to hold on to the illusion of having a choice.

When we enter my room, he has me undress and lie down on the bed, on my stomach. Then he ties me up again, binding my wrists tightly behind my back. A blindfold goes over my eyes, and pillows under my hips. It’s the exact same position in which he took me last time, and I can’t help tensing as I remember the agony—and the ecstasy—of his possession.

Is that what he’s going to do? Have anal sex with me again? If so, it’s not that bad. I survived the last time, and I’m sure I’ll be fine again.

So when I feel the coolness of lube between my cheeks, I try to relax, to let him do whatever he wants. A toy slides in, the invasion startling but not particularly painful. I can definitely tolerate it. As before, he leaves the toy inside me as he gives me a massage, relaxing me, arousing me with his touch. He kisses the back of my neck, nibbles on the sensitive spot near my shoulder, and then his mouth travels down my spine, kissing each vertebrae. At the same time, his finger slips into my vaginal opening, adding to the tension coiling low in my belly.

My release, when it comes, is so powerful that I buck against the mattress, my entire body shuddering and convulsing. While I’m recovering from the aftershocks, Julian withdraws his finger, and I feel cool air on my back as he leans away from me for a second.

The lick of fire along my buttocks is as sharp as it is sudden. Startled, I cry out, trying to twist away, but I don’t get far, and the second hit is even more painful than the first, landing on my thighs. He’s whipping me with something, I realize. I don’t know what it is, but I can hear the swish in the air as he brings it down on my defenseless ass, again and again while I sob and try to roll away.

Apparently tired of chasing me all over the bed, he unties my hands and then ties them above my head, securing my wrists to the wooden headboard.