“Yes.” His hand pauses at the curve of my spine. “They know.”

I wonder what he told them and how they reacted. I wonder if it made it better for them or worse.

“Will you ever let me go?” I already know the answer, but I need to hear him say it anyway.

“No, Nora,” he replies, and I can feel his smile in the darkness. “Never.”

And bringing me closer, he holds me until we both eventually fall asleep.

Over the next few months, my life on the island falls into a routine of sorts. When Julian is there, my world revolves around him. His moods, his needs and desires, rule my days and nights.

He’s an unpredictable lover—gentle one day, cruel the next. And sometimes he’s a mix of both, a combination that I find particularly devastating. I understand what he’s doing to me, but understanding doesn’t make it any less effective. He’s training me to associate pain with pleasure, to enjoy whatever he does to me, no matter how shocking and perverted it is. And always afterwards, there’s that unsettling tenderness. He turns me inside out, takes me apart, and puts me back together—all in the span of one night.

And his training is working. I go into his arms willingly now, craving that high I often get from a particularly brutal session. Julian tells me that I’m a natural submissive with latent masochistic tendencies. I don’t know if I believe him—I know that I certainly don’t want to believe him—but I can’t deny that his peculiar brand of lovemaking resonates with me on some level. Toys, whips, canes—he’s used them all, and I have invariably found pleasure in some part of what he was doing.

Of course, he’s not always sadistic. Sometimes he’s almost sweet, massaging me all over, kissing me until I melt, and then making love to me when I’m nearly out of my mind with need. On days like that, I don’t want to leave the island. All I want is for Julian to keep holding me, caressing me . . . loving me, in whichever way he can.

Perhaps that is the most disturbing part of it all—the fact that I now crave my captor’s love. I don’t even know if he’s capable of that emotion, but I can’t help needing it from him. He wants me, I know that, but it’s not enough. Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost my hatred for him, and I don’t even know how or when it happened. I still resent my captivity, but those feelings are now separate from the way I feel about Julian.

Instead of dreading his visits to the island, I now eagerly await them. His business keeps him away more than I like, and I begin to understand how pets feel, waiting for their owner to come home from work.

“Why can’t you conduct more of your business from here?” I ask him one day, after we wake up together in the morning. He always sleeps with me now. He likes holding me during the night; it helps him with his nightmares.

“I do as much remotely as I can. Why, do you want me here, my pet?” His gaze is coolly mocking as he turns his head to look at me. He doesn’t like it when I question him about his business. It’s a part of his life that he seems to want to keep separate. In general, I get the sense that he’s sheltering me and Beth from some of the uglier parts of his world. Beth is fully aware of what Julian does, of course, but I don’t know if she knows much more about arms dealing than I do.

“Yes,” I tell him honestly. “I want you here.” It’s pointless to pretend otherwise; Julian knows exactly how I feel. He’s very good at reading me—and manipulating me. I have no doubt that he’s enjoying my growing attachment to him and likely doing his best to facilitate it.

Sure enough, at my admission, his lips curve in a sensual smile. “All right, baby,” he says softly, “I’ll try to be here more.” And reaching for me, he brings me toward him for a kiss that makes me dissolve in his embrace.

With each day that passes, my old life seems further and further away, fading into that nebulous time known as the past. When Julian is gone, I occupy myself by reading, swimming, hiking all around the island, and the occasional fishing expeditions with Beth. Julian brought us a large-screen TV with a DVD player and hundreds of movies, so Beth and I have something to do during rainy weather, too.

We’re still not exactly friends, Beth and I, but we’ve definitely grown closer. Partially, I think she likes the fact that I no longer try to escape. After my one failed attempt to bash her over the head—and the horrible incident with Jake that followed—I’ve been a model prisoner.

Of course, it would be foolish to be anything else. Even during Julian’s visits, when his plane is here, it’s locked inside the hangar I found on the other side of the island. I’m pretty sure Julian keeps the keys to the hangar in his office, where only he can access them. And even if I somehow got my hands on the keys, I sincerely doubt there would be an operating manual conveniently stored inside the plane, teaching me how to fly it.

No, my captor knew exactly what he was doing when he brought me to this island. It’s as secure a prison as any I could imagine.

As days turn into weeks and then into months, I try to find more activities to fill up my free time—and to prevent myself from pining after Julian when he’s not there.

The first thing I do is start running again.

I begin with short distances at first, to make sure I don’t strain my knee, and then I slowly increase both speed and distance. I run either in the mornings or at night, when it’s cooler, and it’s not long before I am in as good of a shape as I’d been during my days on the track team. I can do a three-mile run in under seventeen minutes—an accomplishment that makes me ridiculously happy.