“Cold?” he asks, taking the cup away before leaning over to pull the blanket higher up, covering my shoulders.

“Um, yeah, a little.” I’m off the island. Oh my God, I’m off the island. My mind is spinning. I feel torn, like I’m two different people—the terrified girl who insists this is her chance to escape and the woman who desperately craves Julian’s touch.

“They took out your appendix,” Julian says, brushing back a strand of hair that had been tickling my forehead. “The operation went smoothly, and there shouldn’t be any complications. Isn’t that right, Angela?” He looks up to the left.

Esguerra? Is that Julian’s last name? Recognizing the voice from before, I turn my head to see a petite young woman in white scrubs. Her smooth skin is a beautiful light brown color, and her hair and eyes are dark, nearly black. To me, she looks Filipino or maybe Thai—not that I can pretend to be an expert on either nationality.

What I do know is that she’s the first person I’ve seen in fifteen months who is neither Beth nor Julian.

I’m off the island. Oh my God, I’m off the island. For the first time since my abduction, there is a real possibility of escape.

“Where am I?” I ask, staring at the young nurse. I can’t believe Julian is letting someone else see me—me, the girl he kidnapped.

“You’re in a private clinic in the Philippines,” Julian replies when the woman merely smiles at me. “Angela is the nursing assistant who will be looking after you.”

At that moment, the door opens and Beth walks in. “Oh, look who’s awake,” she exclaims, coming up to my bedside. “How are you feeling?”

“Okay, I think,” I tell her cautiously. Holy shit, I’m off the fucking island.

“They said Julian got you here just in time,” Beth tells me, pulling up a chair and sitting down next to my bed. “Your appendix was getting ready to go. They cut it out and sewed you right back up, so you should be right as rain.”

I let out a nervous chuckle . . . and immediately groan, the movement tugging at the stitches in my side.

“Are you hurting?” Julian gives me a concerned look. Turning to Angela, he orders, “Give her more painkillers.”

“I’m okay, just a little sore,” I try to reassure him. “Seriously, I don’t need any drugs.” The last thing I want is something clouding my mind right now. I’m off the island, and I need to figure out what to do. I’m doing my best to remain calm, but it’s taking all of my willpower not to scream or do something stupid. Freedom is so close, I can practically taste it.

“Of course, Mr. Esguerra.” Angela completely ignores my protests and comes up to the bed, fiddling with the clear bag that’s feeding into my IV tube.

Julian leans over the bed and lightly kisses me on the lips. “You need to rest,” he says softly. “I want you healthy. Do you understand me?”

I nod, my eyelids growing heavy as I feel the medicine beginning to work. For a moment, I feel like I’m floating, all pain gone, and then I’m not aware of anything else.

When I wake up again, I’m alone in the room. Bright sunlight is streaming through the clear large windows and several plants are blooming merrily on the windowsill. It’s actually quite cozy. If it weren’t for that hospital smell and the various machines and monitors, I would’ve thought I was in someone’s bedroom. Whatever this private clinic is, it’s quite luxurious—a fact that I didn’t have a chance to really appreciate before.

The door opens and Angela walks into the room. Giving me a wide smile, she says in a cheerful voice, “How are you feeling, Nora?”

“Okay,” I reply, a little warily. “Where is Julian?” Something about this woman rubs me the wrong way, and I can’t quite figure out what. I know she’s probably my best chance to escape, but I don’t know if I can trust her. For one thing, she could easily be in Julian’s employ, like Beth.

“Mr. Esguerra had to leave for a couple of hours,” she says, still smiling at me. “Beth is here, however. She just went to the restroom.”

“Oh, good.” I stare at her, trying to gather my courage. I have to tell her that I’ve been kidnapped. I simply have to. This is my one opportunity to escape. She might be loyal to Julian, but I still have to try because I may never get a better shot at freedom.

Angela comes up to the bed and hands me the cup with the bent straw. “Here you go,” she says in that same cheerful voice. “I’ll bring you some food in a bit.”

I lift my arm and take the cup from her, wincing a little as the movement pulls at the stitches. “Thanks,” I say, greedily gulping down the water. I really, really need to tell her to call the police, or whatever the local law enforcement officials are called, but for some reason, I don’t. Instead, I drink the water and watch as she walks out of the room, leaving me alone once again.

I groan mentally. What is wrong with me? Freedom is a real possibility for the first time in over a year, and here I am, waffling and procrastinating. I tell myself it’s because I’m being cautious, because I don’t want to risk anyone getting hurt—not Angela and certainly not anyone back home—but deep inside, I know the truth.

As alluring as freedom seems, it’s also frightening. I’ve been a captive for so long that I actually long for the comfort of my cage; being here in this unfamiliar room makes me stressed, anxious, and there is a part of me that just wants to go back to the island, to my regular routine. Most importantly, however, freedom means leaving Julian, and I can’t bring myself to do that.