I don’t want to leave the man who kidnapped me.
I should be rejoicing at the thought of the police coming to arrest him, but I feel horrified instead. I don’t want Julian behind bars. I don’t want to be separated from him, not even for a minute.
Closing my eyes, I tell myself that I’m a fool, a brainwashed idiot, but it doesn’t matter.
As I lie there in that hospital bed, I come to terms with the fact that I’m no longer an unwilling captive. Instead, I am simply a woman who belongs to Julian—just as he now belongs to me.
I recuperate in the clinic for the next week. Julian visits me every day, spending several hours by my side, and so does Beth. Angela takes care of me most of the time, although a couple of doctors have dropped by to view my charts and adjust my painkiller dosage.
I still have not told anyone about being a victim of kidnapping, nor am I planning to do so anymore. For one thing, I get the sense that the clinic staff is paid to be discreet. Nobody seems the least bit curious about what an American girl is doing in the Philippines, nor are they inclined to question me in any way. The only thing Angela wants to know is whether I’m in pain, thirsty, hungry, or need to use the bathroom. I’m pretty sure that if I ask her to call the police for me, she would just smile and give me more painkillers.
I have also seen a number of guards stationed in the hallway outside the room. I catch glimpses of them when the door opens. They’re armed to the teeth and look like scary sons of bitches, reminding me of the thug who beat up Jake.
When I ask Julian about them, he freely admits that they’re his employees. “They’re there for your protection,” he explains, sitting down on the side of my bed. “I told you I have enemies, right?”
He did tell me, but I hadn’t grasped the full extent of the danger before. According to Beth, there is a small army of bodyguards stationed at and around the clinic, all protecting us from whatever threat Julian is concerned about.
“What enemies?” I ask curiously, looking at him. “Who is after you?”
He smiles at me. “That’s none of your concern, my pet,” he says gently, but there is something cold and deadly lurking beneath the warmth of his smile. “I will deal with them soon.”
I shudder a little, and hope that Julian doesn’t notice. Sometimes my lover can be very, very scary.
“We’re going home tomorrow,” he says, changing the topic. “The doctors said you’ll need to take it easy for the next few weeks, but there is no need for you to stay here. You can recover at home just as well.”
I nod, my stomach tightening with a mixture of dread and anticipation. Home . . . Home on the island. This strange interlude at the clinic—so close to freedom—is almost over.
Pop! Pop! The explosive sound of a car backfiring jerks me out of sound sleep. My heart hammering, I jackknife up to a sitting position, then clutch at the stitches in my side with a hiss of pain.
Pop! Pop! Pop! The sound continues, and I freeze. No car backfires like that.
It’s dark, the only light coming from the monitors hooked up to me. I’m on the bed in the middle of the room—the first thing someone would see upon opening the door. It occurs to me that I might as well be sitting there with a bull’s eye painted in the middle of my forehead.
Trying to control my ragged breathing, I pull the IV from my arm and get to my feet. It still hurts to walk, but I ignore the pain. I’m certain bullets would hurt a lot worse.
Padding barefoot toward the door, I open it just a tiny bit and peek out into the hallway. My stomach sinks. There isn’t a single bodyguard in sight; the hallway in front of me is completely empty.
Casting a frantic glance around, I look for a hiding spot, but the only cupboard in the room is too small for me to fit into. There is no other place to conceal myself. Staying here would be suicidal. I need to get out, and I need to do so now.
Pulling the hospital gown tighter around myself, I cautiously step out into the hallway. The floor is cold under my bare feet, adding to the icy chill inside me. Out here, I feel even more exposed and vulnerable, and the urge to hide grows stronger. Spotting a bunch of doors on the other end of the hallway, I choose one at random, opening it carefully. To my relief, there is no one inside, and I go in, closing the door quietly behind me.
The sound of gunfire continues at random intervals, coming closer each time. I step into the corner behind the door and plaster myself against the wall, trying to control my rising panic. I have no idea who the gunmen are, but the possibilities that occur to me are not reassuring.
Julian has enemies. What if it’s them out there? What if he’s fighting them right now alongside his bodyguards? I imagine him injured, dead, and the coldness inside me spreads, penetrating deep into my bones. Please, God, no. Please, anything but that. I would sooner die than lose him.
My entire body is trembling, and I feel cold sweat sliding down my back. The gunfire has stopped, and the silence is more ominous than the deafening noise from before. I can taste the fear; it’s sharp and metallic on my tongue, and I realize that I’d bitten the inside of my cheek hard enough to draw blood.
Time moves at a painful crawl. Every minute seems to stretch into an hour, every second into eternity. Finally, I hear voices and heavy footsteps out in the hallway. It sounds like there are several men, and they’re speaking in a language I don’t understand—a language that sounds harsh and guttural to my ears.