“What the hell is your problem?” Don turns to me, grabs hold of the handcuffs, and pulls me forward again.
“I don't want to go into that cave,” I tell him.
“It's not a cave,” he says. “It looks like one from the outside, but once you get in there, and you turn left, it's basically an extremely steep and high ravine cut into the cliffs. It leads through a narrow path to the beach at the other side. Once we get there, I have a rental car waiting for us.”
“Where are you taking me?” I demand.
“Somewhere we can have a good chat,” he says with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
I hate him so much I want to take hold of the flashlight and smash him so hard on the head his skull cracks like the shell of an egg and his brains spill out like messy yolk.
Somewhat shocked at myself for the ferocity of my thoughts, I try to clear my head and think about what he said.
A place for us to talk. Right. But it gives me chance to take control, and to be the one in the driver’s seat here. For a while, at least. Buying myself time until I can get out of this mess.
“Will I be able to take a shower and change?” I ask.
He stops walking and slowly swivels his head until he faces me.
I know I'm playing a dangerous game right now, but for the first time in a long while, I feel as if I have something worth surviving for. I think, slowly but surely, I've somehow managed to fall in love with my four strange and brooding employers on the island. I want to see where this thing between us could go. And I also want my damn money. I earned it. More than anything, though, I want this man dead. And I know the four men who hired me to be their plaything can bring about his demise.
All I need to do is play for time.
Mentioning showers to Don is like a red cape to a bull. Or perhaps, one might more aptly say, it's a tantalizing glimpse of stocking to a leg man who hasn’t had sex in years. Don liked nothing more than sneaking in the bathroom when I was in there, and me asking about a shower is about as innocent as the things I've been doing on the island.
It makes me realize something profound; I've come a very long way since my first days thinking I was a maid. At first, I'd been afraid of the things those men wanted me to do, and then intrigued, and in time enticed by them. I grew in my confidence, and in my belief in myself now both as a sexual being but also as a strong woman. I ran for hours in the heat. I fought hard. And through it all, despite at times what seemed to be their best attempts to take it from me, I kept my dignity.
If Don thinks someone as sleazy and pathetic as himself now gets to take it away, he's very wrong.
I don't see sex as something scary anymore, and I'm not afraid to use my body if it gets me what I want.
“Yes, there are showers in the house,” he says slowly as if trying to figure out whether I meant anything by my question.
“Good to know, because I'm a very dirty girl.”
There. Tease dropped.
The light is still dim, but I can see enough to understand that he hasn’t figured this out. I like that. I like the sense of power it gives me in this moment. He's the predator, but maybe, just maybe, I can turn him into the prey.
He yanks on the cuffs and pulls me into the crevasse. Instantly, my surroundings change. The temperature plummets. The moonlight vanishes. Even the acoustics change, and the crash of the ocean on the beach is replaced by our heavy breathing and the crunch of our footsteps. I’m forced to duck to avoid cracking my head on the rock ceiling.
Don uses the flashlight to guide his own way, and I have no choice but to follow in his footsteps. By the time my feet land where his were, the illumination has long since moved on, and I have to trust my memory.
It feels like we’re inside the cave-tunnel for far longer than we are, but finally we emerge into the fresh air.
With relief, I straighten and suck in a lungful of oxygen. I can still hear the sea, and there’s a brackish tang to the air. I blink, my eyes adjusting to the change in light.
We’re on another beach now. A car sits at the far end, where sand and shingle turn to scrubby grass. Don marches us to it, opens the passenger door of the generic, silver car. He pushes me into the seat before slamming the door closed on me. I can't fasten my seatbelt because I still have the handcuffs on, but when Don gets into the driver’s side he leans over and pulls it around me. His hand brushes my breast, and he pauses, deliberately meeting my eye. I hold his, refusing to back down or give in to the tears that have been permanently lodged in the back of my throat since my realization that he found me. A small smile touches the corner of his lips, and he continues to pull the strap down, clicking it into place.
He does his own belt and starts the car, driving off the scrub land and onto the road.
We drive in silence, and as we pass under the lights at the side of the small country road we are on, I think about the ways I could seduce this man. I need to do it in a clever manner. If I give him too much at once, he'll get bored too quickly. If I don't tease him enough, he's either going to force me into giving him what he wants or get bored for the exact opposite reason of him getting it too easily. This is going to be a delicate balancing act, but I do believe it is one I can pull off. This man was so terrifying to me before, but now that I’ve faced four huge, insatiable, and, at times, angry men, he doesn't hold the same power over me.
Thirty minutes pass, and we approach the driveaway of a property, in the middle of nowhere, of course. He unclips my seatbelt, opens the driver's door, gets out, and walks around to my side. He opens my door and hauls me out of the car.
“What is this place?” I ask.
“Just a rental,” he says. “It's got all the luxuries a girl like you might need, though.”