Sleep eludes me for a long time. I lie awake in the canopied bed, images of Lolita dancing through my mind, her body drenched in sunshine and her silky hair cascading down her back. My dick is rock hard at the memory of her sobbing so sweetly in my arms. Clinging to me. Needing me.
She’s no more than a few breaths away, her naked body lying tangled in sheets.
One breath for me to leave this room.
Another breath to walk silently down the hall and open her door.
A third to get up on the bed with her and wake her gently with a kiss.
Would she scream if she opened her eyes to see her masked hero in bed with her? Or would she wrap her arms around his neck and pull him down to her, offering up her soft breasts and tender thighs to his kisses, and her slippery, tight sex for the plunder of his cock?
I groan and cover my face with a pillow, willing this night to end.
When I finally sleep, it’s in fits and starts, with unsettling dreams that have me waking in a cold sweat. The next day only brings even more torment.
I manage to avoid Lolita all morning and afternoon. Valeria is shut up in our bedroom and has her maid hurrying in and out with herbal teas and hot and cold compresses for her brow. I hear her moaning and crying dramatically over how her head is splitting and she’s going to look dreadful for the ball.
Lolita remains closeted in her own room, and there’s silence from within. I’m dreading tonight. I begin to fantasize that our attendance at this ball is going to be canceled, because no one seems to be in the spirits for it. Valeria’s maid finds me at four in the afternoon in the lounge and bobs a curtsy before my chair.
“Señor, the mistress asks if you’ll be ready to leave for Madrid in an hour.”
I throw my newspaper aside and get to my feet, growling my assent. So much for our attendance being canceled. The maid calls after me that my tuxedo h
as been laid out in the spare room, and she’s packed my overnight bag. The ball is to be held in one of the city’s grand old hotels, and we’ll be sleeping there rather than driving back tonight.
I shower and shave and dress in my tuxedo, and then check my overnight bag to see what the maid has packed for me. There’s some space inside. I stand over it, thinking. The last few days have been a torment with only one moment of respite. When I became the Black Fox, I was able to do the right thing. Press a kiss to Lolita’s palm and walk away from her. I need the Black Fox tonight. I need him to remind me that I’m a good man. To become him if I feel myself falling to temptation.
I take my overnight bag into the storage room and pack my vigilante attire. Cape. Mask. Sword. Then I head downstairs and reverse the black Mercedes Valeria gave me as a wedding present out of the garage. Once my things are packed into the trunk, along with Valeria and Lolita’s bags, I wait, leaning against the hood, hands deep in the pockets of my pants.
Valeria emerges through the front door in a floor-length red lace gown, heavy gold jewelry around her neck and wrists and her hair swept up into an elaborate knot. She pauses, framed in the doorway, to adjust the red silk stole around her shoulders. With plump, self-satisfied lips, she descends the stairs toward me, no trace of pain lines or any puffiness to her face. You would think that she never had a headache.
I hold open the front passenger door for her and drop a quick kiss onto her cheek. “You look beautiful, Valeria.”
She settles herself into the seat without a word, and we wait for her daughter.
Ten minutes later, Valeria leans over and presses the car horn, the sound reverberating through my skull. A minute passes, and then Lolita appears on the top step. My heart gives one hard pound, and then seems to stop altogether.
Lolita wears a gown that sparkles like champagne and clings to every curve of her body. Her dark hair has been lightly curled and cascades over her shoulders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her with makeup on, but today her natural beauty has been highlighted with darkened lashes and a brush of pink lipstick on her lush mouth.
She comes slowly down the steps toward me. I find myself drifting toward her, aching to take this angel in my arms. It’s a moment before I realize she’s gazing at me with loathing in her jewel-bright eyes.
Faced with her loveliness, I forgot that she hates me.
If you so much as look in another man’s direction, I will see to it that he dies a slow and bloody death.
I hold out my hand to her to help her into the car, but she swerves around me. Or tries to. I step in front of her on the pretense of reaching for the door handle.
“How lovely you look tonight,” I murmur. She’s so close that I don’t need to raise my voice. Behind me, her mother is shut up in the car, the windows closed. “I hope you haven’t forgotten my request, mi niñita.”
“You mean your threat,” she says through her clenched, pearly teeth.
I raise an eyebrow at her. “Shall I open the door so you can repeat that for your mother?”
Lolita snaps her eyes away, an angry red flush creeping into her cheeks. I chuckle and open the car door, and she gets inside. The skirt of her gown is full and I lean down to scoop some of the tulle into the car.
“I can do that.” She tries to brush my hand away. Our fingers touch, and a bolt of electricity goes through me. Her eyes meet mine, and shock has driven all hatred from her face. We stare at each other for several long moments. Lolita doesn’t move, her lower lip softening and her breasts rising and falling in short, soft breaths. I reach out to her lovely face, wanting to cup her cheek and draw her lips to mine.