I glance at Zacarias. His hands are clenching the arms of his chair and his expression is alive with fury, a stark contrast to Mama’s indifference.
“Yes, it does matter.”
I give a hollow laugh. “Don’t worry, Zacarias. I was still a virgin when you came to me. I didn’t let them have that. I fought to keep myself pure for an honorable man. Say thank you, Zacarias.”
“What for, mi niñita?”
The lapping sound stopped several minutes ago. There was nothing I could do to save her. I take a deep breath and step aside, showing them what’s lying on the floor, dead and still. Blanca, my mother’s toy poodle.
A blood-curdling scream pierces the air. Mama throws herself to her knees before the little dog.
“I saw her adding something to your glass before you came downstairs,” I tell Zacarias. He stares between the wine splattered on the ground and the dead dog. The poison would have finished him in an instant.
“Your husband tricked me into having sex with him, Mama.” I say the words dispassionately, watching her rock the poodle in her arms and sob into her fur. “He took my virginity the night of the ball in Madrid. He comes into my room, straps me with his belt and makes me call him daddy.”
Predictably, Mama doesn’t show one ounce of shock at the news, or sympathy for me.
“He’s not been fucking you. He loves you.” Mama screams like love is disgusting. Like I’m disgusting. “I can smell it all over you. You’re carrying his bastard child.”
Zacarias leaps to his feet.
Valeria turns to him, still rocking and sobbing. “I cursed you. I cursed you. Why aren’t you dead?”
Her eyes flash with preternatural greenish light and her face is transformed by a suffusion of black veins. She’s something terrifying. Something unearthly. Then, a split second later, she’s Valeria again, sobbing over her dog. Zacarias takes a step toward her, but she leaps up and runs from the room, Blanca in her arms. We hear her pitiful cries all the way down the corridor.
Zacarias and I stare at each other. The sword drops from my nerveless fingers and clatters to the ground.
My hand goes to my belly and presses against my flesh. I seek inwardly for the truth. We had sex twice without protection. I wasn’t thinking about it in the moment or afterward because it was impossible that I was even with my Black Fox, let alone becoming pregnant by him.
Our eyes meet, and Zacarias is staring with naked longing at me. He was supposed to die, but I discovered the truth before the evil queen could kill him. I was supposed to hate him, but instead I’m carrying his child.
It’s all gone horribly wrong.
But not for us. For the queen.
Tears spill down my cheeks as I walk toward him. I wrap my arms around his neck and press my lips to his. My Black Fox. My Zacarias. Two halves of the same man.
He stares down at me, his brown eyes bewildered. “Mi niñita? What’s happening? The curse…”
“Is broken,” I whisper through my tears. “The queen tricked you into becoming two men. I think she was the fortune teller, or possessed her like she seems to have possessed my mother. No woman can love a man who is not whole. I found out, though, and I fell in love with both of you. Do you love me, too, Zacarias?”
Zacarias caresses my cheek, his face filled with pain. “But how can you love me after the things I’ve done?”
I smile up at him, remembering how he fled my room when I asked to be punished, but came back and gave me what I wanted. He ran as the Black Fox, but returned as Zacarias. “Because even blindfolded, I can see the man behind the mask.”
My lips touch his. For a moment he resists, still lost in confusion and doubt. Then his arms wrap around me and he crushes me to him as he realizes the curse really has broken, and the queen has fled.
“My Lolita. I love you, too.”
He lifts me up in his arms and carries me from the room, and then upstairs to my bedroom. He throws me on the bed and takes handfuls of my breasts through the see-through fabric, and then pinches my nipples. I can see the lust in his eyes, but there’s a spark of fear, too, and he hesitates, as if afraid that I don’t want this.
Wrapping my legs around his hips, I draw him closer to me. “Daddy, will you punish me?” I whisper, looking up at him through my lashes. “Will you take your belt to me and tell me I’m your filthy little girl? Will you cherish me in your arms and call me your angel?”
“Lolita, I can’t—”
I take a fistful of his shirt and pull him down on top of me. “I want all of you. I want the Black Fox. And I want Zacarias, too.”