I finally run her to ground by the refreshments table. She’s reaching for some punch, and another man is making a bee-line for her, his arm outstretched to put a cup into her hand. I get there first and step in front of him.
“Dance with me.” I hold out my hand to Lolita. It’s not a request.
She glances around for a friend. Her mother. But there’s only me, and I’m going to get what I want.
Reluctantly, she places her hand in mine. We’re on the edge of the dancefloor, and I step back and draw her into my arms. My arm slides around her waist as if it has done so every night for a hundred years. Lolita’s scent blooms in my nostrils, and I close my eyes briefly as she settles one slim hand on my shoulder. Euphoria fills me, and it’s all I can do not to bend down and nuzzle her neck through her hair and nip her throat with my teeth.
Lolita gaze up at me through her lashes. “You’re very strange, Zacarias. I don’t like you at all.”
I take a deep breath and remind myself of my intentions. I’m only doing this so I won’t have to see her with other men. In a few hours’ time, she’ll be locked in a bedroom upstairs, and come morning I’ll drive her back to the castillo where there are no other male eyes but my own.
Where no man can look upon what’s mine. Mine. Mine.
“Yet you’re dancing with me,” I point out.
“We’re in public. There are a hundred people in this room. Do I have to fear you even now?”
Especially now. I’m learning your scent, Lolita. I’m imprinting the curves of your body on my mind. I lean close to her lips and murmur, “Tell me, did you really try to seduce two of your professors?”
Her cheeks turn pink. What a little minx she is. I let my gaze slide down her body, wondering how far those papery old fools got with my Lolita. If I find out they touched her before they reported her, their lives won’t be worth living.
Lolita gazes past my shoulder, craning her neck this way and that as I sweep her around the dancefloor. “Are you looking for someone?”
“I thought perhaps…” She trails off.
“You thought perhaps the Black Fox might make an appearance?”
She starts, and her cheeks turn an even deeper shade of crimson. For a moment she’s flustered, but then becomes defiant. “Everyone thinks he’s disappeared, but he hasn’t. Criminals in Spain should watch themselves.”
Her eyes flick disdainfully over my face, and I find myself smiling broadly. I lean down to whisper in her ear, “But I have you to watch me, mi niñita. I’d much rather have you than a ridiculous masked man.”
Now that my lips are against her ear, I can’t wrench myself away. I wrap my arm tighter around Lolita’s waist, feeling her breasts crush against my chest. I can’t let her go. Not ever.
His mouth against my ear makes a shiver run down my spine. Not a cold shiver, either. A hot, forbidden one. Slowly, Zacarias moves his lips against my earlobe, and then down to my throat. Surrounded by strangers and under the dim, shimmering light of the chandeliers, he kisses the tender spot behind my ear.
I hear myself gasp. I’m reminded of how it felt to be in his arms. It isn’t right that my stepfather makes me feel like the Black Fox did. My eyes drift closed and I whisper, “Please let me go.”
Zacarias’ lips move back to my ear and his hands tighten on me possessively as he breathes, “But we haven’t finished dancing.”
I try desperately to imagine that I’m in my hero’s arms, and that’s why heat is sparkling low in my belly. It’s the Black Fox’s large hand splayed on my back. The Black Fox’s chest that my over-sensitized nipples are rubbing against. The Black Fox who is making me pant and my core quiver with need as his hand dips further down my lower back until his touch is almost indecent.
The waltz ends, and I wrench myself out of Zacarias’ arms. I stare up at him, breathing hard, willing my feet to carry me far, far away from him. He’s gazing down at me with a hollow expression, almost like he’s in pain. I could bear his cruelty because it made me hate him, but seeing that the ache in my chest is mirrored in his eyes makes panic flood through me.
“Mi niñita.” His voice is roughened and low with emotion, and he reaches for my hand. He’s forgotten everyone around us. He’s forgotten he’s my stepfather. That my mother could be watching us at this very moment. He’s a man reaching for the woman he craves, and nothing else matters. For one long, terrible heartbeat, I want to go to him, too.