Page 30 of The Black Fox

I reach up and tweak her nose. “Cheeky girl. All right. Will you marry me, mi niñita, and make me the happiest man whoever lived?”

Lolita smiles wider and wraps her arms around my neck. She gazes at me with love. “I thought you’d never ask.”

We both want a simple ceremony, and we’re married in the local church the following week. We delay our honeymoon for the time being. Even though we don’t go away, it feels like a honeymoon. The housekeeper helps Lolita with the baby, and my wife studies in snatches. She didn’t, of course, get terrible grades in school. That was one of Valeria’s lies. Lolita is doing brilliantly in her coursework and I have no doubt that she will continue to do brilliant things.

When I’m not looking after Izabella I’m down among the vines. The first harvest is a success, and the Rioja is put into oak barrels to age. It’s a slow business, wine-making, but I’m in no hurry. This time next year we’ll taste our first vintage. Meanwhile, I learn to prune the vines and how to put them to bed for the coming winter.

I hear from the investigator one more time. Valeria has changed her name and remarried yet again. When he asks me if he should report her to the police for bigamy, I tell him to let sleeping dogs lie. I don’t hate my ex-wife. She wasn’t the woman I wish she had been, but she’s been ill-used by the curse, as well. Now that it’s broken, I hope she can find peace.

Lolita and I take our honeymoon when Izabella is ten months old, and of course our daughter comes with us. We hire a sailboat and sail it all the way to Greece on the calm, warm Mediterranean Sea, and island hop all summer.

On Mykonos we eat at a tiny taverna, gazing upon the old stone windmills with their huge sails. Izabella sits in my lap and babbles away as I eat marinated octopus with one hand. Lolita takes a photograph of us with her phone, and then smiles down at the screen.

“You both just look so happy,” she murmurs. When she looks up, she smiles even wider. “Look at you both. It barely feels real that I’m this happy.”

I take her fingers and kiss them, and then nip at them playfully. The setting sun and her white cotton dress make her look radiant. “How could I not be happy when I’m the luckiest man who ever lived?”

Her face clouds for a moment. “You can say that, even after being cursed?”

“I can say that because the curse was broken. Because my beloved broke it for me. How lucky I was the day you walked across the square toward me, and the bell tolled and time nearly stopped.” I can remember it at clearly as if it were yesterday, the day I fell for Lolita. I didn’t feel lucky at the time. I felt like the world was ending. But I know better now. It was only just beginning.

Back on the boat later that evening, we put a sleeping Izabellainto her cot below decks and close the door to her tiny bedroom. The master bedroom isn’t large, either, but there’s room for two.

Lolita undresses, smiling at me, and then kneels on the bed, her long hair tumbling over her shoulders. “Am I a good girl, daddy?”

“The best girl,” I tell her with a purr, shrugging out of my shirt. I push her back onto the bed and pin her arms above her head. “But how about you be a bad girl for daddy right now?”

She kisses me and sinks her teeth into my lower lip, growling like a kitten. “As long as he’s bad for me. I love it when my daddy’s good, but I love it when he’s very, very bad, too.”

I turn her over and wrap my belt around her throat, forcing her to look up at me. Her eyes grow dark and liquid with desire. “And tonight you want him bad?”

Lolita smiles sleekly, and wriggles her legs open. “Oh, yes. Tonight I want him very bad indeed.”

I slide two fingers along her wet slit, and then plunge them into her pussy, tightening the belt so she can’t cry out. “Anything for my sweet Lolita.”