Gabriels redemption, p.12
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.12

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 12


  “If we’d walked away, she wouldn’t have gotten that far. ”

  “Bullshit. She’s already slandering us. You said so yourself. ”

  Julia’s face was marked by disappointment. “I asked you to stop. ”

  “And I explained that I wasn’t about to let her speak to you that way. ” He clenched his jaw and released it. “Let’s not fight because of that bitch. That’s precisely what she wants. ”

  “She was spoiling for a fight. And you gave it to her. ” Julia glanced around the rapidly emptying room. “Tomorrow I have to stand up in front of everyone, knowing that they witnessed that embarrassing scene. ”

  “If I’d said nothing, if I’d done nothing, then it would look like I agreed with her. ” Gabriel’s voice rumbled, low in his throat.

  “I asked you to stop, and you brushed me off. ” She gave him a wounded look. “I’m your wife. Not a speed bump. ”

  She clutched her old Fendi messenger bag and followed the crowd into the lecture theater.

  Chapter Ten

  Professor Emerson seethed with anger as he watched his wife walk away. He wanted to drag Christa Peterson outside by her hair and teach her a lesson. Unfortunately, based on her seductive behavior when she was his student, she’d probably enjoy it.

  (And take photographs for her scrapbook. )

  It was not like him to want to strike a woman.

  Or perhaps it was. Perhaps it was precisely like him to want to strike a woman. Anger and violence were written in the bone, the product of DNA. Perhaps Gabriel was just like his father.

  He closed his eyes. As quickly as the thought emerged, he tamped it down. Now was not the time to think of what he did and did not know about his biological parents.

  Gabriel knew he had a temper. He tried to control it but frequently failed. On one such occasion, to his shame, he’d struck a woman.

  He was teaching in Toronto. The women were beautiful and sexy; the city was ripe with diversions of music and art. Yet he’d been depressed. Paulina had been to see him and they’d resumed their sexual relationship—again. After every encounter, he’d swear it would be the last time. But every time she put her hands on him, he gave in.

  He knew it was wrong. His continued involvement with her was damaging to both of them. But his spirit, although willing, was tied to flesh that was very, very weak.

  After she went back to Boston, he began drinking heavily. He became a VIP at Lobby and fucked a different woman every night. Sometimes fucking more than one in a single Scotch-soaked evening. Sometimes fucking more than one at the same time.

  Nothing helped. Haunted by his past, made all the more recent by his few days with Paulina, he felt as if he were one careless moment away from resuming his cocaine habit.

  Then he met Ann. They shared an enthusiasm for fencing and fenced a few times at their club, only to retire to a darkened room on the last occasion for a brief but explosive sexual encounter.

  Ann Singer promised new, tantalizing diversions. She whispered words of raw, intense pleasure the likes of which he’d never experienced.

  He was intrigued. She had the power to drag his mind into his body and keep it there, unable to think or worry. And that was how he found himself in the basement of her town house in Toronto, naked, restrained, and on his knees.

  She confused his senses by both pleasing and punishing him. With every strike, all his emotional pain seemed to bleed away. His single errant thought was why had he waited so long to use physical pain to alleviate his mental suffering. But even that thought was soon forgotten.

  Then came the humiliation. Ann’s dominance was over the mind, as well as the body. As she bruised his flesh, she sought to break his will.

  Gabriel realized what she was doing, and his psyche bristled. He desired physical pain and accepted it, but not psychological manipulation. His mind was fucked up enough thanks to his past.

  He began to resist.

  She accused him of attempting to top from the bottom and redoubled her efforts. She retold his life story, spinning a speculative myth based solely on her own armchair analysis. Some of it came perilously close to the truth. And the rest of it . . .

  Without warning, something inside him snapped.

  Standing in St. Anne’s College, Gabriel couldn’t recall exactly what Professor Singer said that set him off. He couldn’t remember how long the encounter lasted. He only remembered white-hot, blinding fury.

  In one swift motion, he broke the restraint on his right wrist (a considerable feat) and backhanded her across the face. Her diminutive form crumpled to the tiled floor.

  He stumbled to his feet and stood over her, breathing heavily. She didn’t move.

  A door flew open and Gabriel found himself boxing one-handed with her bodyguard, who’d rushed to her defense. Bruised and bloodied, Gabriel was flung outside into the snow, his clothes scattered behind him.

  That was his last sexual encounter with Ann and his final experience with BDSM. He was revolted by the fact that he’d lost control and hit her, and he was determined never to strike a woman again. Even now, the shame washed over him.

  Gabriel closed his eyes and tried to compose himself. He’d never explained the entirety of what happened with Professor Singer to Julianne. He wasn’t about to do so now. Some things were better left unsaid.

  He mentally catalogued the eminent Dante specialists who’d overheard Christa’s remarks about his past. It was embarrassing, to be sure. But he was tenured and full professor. They could go to hell.

  (And study Dante’s Inferno in person. )

  But he needed to neutralize Christa before she damaged Julianne’s reputation any further. She’d all but called Julia a whore, suggesting her academic success was won on her knees.

  With that thought twisting in his mind, he straightened his bow tie, smoothed his suit jacket, and entered the lecture theater.

  Julia watched as her husband approached, his eyes averted, his visage grim.

  He glowered at Christa, who sat with Professor Pacciani, before taking the seat between Julia and Professor Picton. Gabriel didn’t speak as he pulled his Meisterstück 149 fountain pen and a notepad out of his leather briefcase. His body language was decidedly cross.

  Julia tried to concentrate on the lecture, which was on the use of the number three in Dante’s Divine Comedy. The subject matter and delivery of the presentation could only be described as contravening the Geneva Conventions on cruel and unusual punishment. Worse still was being next to Gabriel and feeling his anger radiating through his handsome three-piece suit.

  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that he was taking copious notes, his elegant script uncharacteristically forceful and angular. There was tension around his mouth and a familiar crease between his dark brows, behind his glasses.

  Julia was disappointed in him, but she wasn’t angry. She knew it was consonant with his character to be the avenging angel. There had been times when she welcomed that aspect of his personality, such as when he’d beaten Simon senseless after he’d attacked her.

  But she didn’t like fighting with him, especially in public. She certainly didn’t enjoy the sight of him losing his temper and causing a scene in front of so many important people, even if Katherine defended him.

  She sighed quietly. His love for her and his desire that she succeed likely fueled his anger.

  You’re his first serious and committed relationship. You should cut the guy some slack.

  She wanted to touch him but was wary of how she might be received. Certainly, she didn’t wish to interrupt him. She imagined him peering at her over the rims of his glasses, his expression censorious. Such a reaction would cut her deeply.

  It had been a long time since she’d seen him truly angry. Julia thought back to their explosive interactions in his Dante seminar, when she’d challenged him about Paulina. He’d been furious until his anger shifted to passion.

uncrossed and crossed her legs. Now was not the time to think about passion. She’d wait until they were back in their room at Magdalen before she reached out to him. Otherwise, he might decide to make up with her and drag her into a corner for conference sex.

  (Conference sex was a peculiar compunction of certain academics. It should be avoided at all costs. )

  The next lecture was as torturous as the first. Julia feigned interest while her thoughts fixated on one point. If Gabriel had listened to her, Christa would have been forced to spin her web of slander without a large, focused audience. Now Julia would have to mingle with the other attendees knowing they’d witnessed the embarrassing display. She was shy to begin with. Christa had magnified her unease a hundredfold.

  Despite their falling out, Julia would have preferred to spend the day at his side, especially during lunch and the frequent tea and coffee breaks. But they’d agreed the night before to circulate among the conferencegoers, giving Julia the opportunity to network.

  She forced herself to make small talk, allowing Professors Marinelli and Picton to introduce her to their old friends, while Gabriel mingled on the other side of the room. He was obviously on a charm offensive—trying to speak to as many conferencegoers as possible. From the glances Julia received, it was clear he was speaking about her.

  Women flocked to him. No matter where he was, there were always one or two women standing near him. To his credit, he suffered their attentions patiently without encouraging them.

  Julia focused on her own interactions, but she couldn’t help but keep apprised of where he was situated and with whom. She also marked Christa’s position, but she was never far from Professor Pacciani.

  Julia found the fact curious.

  Pacciani’s eyes seemed to follow her and on one occasion, she was certain he winked. But he made no attempt to approach or speak with her. He seemed content to remain at Christa’s side, despite her occasionally flirtatious behavior with other men.

  Julia sipped her tea as she listened to professor after professor regale her with tales of their latest research projects, longing for the end of the day.

  During the final lecture, Gabriel noticed Julia squirming in her seat. She’d been doing so for an hour, as if she were in desperate need of the ladies’ room.

  Gabriel had been nursing his irritation with Christa for hours, fanning the embers with myriad justifications for his words and actions. He was in the middle of composing a self-righteous speech that he intended to deliver to Julia when they were back at Magdalen, when she stunned him by passing a note.

  I don’t want to fight.

  I’m sorry.

  Thank you for defending me.

  I’m sorry she mentioned Professor Pain.

  Gabriel reread the note twice.

  The sight of Julia’s contrition in black and white made his heart constrict. She’d said that she was sorry, even though she’d done almost nothing.

  He would have appreciated more support from her. He coveted her compassion—compassion for a plight brought about because of his strong desire to protect her. But he hadn’t expected an apology.

  Their eyes met and she gave him a tentative smile. The smile, perhaps even more than the note, undid him.

  His irritation cooled, under the frigid waters of remorse.

  Without delay, he turned her note over and wrote,

  Emerson was an ass.

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