Gabriels redemption, p.2
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.2

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 2


  “‘To the Nuptial Bowre I led her blushing like the Morn: all Heav’n,

  And happie Constellations on that houre. ’”

  “Paradise Lost,” she whispered, stroking the stubble on his chin. “But in this place, I can only think of Paradise found. ”

  “We should have been married here. We should have made love here for the first time. ”

  She ran her fingers through his hair.

  “We’re here now. ”

  “This is where I discovered true beauty. ”

  He kissed her again, his hands gently exploring. Julia reciprocated, and their passion kindled and burned.

  In the months since their marriage, their desire had not abated, nor had the sweetness of their coupling. All speech melted into motion and touch and the bliss of physical love.

  Gabriel knew his wife—he knew her arousal and excitement, her impatience and release. They made love in the night air surrounded by darkness and the greenness of life.

  At the edge of the clearing, the old apple trees that had observed their chaste love in the past politely averted their gaze.

  When at last they’d caught their breaths, Julia lay weightless, admiring the stars.

  “I have something for you. ” He felt around for the flashlight and used it to locate his trousers. When he returned to her side he slipped something cool around her neck.

  Julia glanced down to see a necklace made of individual rings. Three charms hung from the necklace—a heart, an apple, and a book.

  “It’s beautiful. ” She breathed, fingering the charms one by one.

  “It came from London. The rings and charms are silver, except for the apple, which is made of gold. It represents when we met. ”

  “And the book?”

  “Dante is engraved on the cover. ”

  She looked at him coyly. “Is there a special occasion I’ve forgotten about?”

  “No, I just enjoy giving you things. ”

  Julia kissed him deeply and he moved her to her back, once again putting the flashlight aside.

  When they separated, he placed his palm against her flat stomach and brought his lips to the indentation that lay just beyond his thumb.

  “I want to plant my child here. ”

  As his words echoed in the clearing, Julia froze.


  “I’d like to have a child with you. ”

  She caught her breath. “So soon?”

  His thumb moved over her skin. “We never know how much time we have. ”

  Julia thought of Grace, his adoptive mother, and of her biological mother, Sharon. Both died at younger ages, but under very different circumstances.

  “Dante lost Beatrice when she was twenty-four,” he continued. “Losing you would be devastating. ”

  Julia reached up to touch the slight dimple in his chin. “No morbid talk. Not here, after we’ve celebrated life and love. ”

  Gabriel spread repentant kisses across her abdomen before reclining on his side.

  “I’ve almost outlived Beatrice and I’m healthy. ” She placed her hand on his chest, over his tattoo, and touched the name on the bleeding heart. “Is your anxiety because of Maia?”

  Gabriel’s features tightened. “No. ”

  “It’s all right if it is. ”

  “I know she’s happy. ”

  “I believe that too. ” Julia hesitated, as if she were going to say something more.


  “I was thinking about Sharon. ”


  “She wasn’t a good role model as a mother. ”

  He leaned forward to brush his lips against hers.

  “You’d be an excellent mother. You’re loving, patient, and kind. ”

  “I wouldn’t know what I was doing. ”

  “We’d figure it out together. I’m the one who should be worried. My biological parents were the definition of dysfunctional, and I haven’t exactly lived a sterling moral life. ”

  Julia shook her head. “You’re very good with Tammy’s little boy. Even your brother says so. But it’s too soon for a baby, Gabriel. We’ve only been married six months. And I want to finish my PhD. ”

  “I agreed to that, if you remember. ” He traced the arch of her ribs with a single finger.

  “Married life is wonderful, but it’s been an adjustment. For both of us. ”

  He paused his movements. “Agreed. But we need to talk about the future. It would be best if I began having conversations with my doctor sooner rather than later. It’s been so long since my vasectomy, a reversal might not be possible. ”

  “There’s more than one way to make a family. We can discuss other medical options. We could adopt a child from the Franciscan orphanage in Florence. When the time is right. ” Her expression grew hopeful.

  He smoothed a lock of hair away from her face. “We can do all those things. I intend to take you to Umbria after the conference, before we go to the exhibition in Florence. But when we get back from Europe, I’d like to speak to my doctor. ”

  “Okay. ”

  He pulled her on top of him. A strange charge seemed to jump between their skin as he gripped her hips.

  “When you’re ready, we’ll start trying. ”

  She grinned.

  “We should probably practice a lot in preparation. ”

  “Absolutely. ”

  Chapter Two

  Julia startled awake early the next morning. Dawn had yet to break and the bedroom was quiet, the silence broken only by the sound of Gabriel’s rhythmic breathing and the distant chattering of birds outside.

  She clutched the sheet to her naked chest and closed her eyes, forcing her breathing to slow. The act only brought the scenes from her nightmare into stark relief.

  She’d been at Harvard, running across campus to find the location of her general exam for her PhD. She stopped person after person, begging for help, but no one seemed to know where the exam was being held.

  She heard the sounds of crying and was shocked to find an infant in her arms. She clutched the child to her chest, trying to shush him, but he wouldn’t stop crying.

  Suddenly, she was standing in front of Professor Matthews, the chair of her department. A large sign at his left indicated that the general exam was taking place in the classroom behind him. He blocked the doorway, telling her that children weren’t allowed.

  She argued. She promised she’d keep the baby from crying. She begged him to give her a chance. All her hopes and dreams of completing her PhD and becoming a Dante specialist rested on the exam. Without it, she’d be dismissed from the program.

  At that moment, the infant in her arms began to wail. Professor Matthews scowled, pointing to the stairwell nearby and ordering her to leave.

  An arm reached across her body, hugging her. She looked down to see that Gabriel was still asleep. Something in his unconscious state must have prompted him to comfort her. She watched him with a mixture of love and anxiety, her body still trembling from the nightmare.

  She stumbled to the bathroom and switched on the lights and the shower. She hoped the hot water would calm her. Certainly, the brightness of the bathroom helped dispel some the darkness.

  As she stood under the tropical rain shower, she tried to forget the nightmare and the other worries that fought to breach the surface of her consciousness—her lecture, their family’s impending visit, Gabriel’s sudden urge to have a baby . . .

  Her fingers went to the silver necklace clasped around her throat. She knew that Gabriel wanted children with her. They’d discussed it prior to their engagement. But they’d agreed to wait until she graduated. Graduation was still a good five or six years away.

  Why is he bringing up the subject of children now?

  She was anxious enough over her studies. Come September, she’d be taking courses and looking ahead to her general exams, which would have to be completed the following year.

  More pressing was her lecture, which was to be delivered at Oxford in a few weeks. Julia had completed a paper on Guido da Montefeltro in Professor Marinelli’s graduate seminar that past semester. The professor liked the paper so much, she’d mentioned it to Professor Picton, who encouraged Julia to submit an abstract to the conference.

  Julia had been overjoyed when her paper proposal was accepted. But the thought of standing in front of a room of Dante specialists and lecturing them on topics they were far more expert in was daunting.

  Now Gabriel was talking about having his vasectomy reversed when they returned from Europe in August.

  What if the vasectomy reversal is successful?

  Guilt washed over her. Of course she wanted to have his child. And she knew that undoing the vasectomy was more than just a physical procedure. It would be a symbolic gesture—that he’d finally forgiven himself for what happened with Paulina and Maia. That he’d finally begun to believe that he was worthy of fathering and parenting children.

  They’d prayed for children. After their wedding, they’d approached the tomb of St. Francis and said spontaneous, private prayers, asking for God’s blessing on their marriage and the gift of children.

  If God wants to answer our prayers, how can I say, “Wait”?

  Julia worried she was being selfish. Maybe she should prioritize having a child over her education and aspirations. Harvard wasn’t going anywhere. Lots of people went back to university after starting a family.

  What if Gabriel doesn’t want to wait?

  He was correct to point out that life was short. The loss of Grace was testament to that. Once Gabriel knew he was able to father a child, he’d probably want to do so immediately. How could she say no?

  Gabriel was a consuming fire. His passion, his desires, all seemed to overtake the desires of those around him. He’d told her once that she was the only woman who’d ever said no to him. He was probably correct.

  Julia worried about her ability to say no to his deepest longing. She’d be overwhelmed with the desire to please him, to make him happy, and in so doing would sacrifice her own happiness.

  She hadn’t had much growing up. She’d been poor and neglected when she lived with Sharon in St. Louis. But she’d distinguished herself in school. Her intelligence and discipline had served her well through Saint Joseph’s University and the University of Toronto.

  Her first year at Harvard had been successful. Now was not the time to quit or drop out. Now was not the time to have a child.

  Julia covered her face with her hands and prayed for strength.

  A few hours later, Gabriel walked into the kitchen, carrying his running shoes and socks. He was clad in a Harvard T-shirt and shorts and was about to retrieve a bottle of water from the fridge when he saw Julia sitting at the kitchen island, her head in her hands.

  “There you are. ” He dropped his shoes and socks to the floor and greeted her with an insistent kiss. “I wondered where you’d gone. ”

  He remarked her tired eyes and the purple smudges below them. She looked distressed.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing. I just finished cleaning the kitchen and the fridge, and now I’m making a list for the grocery store. ” She pointed to a large piece of paper that was covered in her flowing script. It sat next to a cup of coffee that was stone cold and half empty, along with another equally long list of to-do items.

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