Gabriels redemption, p.23
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.23

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 23


  Their couplings were always passionate, always loving. Gabriel watched her relentlessly when they were together, so that any sign of hesitation was immediately addressed. And knowing that she was safe in his bed, she gave herself freely.

  Sex could be all-consuming. He knew this and had once been consumed, caught like an animal in a trap. He knew that even with his wife, there were times when he felt the temptation to push everything aside so he could find himself inside her.

  Julia could be voracious and passionate. Her confidence in her safety made her brave, and her passion for him made her an enthusiastic lover. Her experience was limited to what he’d taught her, a fact in which he took no little pride. It seemed as if every sexual act between them was fraught with newness.

  He didn’t know how to communicate his feelings on these matters to her, without bringing up the specter of his past. But he felt the differences among his wife and his lovers in his very flesh and tried to reassure her of how much she pleased him in word as well as deed.

  Within the bedroom as without, they followed the wisdom of St. Augustine: Love and do what you will.

  (They’d loved and willed several times the night before. )

  He eyed the remnants of his surprise—strawberries and truffles for both of them, champagne for Julia and sparkling water for him. The concierge had been very obliging when he’d appeared at his desk on impulse the night before.

  Gabriel began picking up the clothes they’d discarded. He hung up her things first, smiling at the corset and minuscule panties she’d worn underneath her conservative suit. She knew just how to tantalize him, without losing any of her innate modesty.

  He hung up his own suit, emptying his pockets as he did so. Something white fluttered to the ground.

  He bent over to retrieve it. It was a business card with printed lettering.

  Christa Peterson, M. A.

  Graduate Student

  Department of Italian

  Columbia University

  Email: [email protected] /* */

  Tel. (212) 458-2124

  Gabriel stared in disgust at the item, turning it over. On the back of the card he found writing, in a sloping woman’s hand,

  Malmaison Hotel, Room 209.


  With a curse, Gabriel crumpled the card and threw it into the wastepaper basket.

  Christa must have slipped it in his pocket the day before. No doubt she’d written on the card before she saw him, having planned her seduction in advance. Perhaps she’d even traveled to Oxford solely for that purpose.

  Given that explanation, much of her behavior made sense. Gabriel was the mark, not Julia. Christa’s outrageous actions were carefully calculated to entrap him, capitalizing on his desire to protect his wife. Of course, that didn’t stop Christa from taunting Julia and suggesting she wouldn’t be able to hold on to her husband, as if Christa knew her seduction would be successful.

  His stomach lurched.

  Gabriel walked to the bed, looking at Julia’s face in profile as she slept. They’d enjoyed an evening of tremendous pleasure, and Christa wished to take that away from them. Her lust had turned into envy and treachery as she conspired to become an adulterer and steal him from his wife.

  It’s a good thing Julia didn’t find that card.

  Hopefully, she would have confronted him about it and not gone and bared her soul to Paul.

  A tremor traveled up and down Gabriel’s spine. Julianne’s budding career was precious. His marriage was precious. And he wasn’t about to let anyone or anything threaten either.

  Picking up his cell phone, he strode back to the bathroom, dialing the number for John Green, his lawyer.

  In the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford Castle, Christa stood in front of the bathroom mirror. She raised a shaking hand to her lip, ghosting over where the skin was split. She winced, slowly inspecting the bruise that was blossoming in her cheek and the marks where his fingers had dug into her flesh.

  She looked terrible.

  She’d opened the door to her room the night before, expecting to see Professor Emerson. Instead, Giuseppe was standing there, drunk and furious.

  He’d pushed past her and locked the door, ranting about how she was going to cost him an academic position in America. His rants were slurred and in Italian.

  When she questioned him, he grew even more belligerent, demanding to know whom she was attempting to seduce in the hotel room he’d paid for.

  As soon as she said Gabriel’s name, he’d backhanded her.

  She’d never been struck before. There were a lot of things she’d never experienced before last night and this morning. She looked down between her legs where the flesh was tender and raw. She hadn’t consented. She hadn’t consented to any of it.

  Giuseppe’s previous tenderness had disappeared entirely. He’d been in a rage, ripping the fabric from her body and forcing her to the bed. He’d called her names, cursing her and Gabriel, and when she struggled, he’d struck her again.

  She stumbled to the toilet as she recalled the assault, emptying the contents of her stomach. When she was finished, she leaned against the counter and drank a glass of water.

  She thought she was in control. She decided whom to fuck and what they must give her in return. She was the one who spurned lovers. But last night the control had been taken away from her.

  He’d taken more than that. She fought angry, frustrated tears at the memory.

  She crept back to the bedroom to make sure that he was still sleeping. When she heard the low sound of his snores, she knew it was time.

  Hastily, she pulled on some clothes, not caring if the colors or styles matched. She tossed her belongings in her suitcase, leaving the torn remnants of last night’s lingerie on the floor.

  She heard a loud intake of breath coming from the bed and spun around, terrified.

  Giuseppe muttered something and his snoring recommenced.

  Christa located her purse and her passport and grabbed them, along with her coat. She was almost to the door when she realized that her Baume & Mercier watch was sitting on the nightstand. It was mere inches from his head.

  She wanted to retrieve it. The watch was very valuable, for sentimental reasons.

  As she approached the bed, Pacciani’s breathing grew more uneven. A groan escaped his mouth and he rolled toward her.

  Without looking back, she fled to the door, opening and closing it quietly.

  She left the watch behind.

  As she entered the taxi that would whisk her to the railway station, she began plotting her revenge. All thoughts of Professor Gabriel O. Emerson and his young wife, Julianne, fled from her mind.

  Chapter Nineteen

  I’m sorry I didn’t attend your graduation in Toronto. ” Gabriel held Julia’s hand as they explored the Ashmolean Museum, which was across the street from the Randolph Hotel.

  “I searched for you. I was so sure you’d be there. ”

  “I couldn’t be in the same room as you and not go to you. To do that in front of Jeremy and Dean Aras . . . ” Gabriel shook his head. “I’ll go to your next graduation. ”


  “Absolutely. ”

  She reached up to press their lips together. “Thank you. ”

  They continued walking through the museum, stopping to admire some of the items on display. When they stopped in front of a panel that displayed a medieval painting of St. Lucy, Julia was reminded of Rachel.

  “Your sister sent me an email. She asked how my paper went. ”

  “Is she pregnant?”

  “She didn’t say. If she isn’t, it’s not for lack of trying. ”

  Gabriel wrinkled his nose. “I don’t need that kind of image. ”

  “I’m sure Rachel doesn’t need that kind of image of you, either. But she was almost as happy as me when we consummated our relationship. ”

  “I find that hard to believe,
” he whispered, pulling her into his arms in a dark corner.

  “She said she’s looking forward to visiting us in Cambridge Labor Day weekend. ”

  “Quiet, now. I’m trying to kiss you. ”

  Julia laughed. “Just a minute. I’m not done. ”

  “Hurry up,” he pouted, bringing his lips to within an inch of hers.

  “This is important. ” She gave him a scolding look. “Rachel and Aaron would like us to light a candle for them in Assisi. They want us to pray that they’ll have a baby. ”

  “I think Richard’s prayers would be more efficacious than mine. Although I’m still praying for one more thing. ”

  Gabriel couldn’t hide the brightness of hope that shone in his eyes, as if his unanswered prayer were a treasure that he desperately desired.

  Julia noted the change but said nothing. She’d just celebrated her triumphal coming out into academic society the day before. Now Gabriel was hinting at having a child. Somehow the hope in his eyes made her discomfort all the more painful.

  The light in his eyes dimmed.

  “Why are you looking at me like that?” He released her from his arms.

  “Like what?”

  “Like you’re repulsed by me. ”

  “I’m not repulsed. ” She forced a smile.

  “Is the thought of having a child with me so repulsive?” Gabriel’s features hardened.

  “Of course not. ” She wound their fingers together. “It’s difficult for me to think about children when I’d rather focus on conference presentations and grad school. ”

  “It isn’t an either-or proposition, Julianne. I’d never make you sacrifice your dreams. I think I’ve demonstrated that ably enough. ” His voice was glacial.

  “As you may recall, your sacrifice caused us both a great deal of pain. ”

  “Point taken. ” He released her hand and gestured to the hallway. “Shall we?”

  “Gabriel. ” She placed a light hand on his arm. “I told you before we were married that the thought of having little blue-eyed boys with you made me happy. It still does. ”

  “Then why can’t we talk about it? God, Julianne. If we were going to go to Africa, we’d talk about it. If we were going to build a house, we’d talk about it. Why can’t we talk about having a child?”

  “Because I can’t say no to you, not when you look so happy and hopeful. ” Her eyes filled with tears. “I can’t bear to be the one standing between you and your dreams, like a coldhearted wench. ”

  “Darling,” he murmured, sweeping her into a tight embrace. “Nothing could be further from my mind. ”

  His hand found the skin of her neck, underneath her hair, and he stroked it tenderly.

  “This isn’t the best place to have this conversation, but I promise I don’t think of you that way. I told you I’d wait. I understand you want to finish your program. Watching you yesterday, I don’t know when I’ve been more proud of you. You were fantastic. ” He pressed his lips to just below her ear. “When I bring up the subject of a family, I swear I’m not trying to pressure you. I’m simply bringing up a topic that makes me happy, hoping that it will make you happy too. We can talk about the future and make plans without changing our time line. Starting a family is a momentous decision, especially given our backgrounds. I know that you’ve given the matter some thought. I’m simply asking that we talk about it. But we certainly don’t need to talk about it now. I’m sorry for bringing it up on the heels of your lecture. Just promise me we’ll talk about it someday, even if it’s in the most general of terms. ”

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