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Gabriels redemption, p.24
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.24

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 24

 

  “Of course, Gabriel. It’s just that the topic makes me anxious. ”

  “Then I need to do a better job of bringing up the subject and not springing it on you. But I don’t want to hear you refer to yourself as either coldhearted or a wench ever again. ” He pulled back to make eye contact with her. “Neither of those ascriptions applies to you, and I certainly won’t have anyone speak about my wife that way. ”

  She nodded.

  “Good. ” He took her hand and began walking. “Now, as I recall, you were telling me about Rachel’s email. ”

  “Her exact words were, ‘I’m calling in all my chips. I’ve got Christians, Muslims, Jews, and even a Zoroastrian praying. ’”

  Gabriel looked puzzled. “Rachel knows a Zoroastrian? How is that possible? There are less than two hundred thousand Zoroastrians worldwide. ”

  “She works with a woman who’s Zoroastrian. How do you know how many Zoroastrians there are?”

  “I Wikied it. ”

  Gabriel gazed at her solemnly before giving her a sly wink.

  “Don’t believe anything you read on Wikipedia, Professor. ”

  “I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mrs. Emerson. Someone wrote an entry about me on that damned site, and the content was shocking. Wikifuckers. ”

  He kissed her gently but firmly before they heard someone nearby clearing his throat.

  A security guard stood two feet away.

  “Move along. ” He glared at them.

  “Sorry. ” Gabriel sounded far from apologetic as he wound his arm around Julia’s waist and ducked into an adjacent room.

  “We need to be more discreet. ” She felt flushed as they continued their tour.

  “We need to find a darker corner. ” Gabriel gazed at her provocatively, and she felt her flush deepen.

  “I’ve asked John Green to send Christa a cease-and-desist letter. ” Gabriel led her into the hallway.

  “Do you think that’s a good idea?”

  “John did. It’s a shot across the bow. We’re simply reminding her that we won’t tolerate slander. The woman is a menace. ”

  Julia took a deep breath and held it before exhaling slowly. “The conference went better than expected. ”

  He brought her hand to his lips. “You were exceptional. ”

  “So maybe the slander isn’t as worrisome as we thought. ”

  “Slander is always worrisome. Don’t you know that line from Othello:

  “‘Who steals my purse steals trash. . . .

  But he that filches from me my good name

  Robs me of that which not enriches him

  And makes me poor indeed. ’”

  “I seem to recall hearing you quote that before. But can you really stop Christa from gossiping about us?”

  Gabriel looked at her in resignation. “I don’t know. But given her behavior at the conference, I had to try. ”

  Chapter Twenty

  July 2011

  Minneapolis, Minnesota

  Paulina Gruscheva’s handwriting was bold and sophisticated, like the woman herself. She wrote with a Montblanc fountain pen, the black ink flowing in curved flourishes over the expensive cream-colored envelope.

  She’d had to look up his address. Miraculously, he was in the Cambridge telephone book.

  As she peered down at the letters and numbers she’d written, a smile of satisfaction spread across her beautiful features. Then she sealed the envelope and readied herself to take it to the post office.

  He was going to be surprised.

  Chapter Twenty-one

  July 2011

  Italy

  Julia and Gabriel said good-bye to Katherine, Paul, and Oxford a few days after the conference. The last words exchanged with Paul were especially awkward. Julia knew her friend and consequently knew that something was wrong. But when she asked him about it, he merely referenced his anxiety over his dissertation.

  When he hugged her good-bye, he held her tightly and a little too long. Julia said they’d stay in touch, and he nodded but didn’t agree. She excused his behavior by telling herself that he was simply being nostalgic about their friendship.

  Gabriel distracted Katherine from noticing Paul’s exchange with Julia, trying to give them some privacy. He took no pleasure in seeing Paul’s discomfort, or the way he tried to appear happy and at ease for Julia’s sake.

  The Emersons traveled to Rome, celebrating Gabriel’s birthday on the seventeenth of July with a special tour of the Vatican Museum. There was, however, a shocking lack of museum sex.

  (Not even Gabriel was tempted to indulge himself with Julia inside the Vatican. )

  They visited Assisi for a few days, where they prayed and lit candles at the crypt of St. Francis. Although Gabriel and Julia didn’t confess the content of their prayers, it was understood that they prayed for each other, for their marriage, and for the eventual gift of a child.

  To these prayers, Julia added her own requests for wisdom and strength, while Gabriel asked for goodness and courage. Both of them prayed for Rachel and Aaron, asking that God would bless their attempts to have a baby.

  So it was that they arrived at their house near Todi, an Umbrian village, at the end of July. The house was located near a mixed fruit tree orchard and boasted an enclosed pool that was bordered on one edge by lavender. The fragrant flowers perfumed the air, and Julia placed a few sprigs between the sheets of their bed.

  When she awoke the next day, Gabriel was gone. With the sun high in the sky and shining in through the balcony windows she was not surprised by his absence, or by the coolness of the sheets on his side. Clutching his pillow, which still retained the scent of Aramis mingled with lavender, she found a handwritten note.

  Good Morning, Darling.

  You were sleeping too peacefully to awaken.

  I’ve gone into Todi to pick up a few things from the market.

  Call my cell phone if you need anything.

  Love,

  G.

  PS. You’re breathtaking.

  Julia smiled. It was a simple note, not unlike countless others he’d written for her. But in the bottom corner, almost as an afterthought, he’d sketched her. It was her profile while she slept, transposed into a small pencil drawing. Underneath it he’d written My Beatrice.

  She hadn’t known that he had skill with a pencil, although his dexterity in other respects suggested a multiplicity of manual talents. The sketch was quite good. She wanted to frame it.

  Still smiling, she swung her naked feet to the floor and walked gingerly to the closet. She didn’t feel like wearing clothes. So she took one of Gabriel’s dress shirts and put it on, buttoning only a few of the buttons before searching one of the dresser drawers for some socks.

  From downstairs, she heard Gabriel’s voice calling. Enthusiastically, she sped down the stairs and toward the kitchen.

  “Hello. ” He kissed her forehead as he set the groceries on the counter. ”You look pretty. ”

  Hands free, he pecked first one cheek then the other before trapping her in his arms.

  “Did you sleep well?” His lips moved against her hair.

  “Very well. Between our stay in Assisi and last night, I think I’ve slept more than in months. ” She pressed her mouth to his Adam’s apple, and he recoiled slightly as if she’d tickled him. “Thank you for the drawing. ”

  “You’re welcome. ”

  “I didn’t know you could draw. ”

  “Darling, I’d paint you if I could. With my fingers. ”

  “Stop teasing me, Professor. Every time I think of paint, I think of what we did on the floor back in Selinsgrove. And it gets me hot and bothered. ” She pouted in jest.

  “I’ll see to that later, I promise. ” He released her from his arms, smiling slyly. “I like your socks. ”

  She looked down at her feet and flexed them.

  “Argyle is sexy. ”

  “Indeed. A friend once told me that argyle is the fabric of seduction. ”

  “You have strange friends. ” She shook her head, plucking a grape from the fruit bowl and eating it.

  He began unpacking the groceries, watching her from the corner of his eye. ”You seem happy. ”

  She hoisted herself up onto the counter and began to swing her legs back and forth.

  “I am. The conference is over; we had a great time in Rome and Assisi. I’m in love with my husband and I get to share this fantastic house with him. I’m the luckiest woman in the universe. ”

  Gabriel’s eyebrows shot up. ”In the universe? Hmmm. I’m sure the inhabitants of the galaxy next door will be sorry to hear that. ”

  She playfully poked him with her argyle-covered foot. ”You’re a nerd. ”

  He turned on her and grabbed her foot, pulling it upward until her leg was extended to the height of his shoulder. She reclined on her elbows to maintain her balance.

  “What did you just call me?” He feigned anger, but his sapphire eyes twinkled.

  “Um, I called you a nerd. ”

  He raised a single eyebrow.

  “Oh, really? Would a nerd do this?” Expertly, Gabriel used his fingers to stroke the contours of Julia’s instep.

  When she sighed at the pleasant sensation, he peeled off her socks before tossing them over his shoulder.

  “Let’s see if we can get you all hot and bothered, shall we?” His voice was low, and it made Julia quiver.

  He slid his hand over her leg, toying with the back of her knee until she groaned.

  “Julianne,” he growled, his eyes dancing.

  “Y-yes?”

  “You aren’t wearing panties. ”

  With a single finger, he traveled the length of her inner thigh and back again, stroking up and down in a patient rhythm.

  She began to breathe rather rapidly as his fingers approached where she was exposed.

  “Nerds are not known for their skills in lovemaking. ” Gabriel withdrew his hand and placed his index finger against her mouth.

  She parted her lips and he pressed his finger inside. She closed around him, sucking his finger slightly before releasing it.

  He winked at her before using his now-moistened finger to stroke the inside of her upper thigh.

  “Would a nerd know to do this?” He leaned over and began to blow across the trail of wetness he’d left with his finger.

  When Julia shivered, he smiled wickedly and nuzzled the same trail with his nose.

  Standing up again, he kissed her hungrily and then abruptly retreated. Before she had the time to protest, he dropped to his knees in front of her.

  “Hmmmm,” he said, moving her legs so that they rested on his shoulders again. “This counter seems to be the perfect height. I guess you really are the luckiest woman in the universe. ”

  Chapter Twenty-two

  The following evening, Julia awoke in the middle of the night and visited the en-suite. On her return, she heard Gabriel shifting in bed, a few muffled words escaping his lips.

  This was not surprising. Gabriel was usually a deep sleeper, but there were nights when he’d toss and turn and even talk in his sleep. Usually, Julia wasn’t bothered by it. But on this evening, he started thrashing in bed and cursing.

  She was at his side instantly. “Gabriel?”

  He continued his erratic movements, punctuated as they were by moments of torpor.

 
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