Gabriels redemption, p.25
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.25

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 25


  She switched on the lamp. “Gabriel?”

  He mumbled. Then, all of a sudden, he tore at the bedclothes, wrestling and flailing until he was free.

  His eyes shot open and he sat up, gasping for breath.

  “Are you all right?” Julia elected to keep her distance, speaking in a low voice.

  He looked at her, disoriented, and clutched his chest.

  “Is it your heart? Can you breathe?”

  “Nightmare. ” His voice cracked.

  “I’ll get you a drink. ” Julia returned to the en-suite and retrieved a glass, filling it with water from the tap. He accepted it wordlessly.

  She sat on the edge of the bed and waited, watching him closely.

  “What was your nightmare about?”

  He finished his drink, placing the glass on the nightstand.

  “Give me a minute. ”

  Julia wanted to brush his dark hair back from his forehead, but she didn’t think he would welcome the gesture.

  His blue eyes blinked before fixing on the wall behind her.

  “My biological parents. ”

  “Oh, sweetie. ” Julia reached out to hug him, but he stiffened. She paused for a moment, then walked over to her side of the bed.

  Gabriel didn’t move. He didn’t even bother to turn out the light but continued to sit with his back against the headboard.

  She slid over to him, underneath the sheets. She wanted to comfort him. But the air around him was charged with a strange kind of energy. Gabriel didn’t want to be touched.

  She closed her eyes and had almost drifted into sleep, when his voice came out of the darkness.

  “I was with my mother in our old apartment in Brooklyn. I could hear her and my father arguing. ”

  Julia’s eyes snapped open.

  “I heard a crash. I heard my mother crying. I ran into the kitchen. ”

  “Was she okay?”

  “She was kneeling on the floor. He was standing over her, shouting. I hit him with my fists. I shouted back. He shoved me and went to the front door. My mother crawled after him, begging him not to leave. ”

  Gabriel’s eyes glinted coldly, anger distorting his handsome features.

  “Fucking bastard,” he spat.

  “Sweetheart,” Julia murmured. She slid her hand across the sheet, making contact with his hip.

  “I hate him. He’s been dead for years and still, if I knew where his grave was, I’d piss on it. ”

  Julia pressed her palm into his hip.

  “I’m sorry. ”

  When he didn’t respond, she stroked his skin softly, an act that was meant to be soothing.

  “He hit her. It was bad enough that he seduced her and abandoned us. But the asshole hit her. ”

  “Gabriel,” she whispered. “It was only a dream. ”

  He shook his head, still staring off into space.

  “I don’t think so. ”

  Julia stilled. “You think it was real?”

  Gabriel covered his eyes, pressing his fingers into the sockets. “I don’t think that was the first time they fought. Or the first time I intervened. ”

  “How old were you?”

  “Young. Five or six. I don’t know. ”

  “You were a brave boy, defending your mother. ”

  Gabriel dropped his hands into his lap.

  “It didn’t do any good. He broke her. Can you imagine crawling after a man who hit you? In front of your son?”

  “She must have loved him. ”

  “Don’t make excuses,” he snapped.

  “Gabriel, look at me. ” Her tone was gentle.

  He turned in her direction, his eyes blazing fire.

  “I stayed with Simon,” she remarked quietly.

  Gabriel blinked, and slowly the fire in his eyes began to diminish.

  “I didn’t know your mother. But I know how messed up my head was when I was with Simon. ”

  “That was different. You were young. ”

  “I can’t imagine your mother was very old when she had you. How old was she?”

  “I don’t know,” he ground out.

  “She thought she loved him. She had a child with him. ”

  “He was married. ”

  Julia fidgeted with the sheet that covered her. “We can’t change our pasts. All we can change is the future. ”

  “I’m sorry I woke you. ” Gabriel pressed a kiss against her hair.

  “You didn’t. ”

  He pulled back so he could see her face. “Oh, really?”

  “I had a female problem to attend to. ”

  After a moment, realization passed over his features. “Oh. Are you feeling all right?”

  “I’m not feeling my best but it will pass. ”

  “I thought you seemed a little sensitive earlier. ” He ghosted a hand over her breasts.

  She grabbed his hand, stilling it.

  “I’m sorry about your nightmare. ”

  He moved away, turning the light off. Then he slipped under the sheet next to her.

  She could hear him bring his teeth together, clenching his jaw.

  “Do you really think it’s a memory and not just a nightmare?”

  “Sometimes I can’t tell,” he admitted.

  “Has it happened before?”

  “On occasion. It’s been a while. ”

  “You never said anything. ”

  “It isn’t something I like to discuss, Julianne. My memories of my childhood are vague at best. And what I remember, I try to forget. ”

  “Have you told Dr. Townsend about them?”

  “Briefly, yes. ” He touched Julia absently, floating his fingertips over her back. “I know very little about my parents. ”

  “I can understand your anger at your parents. But it isn’t a healthy thing to hold on to. ”

  “I know that. ” He stopped touching her and rolled to his side, facing her. “There might be terrible skeletons in my family’s closet. Could you love me in spite of them?”

  “I’d never love you in spite of anything, Gabriel. I just love you. ”

  He captured her mouth, but only for an instant. They relaxed into the bed, spooning under the covers.

  Just as she was about to drift into sleep, Gabriel’s voice sounded in her ear.

  “Thank you. ”

  The next morning, Julia was sunning herself by the pool before it grew too warm. She wore a large sun hat and a very small blue bikini. Gabriel had persuaded her to purchase the bikini during their trip to Belize before they were married. She had had few occasions to wear it.

  She thought back to the previous evening and Gabriel’s nightmare. It had disturbed them both. She couldn’t help but envision what he’d described—his mother on the floor, crawling after the man who fathered her child and abandoned her. Perhaps that image, fictional or otherwise, was part of what generated Gabriel’s intense antipathy to the sight of Julia on her knees. Even now, several months into their marriage, that was one position he couldn’t countenance.

  Perhaps it’s because of Paulina.

  Julia winced. She didn’t like thinking of Gabriel’s former lover and the mother of the child they’d lost. But unless Gabriel was hiding something, he hadn’t heard from her in over a year.

  Julia was inclined to let sleeping dogs lie.

  A shadow fell over her legs and she looked through her sunglasses to see him standing over her. He was clad only in black swimming trunks and was carrying a towel.

  His muscled chest and arms rippled as he moved, kissing her before placing the towel on a chair and diving into the pool. The water was warm and a welcome respite from the bright Umbrian sun.

  Gabriel swam laps, losing himself in the almost-silence of the water. Back and forth and back and forth. During physical exercise, as during sex, he could relieve his mind of all worry and stress, focusing only on his movements.

  He actively suppressed all thought
or reflection on his nightmare. An intuition had taken hold that told him that the dream was a memory. No amount of reasoning had been able to persuade him otherwise. So he simply turned his attention to something else—the feel of the sun and the water against his flesh, the sound of splashing in his ears, the taste of chlorine, the glorious burn in his muscles as he pushed himself to swim faster.

  He was counting laps, flip turn upon flip turn, when the peacefulness of his morning swim was broken by a sudden cry.

  He surfaced immediately, his eyes searching for Julia. She was still in her chair, but she’d swung her legs over the side of the lounge and was holding her iPhone to her ear.

  “She’s what?” Julia’s voice was unusually shrill.

  Gabriel wiped his eyes so he could see her better.

  “You’re kidding. ” She paused, mouth gaping. “When is she due?”

  Gabriel swam to the ladder and climbed out of the pool. He picked up his towel and began to dry off, his eyes fixed on her.

  “No, I’m happy. I’m happy for you both. I just can’t believe it. ” Her tone was sincere, if not surprised, but her body language was notably tense.

  Gabriel waved a hand in front of her face. “Who is it?” He pointed at the phone.

  My dad, she mouthed.

  Now it was Gabriel’s turn to gape. If her words meant what he thought they meant, then . . .

  “So when is the wedding?” Julia peered up at Gabriel, lifting her eyebrows.

  “I don’t know. I’ll check with him and get back to you. Wow, Dad. This is really sudden. ”

  She laughed. “Yes, for you too. Obviously. ”

  Gabriel reached over and placed a hand on her shoulder. She covered his hand with her own.

  “Yes, of course. Put her on. ” Julia paused. “Hi, Diane. Congratulations. ”

  Gabriel wiped his face with the towel a second time and moved to sit on the lounge next to Julia.

  “Of course we’ll be there. We just need to sort out the date.

  “That’s right.

  “Of course. Congratulations again. Bye.

  “Hi, Dad. I’m happy for you both.

  “Yes, of course. Bye. ”

  Julia disconnected the phone and slumped in her seat. “Holy shit. ”

  “What is it?”

  “My dad is getting married. ”

  Gabriel’s lips twitched. “I gathered that. They spoke to you about it in Selinsgrove. ”

  “Yes, but they want to get married immediately because Diane is pregnant. ”

  Gabriel stifled a grin.

  “Hmmm. ” He stroked the stubble on his chin, pretending to be deep in thought. “A shotgun wedding for Tom, who is probably the only person I know who actually owns a shotgun. I’d label the situation as ironic, except I know better. ” He winked.

  Julia adjusted her sunglasses. “Yes, literature professors have an annoying habit of actually using words correctly. It takes all the fun out of a good neologism. ”

  Gabriel laughed.

  “And that remark there”—he paused to kiss her mouth—“is precisely why I love you, Mrs. Emerson. ”

  “I thought you loved me for my breasts. ”

  “I am equally partial to all of your assets. ” He slid his hand down to the edge of her bikini bottom, giving it a playful tug.

  “You are entirely too charming for your own good, Professor. ”

  “So I’m told. When’s the baby due?”

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