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Gabriels redemption, p.26
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.26

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 26

 

  “End of December. ”

  “Are you upset?” He removed her hat and her sunglasses, so he could see her eyes.

  “No, I’m in shock. My dad is having a baby. We didn’t light a candle for him in Assisi. ”

  “That’s probably a good thing, or God would have sent him twins. ”

  “God help us. ”

  “I’m sure it was a shock for your father. How’s he taking it?”

  “He sounded excited. I get the impression they were surprised, but I didn’t want to ask too many questions. ”

  “That’s probably wise. At least I know what to buy him for Christmas. ”

  “What?”

  Gabriel’s mouth widened into a slow, satisfied smile.

  “Condoms. ”

  Julia rolled her eyes.

  “So when are they getting married?”

  Julia gestured between them. “That depends on us. They want us to be there, so as soon as we can get back. ”

  Gabriel frowned. “I’m not cutting short our vacation for their wedding. ”

  “Easy, tiger. They’re asking us to fly to Selinsgrove for a weekend when we get back. They want us to give them some dates and then they’ll talk to Diane’s family. ”

  “You’re going to be a big sister. ”

  A startled look passed over her features.

  “I’m going to have a sibling,” she breathed. “I always wanted a brother or sister. ”

  “Big sister Julia,” said Gabriel. “With all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities. I always hated being an only child. I was glad when Scott and Rachel became my siblings. Even though Scott was a pest for most of his life. ”

  “I don’t know how this happened. ”

  Once again, Gabriel suppressed a grin. “I’m disappointed to hear you say that, Mrs. Emerson. Obviously, our nocturnal activities haven’t been—ah—memorable enough. ”

  Julia frowned. “You know what I meant. My dad is old. ”

  “He isn’t that old. Diane is even younger. ”

  “She’s forty. She told me. ”

  “A spring chicken. ”

  Julia looked at him out of the corner of her eye. “Did you just say spring chicken?”

  “I did. Your dad found himself an attractive young fiancée and now he’s about to be a father. Again. ”

  “My dad is going to be a father,” Julia repeated, a faraway expression in her eyes.

  “I think you’re in shock. ” Gabriel stood up. “Maybe I should get you a drink. ”

  “Rachel wants to have a baby, Dad is having a baby, and we . . . ” She didn’t finish the sentence.

  Gabriel leaned over her. “Look at it this way. There will be lots of older kids for our children to play with during Christmas and summer vacations. Eventually. ”

  “Christmas and summer vacations. All those kids. Holy shit. ”

  “Exactly. ” Gabriel smiled. “Holy shit. ”

  Chapter Twenty-three

  That same day, Christa Peterson strode into the Department of Italian at Columbia University a few minutes early for her appointment with Professor Lucia Barini, the chair. Christa had successfully escaped Professor Pacciani and returned to New York, nursing her wounds (both internal and external) and vowing her revenge.

  When she thought about what had happened to her at the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford, she did not use the word rape. But she had, in fact, been raped. He’d forced her to have sex and used violence to subdue and overpower her. For various reasons, Christa chose to think of what happened to her as a loss of control. He took power away from her and used it against her. She was going to do the same to him. Only she was going to make sure he suffered more.

  He’d sent an email offering a halfhearted apology. She’d ignored it.

  In fact, she’d decided to dedicate her considerable energy to ruining him. She wrote a long letter to his wife (in Italian), detailing their affair from the early days when she was Pacciani’s student in Florence. She enclosed photographic evidence (some of which was pornographic), along with copies of salacious emails. If that wasn’t enough to make his life difficult, she intended to bide her time until she could do something really damaging.

  Which was why when she heard a rumor that Professor Pacciani intended to apply for a job in her very department, Christa made an appointment to speak with Professor Barini.

  Because she was so intent on revenge, she hadn’t had much time or energy to devote to Professor Emerson and Julianne. In fact, she’d almost forgotten about them.

  Since she was early for her appointment, Christa decided to check her departmental pigeonhole. From it, she retrieved a business-sized envelope, emblazoned with the name and address of a prominent New York law firm. She hastily ripped open the letter and read the contents.

  “Damn it,” she muttered.

  The Professor hadn’t been kidding when he said that he was going to shut her up. She held in her hand a cease-and-desist letter that accused her of several incidents of public defamation of character. Each incident was described in painstaking detail, along with the legal implications of her statements. The letter threatened further action if she persisted in making slanderous remarks about Gabriel or his wife, reserving the right to take action on those incidents that had already occurred.

  Fuck, she thought.

  Part of her wanted to pen a saucy reply to the law firm. Part of her wanted to continue her crusade to ruin the Emersons simply out of spite.

  But as she looked at the other pigeonholes, she realized that such an act would be foolish. If she ever wanted to be admitted to the PhD program and actually graduate, she couldn’t do anything that would embarrass her department.

  (And besides, she had a much larger fish to fry. )

  As she crammed the letter into her purse, she resolved to forget about the Emersons and focus her attention on ending the career of one Professor Pacciani. To do this, she was going to expose her affair with him.

  And, playing the part of the insecure and easily controlled graduate student in Professor Barini’s office, that was precisely what Christa did.

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Across the ocean, Gabriel switched the light off before pulling Julia into his arms. He began to kiss her neck ardently.

  She tensed.

  He paused. “What’s the matter?”

  “I can’t, remember? I’ll probably be finished the day after tomorrow. ”

  “I’m not kissing you because I expect sex. ”

  She arched an eyebrow in the darkness.

  “I have a fairly good memory. I remembered that you were on your cycle. ” He pulled away, sounding chippy.

  She tugged at his arm. “Sorry. I didn’t want you to get your hopes up. ”

  He lowered his voice to a husky whisper. “Hope springs eternal. ”

  “So I’ve heard. ”

  “Tomorrow, I’ll show you. Eternally. ”

  She laughed and curved herself into him.

  “So much witty repartée, Professor. I can almost imagine I’m in a Cary Grant movie. ”

  “You flatter me. ” He kissed her eyelids. “Are you excited about being a big sister?”

  “Yes. I want the baby to know me. I want to spend time with him or her. I’ve waited my whole life for a sibling. ”

  “We were planning to spend part of our vacations in Selinsgrove, anyway. As Rachel’s and Scott’s families expand, we’ll want to spend time with them too. Selinsgrove is the best place to do that. ”

  “That’s another reason to be glad that Richard decided to move back into the house. We’ll all be together. ”

  Gabriel pulled a lock of her hair thoughtfully. “I’ve come to like your shorter hair. It suits you. ”

  “Thanks. ”

  “Although I like your hair long, too. ”

  “It will grow back, I promise. ”

  Gabriel stopped his movements.

  “I have half siblings. ”

  “Oh?” Julia forced herself to sound casual.

  “When my mother was upset, she used to say that my father left us because he loved his real family more. ”

  “What a terrible thing to say to a child. ” Julia’s tone was severe.

  “Yes. She was troubled, but beautiful. Dark hair and dark eyes. ”

  Julia gave him a questioning look.

  “I have my father’s eyes, apparently. I remember my mother being tall, but I can’t imagine she was more than a few inches taller than you. ”

  “What was her first name?”

  “Suzanne. Suzanne Emerson. ”

  “Do you have any photographs of her?”

  “A few. There are baby pictures of me, as well. ”

  “You’ve been holding out on me. Why have I never seen them?”

  “They aren’t hidden. They’re in a drawer back in Cambridge. I even have her diary. ”

  Julia’s mouth dropped open. “You have your mother’s diary?”

  “And her father’s pocket watch. I use it, on occasion. ”

  “Did you ever read the diary?”

  “No. ”

  “If Sharon had left me a diary, I would have read it. ”

  Gabriel gazed at her quizzically. “I thought you didn’t have anything of your mother’s. ”

  “They sent my father a box of her stuff when she died. ”

  “And?”

  “And I have no idea what’s in it. Dad used to keep it in his closet. I’m assuming he still has it. Now that you’ve reminded me, I should probably ask him to let me see it. ”

  “I’ll go with you. ”

  “Thank you. How much do you know about your father?”

  “Not much. I seem to remember meeting him once or twice, not counting the content of last night’s dream. When he died, I had a few conversations with his lawyer. I know my father lived in New York and had a wife and children. Initially, I declined the inheritance, but when I changed my mind they tried to break the will. ”

  “Did he disinherit them?”

  “Far from it. A year before he died, he added me as an equal beneficiary to his other children. His wife also received a substantial inheritance. ”

  “So you never met them?”

  Gabriel laughed without amusement. “Do you think they were in a hurry to meet the bastard who was stealing their birthright?”

  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

  “I don’t care. They aren’t my family. ”

  “What was your father’s name?”

  “Owen Davies. ” Gabriel lifted her chin with his finger. “I’ve told you these things and I’ll share what photos I have when we get home. But I want you to promise you won’t look into my family. ”

  His expression was intense, if not severe. But there was something else in his eyes that she couldn’t quite decipher.

  “I promise. ”

  He brought her head back to rest on his shoulder.

  Chapter Twenty-five

  August 2011

  Near Essex Junction, Vermont

  The following evening, Paul sat at the kitchen table in his parents’ farmhouse, staring at his laptop. It was almost seven o’clock.

  He’d been home from England for two weeks. Every day he sat down to type an email to Julia, and every day he found he couldn’t.

 
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