Gabriels redemption, p.27
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.27
 

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 27

 

  Her emails were always cheerful, and the most recent one was no exception. She’d written him from Italy, urging him to visit the Vatican museum the next time he was in Rome. As if he needed urging. As if he needed the reminder that she was married and jet-setting around Europe with her dashing and older husband, who was probably thinking of ways to persuade her to have his baby.

  Bastard.

  Paul was a rugby player. He was tough. But somehow, this slip of a woman from Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, had turned his life upside down. Now he was afraid of doing what he’d already determined to do.

  “This is ridiculous,” he muttered. He started to type, the words just beginning to flow, when he heard a knock at the back door.

  Curious, he answered it.

  “Hi. ” Allison greeted him, standing outside and holding two large coffees from Dunkin’ Donuts. “I thought you could use one of these. ”

  When he didn’t respond, she gave him an uneasy smile. “Are you working on your dissertation? I don’t mean to interrupt. ”

  She handed him a coffee. “I’ll just go. ”

  “Wait. Come in. ” He held the screen door open.

  She thanked him and walked into the kitchen, pulling out a chair across from where his computer was situated.

  “I haven’t heard from you since you got back from England. ”

  “I’ve been busy. ” His voice had a slight edge to it. “My dissertation director is kicking my ass and I have a lot of ground to cover before September. ”

  “How was your trip?”

  Paul sipped his coffee and made an appreciative noise. “It was good. My paper went well and I was able to talk to my director. ”

  Allison nodded, clutching her cup a little too tightly. “Was she there?”

  “Her name is Julia. ” Paul’s tone was sharp.

  “I know that,” she said gently. “I met her in this kitchen, remember?”

  “Yes, she was there. ” He tasted his drink again.

  “How is she?”

  “She’s good. Her husband was there, too. ”

  Allison searched Paul’s unusually morose expression.

  “You don’t sound happy. ”

  He didn’t respond.

  “I’m sorry. ”

  He gave her a half-smile. “Why are you sorry?”

  “Because I don’t like to see you pining. ”

  He shrugged but didn’t deny it.

  “I was trying to compose an email to her when you knocked on the door. ”

  Allison gripped her cup in two hands. “I don’t know her. But I think it’s weird that she’s keeping in touch with you, given your history. It’s like she’s leading you on. ”

  “You’re right, you don’t know her. ” Paul glared.

  “I doubt her husband is happy about her emailing you. ”

  Paul muttered something unflattering about the Professor.

  Allison sat still for a moment, as if she were waiting for something. Then she stood.

  “I’ll see myself out. ”

  Her former boyfriend followed her to the back door. “Thanks for the coffee. ”

  “You’re welcome. ” She stepped outside.

  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. ”

  Allison didn’t turn around but stood facing the driveway.

  “Me, too. ”

  Chapter Twenty-six

  August 2011

  Umbria, Italy

  Every time Julia sat down at her computer, she was tempted to Google Gabriel’s parents. But he’d exacted a promise from her and she wouldn’t betray him, no matter how difficult it was to keep that promise.

  On one such morning, Julia was checking her email when she found something from Paul. She opened it.

  After she read the message, she sat back in her chair, stunned.

  “Do you want eggs for breakfast? Or fruit and cheese?” Gabriel called from the kitchen, which was next to the living room.

  When she didn’t respond, he walked over to her.

  “Should I make eggs for breakfast, or just fruit and cheese? There’s also pastries from the bakery. ”

  She looked up at him in evident distress.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “I just got an email from Paul. ”

  Gabriel resisted the urge to comment on the Angelfucker and his behavior. “What did he say?”

  Wordlessly, she pointed at the computer screen.

  Gabriel fished around in his pocket for his glasses and put them on.

  Dear Julia,

  Thanks for your email. You did a great job with your paper and I thought you handled the questions well, especially Christa’s. I was impressed.

  Professor Picton was very complimentary. She doesn’t praise people often, so you should be proud of yourself.

  Please pass along my congratulations to your father and his girlfriend. He’s a good guy and I’m happy for them.

  I’m back in Vermont. My dad’s health continues to improve. Thanks for asking. I’ll tell him and Mom that you said hello.

  I’m determined to meet Professor Picton’s deadlines, so my parents have hired more help at the farm. I hope to go on the job market this fall and pick up some interviews at the Modern Language Association meeting. If I don’t get a job, I’m back on the farm for another year.

  I’m glad we had a chance to go to lunch. It was good to see you.

  There were some things I should have said, but didn’t. I guess I should say them now.

  I think we need to go our separate ways. You’re married and I need to move on.

  Maybe it will be easier for me in the future. But in the meantime, we should stop emailing.

  I don’t mean to hurt you, so please don’t take it that way. I care about you, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and believe it’s for the best.

  Be happy, Rabbit.

  Paul

  Gabriel’s eyes focused on hers. She looked stricken.

  “I sent him a couple of emails. It took him days to reply. And look at what he said. ”

  Gabriel crouched down, placing his hand on Julia’s knee. “He’s in love with you. You know that. ”

  “I know he loved me once. ”

  Gabriel looked at her gravely. “Did you stop loving me when I left Toronto?”

  She nibbled on the edge of one of her fingernails. “Of course not. ”

  “If he truly loves you, he’ll love you for a long time. Maybe forever. ”

  “Then why wouldn’t he want to be friends?” She turned troubled eyes in his direction.

  “Because it’s too painful. ” Gabriel cupped her cheek. “If I’d lost you to him, I couldn’t be friends with you. I’d simply have to love you from a distance. ”

  “I never meant to hurt him,” she whispered.

  “I’m sure he realizes that. ”

  “Why didn’t he try to talk to me about it when we were in Oxford?”

  “He didn’t want to upset you before your lecture. ”

  Julia turned suspicious eyes in her husband’s direction. “Did you know about this?”

  Gabriel hesitated, ever so slightly.

  “Yes. ”

  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  “For the same reason he didn’t bring it up. We wanted you to be in the best frame of mind at the conference. ”

  She pushed her chair back from the table. “So you and Paul discussed this? You discussed me?”

  “Briefly, yes. ”

  “You should have told me!”

  “I’m telling you now. Truthfully, Julianne, I thought he’d change his mind. But once again, Paul has surprised me. ”

  “You dole out information like vitamins. ”

  Gabriel lifted his head, a smile playing about his lips. “Vitamins?”

  “You know what I’m saying. You and your secrets. ” She rose to her feet, but he caught her wrist.

  “I don’t have sec
rets from you. We agreed not to disclose everything from our pasts for the sake of moving forward. But if you want full disclosure, I’ll give it to you. ” He lifted his chin in challenge. “And then I’ll ask you for full disclosure. For example, did you happen to have a conversation with Paul about dropping out of Harvard?”

  “What?”

  “He tore a strip off me, telling me I had to make sure you didn’t abandon your dreams. ”

  Julia’s eyes widened.

  “When did he say this?”

  “In Oxford, right after your lunch. So don’t lecture me on keeping secrets, Julianne. I’m not having lunch with old flames and telling them about our marital conflicts. ”

  “I wasn’t doing that. ”

  “Well, what do you call it, then?”

  She lifted her hands and then let them drop to her sides. “It just—came out. I was worried and needed someone to talk to. ”

  “Did it ever occur to you that you already have someone to talk to?” Gabriel glanced between them significantly. “Someone infinitely closer?”

  “I needed time to think. ”

  “I can understand that. I can even support it. But time to think and going to someone else to talk about our problems are two different things. That was not the right thing to do, Julianne, and you know it. ” His tone was reproving.

  Julia stared, expecting him to explode into temper. Surprisingly, he didn’t.

  (Which demonstrated, clearly, that the Apocalypse was nigh. )

  Gabriel continued. “I don’t share our problems with anyone. And yes, sometimes I dole out information, as you so charmingly put it, in order to protect you. But it is always, always, done with love. ”

  His fingers slid from her wrist to her hand. “I tried to persuade Paul not to cut off contact with you. Not because that was what I wanted, but because I didn’t want to see you hurt. ”

  Julia blinked back tears that had suddenly appeared. “What hurts is the fact that you don’t trust me. ”

  “I trust you. ”

  “But not with your family history. ”

  He clenched his teeth. “You know what I know—that my mother’s family disowned her and left me to foster care after her death. My father abandoned us. Do you want me to investigate such people? Just so I can discover more unsavory details?”

  “They made you, Gabriel. There has to be something in your family history that’s worth knowing. And of course I don’t want you to be upset. But your family is part of you. If we have children, eventually they’ll ask about their grandparents. ”

  Gabriel dropped her hand, his face a mask of stone.

  “If I could expunge them from my memory, I would. I won’t have our children so polluted. ”

  She lifted her chin. “A man as good and as brilliant as you came from that pollution. And so will our children. ”

  His expression softened. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed the back of it. “Thank you,” he whispered.

  “You’re right, I shouldn’t have gone to Paul with my worries. But he was my friend. ” Julia continued to fight back the tears.

  He pressed her face into his chest.

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  At bedtime, Gabriel strode into the master suite. He was barefoot, clad only in a white shirt and jeans. When he caught sight of Julianne, he began rolling up his sleeves.

 
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