Gabriels redemption, p.3
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.3

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


  Gabriel looked around at the kitchen, which was sparkling within an inch of its life. Even the floors were immaculate.

  “It’s seven o’clock. Isn’t it a bit early for housekeeping?”

  “I have a lot to do. ” She didn’t sound enthusiastic.

  Gabriel took her hand, stroking his thumb across her palm. “You look tired. Didn’t you sleep well?”

  “I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep. I need to make up the bedrooms and clean the bathrooms. Then I need to go shopping and plan the meals. And . . . ” She heaved a shuddering sigh.

  “And?” he prompted, lowering his head so he could meet her eyes, which had moved to the long to-do list.

  “I need to keep moving. I’m not even dressed. ” She tugged the edges of her pale blue silk bathrobe together and moved to stand.

  Gabriel stopped her.

  “You don’t need to do anything. I said I’d find someone to clean the house, and I will. ” He gestured to the grocery list. “I’ll go to the store after my run. ”

  Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “That will help. Thank you. ”

  He cupped her cheek with his hand. “Go back to bed. You look exhausted. ”

  “There’s still too much to do,” she whispered.

  “I’ll look after it. You need to work on your lecture. ” He offered her a half-smile. “But get some sleep first. A tired mind doesn’t work very well. ”

  He kissed her once again and led her upstairs. He pulled the covers back on their bed and watched her settle before tucking her in.

  “I know this is the first time we’ve had houseguests. I don’t expect you to be the maid. And I certainly don’t want our relatives to keep you from meeting your deadline. Work in the study for the rest of the day. Forget about everything else. I’ll handle it. ”

  He pressed his lips to her forehead and turned out the light, leaving Julia to her slumber.

  Gabriel usually listened to music when he jogged, but on this morning his mind was distracted. Julianne was overwhelmed; it was obvious. She wasn’t an early riser and from the looks of her this morning, she’d been awake for hours.

  They probably shouldn’t have invited their relatives to visit prior to her conference. But since they were going to Italy for most of the summer, this was the only time everyone could be together.

  He’d forgotten how time consuming it was to have company. He’d never entertained more than one or two people at a time, and then only with the support of a housekeeper and a bank account that permitted him to take his guests out for meals.

  Poor Julianne. Gabriel recalled his own years at Harvard: how vacations were never true holidays since there was always work to do, languages to learn, and exams to prepare for.

  He was relieved to be tenured. He wouldn’t trade places with Julia for anything. Especially since he’d coped with the pressures of grad school by drinking, doing cocaine and P—

  Gabriel stumbled, pitching forward as the toe of his shoe caught on the sidewalk. He righted himself quickly and regained his stride, forcing himself to concentrate on his steps.

  He didn’t like to think about his years at Harvard. Since his move back to Cambridge, he’d experienced drug flashbacks so vivid, he would swear he could feel the cocaine entering his nostrils. He’d drive down a street or enter a building on the Harvard campus and feel a craving that was so sharp it was painful.

  Thus far, with the grace of God, he’d resisted. Certainly, his weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings had helped, as had his monthly appointments with his therapist.

  And then, of course, there was Julianne.

  If Gabriel found his higher power in Assisi last year, Julianne was his guardian angel. She loved him, inspired him, made his house a home. But he could not shake the fear that Heaven had smiled on him only to bide its time before snatching her away.

  Gabriel had changed in myriad ways since Julianne was his student. But he had yet to abandon his belief that he was not worthy of sustained happiness. As his therapist had warned, Gabriel had a pattern of self-sabotage.

  His adoptive mother, Grace, had died of cancer almost two years previous. Her untimely death symbolized the shortness and uncertainty of life. If he were to lose Julianne . . .

  If you had a child with her, you’d never lose her.

  A still, small voice spoke in his ear.

  Gabriel quickened his pace. The voice was right, but it didn’t express his primary motivation for wanting a baby with Julianne. He wanted a family that included children—a life filled with laughter and the knowledge that he could right the wrongs done by his own parents.

  He’d kept his internal struggles from his wife. She was burdened with her own concerns and he was loath to add to them. She’d worry about his addictions and his fears, and he’d already given her too much anguish.

  While Gabriel jogged the familiar circuit of his old neighborhood, he began to wonder why she’d been so dispirited this morning. They’d spent an incredible night together, celebrating their love in the orchard and later, in bed. He racked his brain, trying to figure out if he’d done something to hurt her. But their lovemaking had been, as usual, both passionate and tender.

  There was at least one other possibility, and Gabriel cursed himself for not having thought of it sooner. Julianne always carried with her a degree of anxiety about being back in Selinsgrove. A year and a half ago, her ex-boyfriend, Simon, had broken into her father’s home and assaulted her. Subsequently, his current girlfriend, Natalie, had confronted Julia at a local diner, threatening to release lewd pictures of her if she didn’t withdraw her assault complaint.

  Julianne had convinced Natalie that it was not in her interest to release the pictures, since they’d implicate Simon, as well. His father was a U. S. senator who was running for president, and Natalie was working for his campaign.

  At the time, Gabriel kept his doubts about Julia’s success to himself. He knew that once a person acquired a taste for blackmail, he or she would keep trying to draw from that well.

  Gabriel cursed again, now running at a punishing rate of speed. He’d never told Julia what he’d done. He didn’t want to do so now. But if she was worrying about Simon and Natalie, then perhaps it was time to tell her the truth . . .

  When Gabriel returned from his run, Julia was sleeping. He chuckled, noticing that her bare feet were sticking out from under the covers. Julia didn’t like it when her feet grew hot and so she’d bare them to the air while snuggled under several blankets.

  Leaning over, he tucked the covers around her feet and walked to the shower. After he dressed he checked on her, but she was still asleep. He hurried down the stairs, grabbing her lists from the kitchen and heading to the Range Rover. With any luck, he’d be able to complete the shopping and secure a maid before she awoke.

  At eleven o’clock that evening, Julia finally descended the stairs from the second floor. She found Gabriel seated in the living room, reading. He was in a leather club chair, his feet resting on a footstool, his eyes moving behind his glasses.

  “Why, hello there. ” He greeted her with a smile, closing his book.

  “What are you reading?”

  He showed her the cover. The Way of a Pilgrim.

  “Is it good?”

  “Very. Did you ever read J. D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey?”

  “A long time ago. Why?”

  “Franny reads this book and it troubles her. That’s where I first heard about it. ”

  “What’s it about?” She picked up the book, glancing at the back cover.

  “It’s about a Russian Orthodox man who tries to learn what it means to pray without ceasing. ”

  Julia arched an eyebrow. “And?”

  “And I’m reading it to discover what he learned. ”

  “Are you praying for something?”

  He rubbed at his chin. “I’m praying for a good many things. ”

  “Such a

  “For me to become a good man, a good husband, and, someday, a good father. ”

  She smiled a little and looked at the book again. “I suppose we’re all on our own spiritual journeys. ”

  “Some of us are further along than others. ”

  She put the book down and climbed into his lap. “I don’t think of it that way. I think we chase God until He catches us. ”

  Gabriel chuckled. “Like The Hound of Heaven?”

  “Something like that. ”

  “One of the things I admire most about you is your compassion for human frailty. ”

  “I have my own vices, Gabriel. They’re just hidden. ”

  She looked around the room, noting the vacuum marks in the carpet and the freshly dusted furniture. The air smelled of lemon and pine.

  “The house looks great. Thank you for finding someone else to clean it. I was able to get a lot of work done today. ”

  “Good. ” He looked at her over the rims of his glasses. “How are you feeling?”

  “Much better. Thanks for making dinner. ” She rested her head on his shoulder.

  “You weren’t hungry when I brought it up to you. ” He ran his fingers through her hair.

  “I finished it eventually. I ran into a problem with my paper, so I had trouble stopping long enough to eat. ”

  “Can I help?” He removed his glasses, resting them on top of his book.

  “No. I don’t want people thinking that you’re the brains behind my research. ”

  “That wasn’t what I was offering. ” Gabriel sounded offended.

  “I need to do this myself. ”

  He sniffed. “I think you worry a little too much about what other people think. ”

  “I have to,” she said sharply. “If I present a paper that sounds like you wrote it, people will notice. Christa Peterson has already been spreading rumors about us. Paul told me. ”

  Gabriel scowled. “Christa is a jealous bitch. She’s going backward in her career, not forward. Columbia made her enroll in the M. Phil program in Italian. They wouldn’t admit her directly into their PhD. I’ve already spoken to the head of her department at Columbia. She slanders us at her peril. ” He shifted in his chair. “And when were you speaking to Paul?”

  “He emailed me after the conference he went to at UCLA. That’s where he saw Christa and heard the rumors she was spreading. ”

  “You haven’t even let me read your paper. Although we’ve discussed Guido so much I’m sure I know what you’ll say. ”

  Julia chewed on the edge of her thumbnail but said nothing.

  He hugged her more closely.

  “Has my book been helpful?”

  “Yes, but I’m taking a different tack,” she hedged.

  “That can be a double-edged sword, Julianne. Originality is admired, but sometimes established methods are established for a reason. ”

  “I’ll let you read it tomorrow, if you have time. ”

  “Of course I’ll have time. ” He began rubbing her back, up and down. “In fact, I’m looking forward to it. My goal is to help you, not hurt you. You know that, right?”

  “Of course. ” She kissed him again before burrowing against his chest. “I just worry about what you’ll think. ”

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