Gabriels redemption, p.30
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.30

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 30


  “Paulina,” he groaned, closing his eyes. He had a pounding headache and all he wanted to do was sleep. But Professor Pearson didn’t accept excuses from his teaching assistants, which meant he needed to drag himself to campus.

  (It was possible the professor would have accepted death as an excuse as to why his teaching assistant missed class. Although it was doubtful. )

  “It’s eight o’clock. You have time for a shower and breakfast. And maybe a little . . . ” Her hand slid down his chest to his abdomen. Then she wrapped her fingers around him and . . .

  And his morning erection withered in her hand like a dead flower.

  He pushed her away. “Not now. ”

  “You always say that. Is it because I’m getting fat?” She sat next to him, her stomach slightly rounded, her generous breasts full.

  He didn’t answer, which in itself was a kind of response.

  “I can make it good for you. You know I can. ” She hugged him around the shoulders, kissing his neck. “I love you. ”

  “I said not now. Fuck. Can’t you hear?” He disentangled himself from her arms before sliding his legs over the side of the bed. The hardwood floor was cool beneath his feet but he barely felt it.

  All his attention was focused on one thing—the ghost of white powder left on his nightstand. Now he was awake, arranging the mirror and the razor blade and the rolled-up five-dollar bill.

  The world around him melted away and he felt his mind and body spring to life, his movements sure and quick.

  In the blink of an eye it was up his nose and everything was clear again. He was hyperalert. He could think. He could function.

  He lit a cigarette, forgetting that his . . . whatever-she-was-now was in his bed, watching him. She wrapped herself in a robe and fled to the kitchen, not wanting to expose their unborn child to smoke.

  He finished his cigarette and showered, pausing to drink the cup of coffee she’d placed next to the sink. He brushed his teeth and shaved, his mind enumerating all the work he had to do on his dissertation, along with the interminable to-do list foisted on him by Professor Pearson.

  Gabriel didn’t have time to examine his life or his actions. If he did, he would have realized that he was a slave, in chains, to cocaine, nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.

  He was a slave to his passions, also, when his dick was working. Even though he was living with Paulina and she was pregnant, he was still sexually involved with other women. He never bothered to ask himself whether he should stop. In fact, he didn’t think about it at all. He simply did it.

  “You’re handsome. ” Paulina watched him from the doorway, her hand cradling her protruding abdomen over her black silk robe.

  Gabriel ignored her, as he was wont to do. He also ignored the dark circles on his face, his bloodshot eyes, and the fact that he was a good ten to fifteen pounds lighter than his normal, healthy weight.

  “I made you breakfast. Scrambled eggs and toast. ” She sounded hopeful.

  “I’m not hungry. ”

  “You have a long day ahead of you and Pearson is going to work you hard. ”

  “Get off my ass,” he snapped. “I said I wasn’t hungry. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” She looked down at her stomach contritely. “It’s sitting on the table with fruit and a fresh coffee. All you have to do is eat. ”

  His sapphire eyes fixed on hers, watching her through the mirror.

  “Fine,” he clipped.

  She smiled to herself and disappeared into the tiny kitchen.

  Soon he was dressed in the respectable uniform of a Harvard graduate student, complete with corduroy jacket and Levi’s, and seated at the table, forcing down breakfast. He finished his third cup of coffee and was about to light another cigarette when he noticed that Paulina was staring at him. Hungrily.


  She moved to sit in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck.

  He made an involuntary groan at her weight, not seeing her wince as he did so.

  She brought her mouth to his ear. “I know you’re in a hurry. Just kiss me before you leave. ”

  “Paulina, I—”

  She cut him off with her lips, her tongue eager and searching as it snaked into his mouth.

  His hands came to her waist as he kissed her back, feeling his body beginning to respond.

  “Come on, baby. ” She reached for the button of his jeans. “We’ll be quick. ”

  “I don’t have time. ” He placed her on her feet, groaning a little at the exertion. “Maybe tonight. ”

  Her face crumpled. “But you write at night. ”

  “I can make time. ”

  “But you don’t. ” She reached for his hand. “Gabriel, I love you. It’s been a while. Please. ”

  Her big blue eyes filled with tears and her lower lip trembled.

  He rolled his eyes to the ceiling.

  “Fine. But it needs to be fast. ”

  He pushed his chair back from the table and gestured to his crotch.

  “Get started. ”

  With an eager look on her face, she knelt between his legs and pulled down his zipper.

  Chapter Thirty-one

  August 2011

  Umbria, Italy

  Gabriel couldn’t sleep, plagued as he was by hazy memories of the past. His mind twisted in several different directions, tugging him to and fro. Finally, he tired of tossing and turning and went downstairs to pour himself a drink.

  As he stood in the kitchen he cursed. He’d removed all the alcohol, with the exception of a couple of bottles of white wine reserved for Julianne. But wine would not satisfy his craving. Not tonight.

  No, tonight he desired Scotch. The smoothness on his tongue, the quick burn in his mouth and throat, the latent warmth that would spread to his insides.

  Just one. I just need one.

  But it was no use. The Scotch was gone.

  Gabriel thought of Julianne, upstairs in his bed. She was sleeping peacefully, unaware of the demons that plagued him. His very hands shook with desire.

  He quickly ran through the twelve steps of Narcotics Anonymous before focusing on step two.

  A power greater than myself can restore me.

  Help me, God.


  Gabriel closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross, his soul desperate and conflicted.

  He knew that the keys to the Mercedes were steps away. He knew that he could drive to a local tavern and drink. Julia was sleeping soundly. He could return to their bed afterward and she would never know.

  His eyes opened.

  He reached for the keys.

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Gabriel?” Julia’s voice floated out to where he was seated on the balcony.

  He was in a dark corner, brooding. He could hear her feet padding across the tiled floor and through the open doors as she approached him.

  “What are you doing?” She eyed the cigarette he held in one of his hands and the drink in the other.

  “Nothing. ” He placed the cigarette to his lips and inhaled slowly before turning his face to the sky and blowing the smoke heavenward.

  “You don’t smoke. ”

  “Of course I do. Usually, I choose cigars. ”

  She looked from his glass to his face, her eyes troubled.

  He lifted his glass in mock salute.

  “Don’t worry, it’s Coke. ” He grimaced. “I’d prefer Laphroaig. ”

  “There isn’t any. ”

  “I know that,” he growled. “The house is bereft of alcohol except for wine. ”

  “Only white. You prefer red. ” Her eyebrows knitted together. “Did you go looking?”

  “What if I did?” he snapped.

  Julia began chewing at her bottom lip.

  Gabriel put his cigarette in the ashtray and reached up, pressing his thumb against her mouth.

  “Don’t. ” He freed her lip, then pic
ked up his cigarette, turning away from her.

  Silence stretched between them, an immeasurable distance, until finally, she spoke.

  “Good night, Gabriel. ”

  “Wait. ” He placed a hand to her hip, pressing into the gauzy whiteness of her nightgown. “I need to ask you something.

  “How healthy are you?”

  “It’s after midnight and you’re asking about my health?”

  “Just answer the question. ” He sounded grim. “Please. ”

  She pushed her hair back from her face. “I’m healthy. I have low blood pressure and I tend to have low iron levels, so I take a supplement. ”

  “I didn’t know that. ”

  “My low blood pressure is probably genetic. My mother had it. ”

  “Genetic,” he muttered, drawing on his cigarette again. The smoke billowed from his nostrils as if he were a dragon.

  “It’s a bit odd to ask me about my health while you’re out here smoking, don’t you think?”

  “It’s better than cocaine, Julianne. ” His voice was cold. “How did your mother die?”

  “Why are you asking me this?” She pulled away from him.

  “You told me your mother died while you were living with your father. I didn’t know if she had health problems or if it was an accident. ” Gabriel’s expression was searching, but his eyes were guarded.

  “She was drunk and fell down the stairs at her apartment building. Broke her neck. ” Julia gave him a venomous look. “Happy now?”

  She turned to go back into the bedroom, but he caught her arm. “Julianne. ”

  “Don’t touch me!” She wrenched her arm free and turned on him. “I love you, but you can be a cold son of a bitch. ”

  He was on his feet in an instant, his drink and cigarette discarded on the table. “I don’t deny it. ”

  “Something is troubling you, but instead of discussing it with your wife, you’d rather discuss it with your drink and your cigarette and the Umbrian landscape. Fine. Sit out here all night by yourself. But don’t try to mindfuck me. ”

  She moved toward the doors that led to their bedroom.

  “I’m not trying to mindfuck you. ”

  “Then warn me before you start spelunking through my unhappy memories. ”

  Gabriel tried to restrain a chuckle but failed.

  She turned and glared. “It isn’t funny!”

  “Spelunking, Julianne? Really?” His face relaxed into a playful grin, at which she merely frowned.

  He closed the space between them. “Don’t blame me for laughing. You have an enviable vocabulary. ”

  She struggled against his arms and then his lips were on hers. The dusky taste of smoke and tobacco invaded her mouth. His kiss was gentle but insistent.

  In time, her posture softened.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m in a foul mood. I shouldn’t take it out on you. ”

  “That’s right, you shouldn’t.

  “When I’m upset, I talk to you. Talk to me. ”

  He pulled away, running both hands through his hair, making its dark strands even more unruly.

  She tugged at his elbow.

  “Everyone gets into a foul mood sometime. But you can’t bring up certain topics so indelicately. ”

  “Forgive me. ”

  “You’re forgiven. ” She shivered. “But you’re scaring me. You’re looking for Scotch and talking about cocaine. You’re asking me how my mother died. What’s going on?”

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