Gabriels redemption, p.32
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.32
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         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 32

 

  Several different scenarios flew through her head. Perhaps Paulina had contacted him, hurling him into a tailspin. Perhaps the revelation of her brother’s illness had caused him to rethink his own desire for a child. Perhaps he was realizing that married life was not what he’d hoped it would be—that the thought of being tied to one woman, to her, was stifling.

  Julia’s anxiety increased. She could handle anything, she thought, but Gabriel’s coldness. She’d seen contempt in his eyes before. She’d been dismissed from his presence. She’d survived it once, but the mere thought of him leaving her again was crippling.

  In an effort to turn her attention elsewhere, she sat at her computer, investigating the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

  The hospital’s website gave her some hope. It described several patients who’d received the surgery her little brother would have to have. But each patient testimonial included the caveat that no one, not even the specialists at the hospital, could predict how healthy the patients would be when they became children, teenagers, or adults.

  She said a silent prayer for her father and Diane, and, lastly, for her brother. She asked God to help him and to give him health.

  Then her thoughts turned to her husband.

  She prayed for him. She prayed for their marriage. She’d thought their sexual activities the night before had brought them closer together and that they would free him to communicate with her.

  Now she worried they’d had the opposite effect. If Gabriel could communicate to her with his body, perhaps he failed to see the need to communicate with words.

  With such thoughts in mind, she returned to her pediatric cardiology research, reading article after article, until the words blurred before her eyes and her head sank down against the chair’s armrest.

  Julia awoke to the sensation that someone was watching her.

  She was lying in bed. Seated next to her, his arms around his bent legs, was Gabriel. He regarded her from behind his glasses.

  “It’s late,” he whispered. “Go back to sleep. ”

  She squinted at the clock that sat on the bedside table. It was past midnight.

  “I missed dinner. ”

  “You were exhausted. I kept you up too late last night. ”

  She yawned. “Come here. ”

  He avoided her outstretched hand.

  “Hey,” she whispered. “Don’t I get a kiss?”

  He brushed his lips against hers in a manner that could only be described as perfunctory.

  “That’s not a very good kiss,” she pouted. “You’re perched on the edge of the bed like a gargoyle, glowering at me. What’s the matter?”

  “I am not glowering. ”

  She sat up and placed her arms around his shoulders.

  “Then kiss me like you mean it, non-glowering-gargoyle-like husband of mine. ”

  His dark brows knitted together. “A gargoyle? You’re hell on a man’s ego, Mrs. Emerson. ”

  “You’re far more beautiful than me, Professor. But I’m fine with that. ”

  “Don’t blaspheme. ” His expression darkened.

  She sank back against the mattress, groaning in frustration.

  “I love you, Gabriel. That means I’ll put up with a hell of a lot from you. But I won’t let you shut me out. Either talk to me or I’m going home. ”

  She felt his eyes before she met them—two glowing and angry sapphires in the nether darkness.

  “What?” he growled.

  “If I go and stay with my dad, he’ll talk to me. I can take care of him and Diane when they get home from the hospital. You’re acting as if you can’t stand the sight of me. ” She rolled to her back, staring up at the canopy.

  “Beatrice. ” His voice was pained. “If you need to see your dad, we’ll go together. But I would never let you make that trip alone. I’ll be damned if you go home without me. ”

  She hazarded a small smile.

  “Now there’s the Gabriel I married. I thought I’d lost you. ” She removed his glasses, placing them on the side table. Then she pulled him under the covers with her.

  He rolled onto his side, facing her. Then, ever so lightly, he found her lips in the darkness.

  “Finally. ” She rested her head against his chest. “Tell me why you’re so grim. ”

  “I don’t think you want to hear this right now. ”

  “Yes, I do. ”

  “Fine. You said you thought I wished you were someone else so I could fuck you. ” His tone grew sharp. “Never say something like that to me again. ”

  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

  “It isn’t true. I swear to God, it isn’t true. I left that life behind and God help me, I do not want to go back there. ”

  “I wasn’t asking you to go back there. I was hoping you’d work out your bad mood with me, instead of sitting outside brooding. ”

  “I wasn’t fantasizing about fucking other women, I assure you. ” He sounded angry. “And what we have is too important to cheapen. ”

  She sat up swiftly.

  “There was nothing cheap in what we did last night. We love each other. We’d both received upsetting news. We needed comfort. ”

  “I was selfish. ”

  “It was mutual. Remember? I wanted you. I needed you. If you were selfish, then so was I. But I don’t see it that way. Yes, it was more aggressive and vigorous than we usually are. But you promised me I was safe with you. And I felt safe. You promised me we could be adventurous. Last night was one of our adventures. And in giving, we both received. ”

  She tried to keep a straight face. But couldn’t.

  She smiled widely, trying to restrain a snicker.

  In a flash, she was on her back and he was over her, their noses inches apart.

  “I don’t think St. Francis would approve of you taking part of his prayer and applying it to our sexual activities,” he growled.

  “Francis believed in love and in marriage. He’d understand. At the very least, if he disapproved, he’d be silent about it. ”

  Gabriel closed his eyes and shook his head. But a smile played across his mouth.

  When he opened his eyes, they were tender.

  “I could live with you forever and still you would surprise me. ”

  “I’m glad to hear that, Gabriel, because you’re stuck with me. Even when you’re in a foul mood. I’m not ashamed of what we do with our bodies, because it also involves our souls. I don’t want you to be ashamed either. ”

  He nodded and kissed her reverently.

  She kissed him back.

  “You tell me that I’m safe in your bed. But I want you to know that you’re free in mine. All the baggage, all the things from our past, they don’t matter here. ”

  He stroked her jaw with his thumb. “Okay. ”

  “Now will you tell me why you were so upset last night?”

  “Not yet. ” A shadow fell across his face. “I just need a little time. ” He toyed with the diamonds in her ears. “You have my heart. Never doubt that. ”

  Julia rested in his arms, but it was a long while before sleep claimed her.

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Julia was not a psychologist. She’d spent time in therapy and was familiar with twelve-step programs and recovery. But she tried very hard not to diagnose others. In the case of her husband, she couldn’t help herself. Something was troubling him. Something disturbing enough to cause him to return to his old coping mechanisms.

  She suspected that whatever was upsetting him was related to the news they’d received from Tom and Diane, but she wasn’t certain. Correlation is not causality, and so it was possible that the two events were merely coincidental.

  Without knowing what was wrong, she didn’t know how to help him. Or how to comfort him. She felt as if a dark cloud hung over them, despite Gabriel’s concerted attempts to behave as if nothing were wrong.

&
nbsp; She knew better. And his unwillingness to share his burden wounded her.

  As their time in Umbria drew to a close and they prepared to travel to Florence, she resolved to do her best to be supportive and loving. But she was determined that if he hadn’t confided in her by the time they returned to Cambridge, she would take matters into her own hands.

  During the previous summer, Gabriel had volunteered at the Franciscan orphanage in Florence during his separation from Julia. But as the staff quickly discerned, he was not the ideal volunteer. He didn’t take direction, he gave it. He didn’t hesitate to make changes to the workings of the orphanage, or to make demands about the facilities and food. And when the staff protested that they didn’t have the money to implement his changes, he simply paid for them himself.

  In sum, the director of the orphanage, Fra Silvestro, welcomed his donations but was relieved when the Franciscans over at Santa Croce persuaded Gabriel that his skills would be better utilized in leading tours and giving lectures on the life of Dante.

  So it was with delight that Fra Silvestro welcomed Julia to the orphanage in August, hoping that she would moderate her husband’s more aggressive charity.

  When the Emersons arrived, they were met by the director; his assistant, Elena; and an assembly of children. The children, who ranged in age from four to eight, addressed Julia as Zia Julia and presented her with a bouquet and a series of drawings they’d made. The illustrations were done in bright colors and featured smiling children and a woman with long, dark hair standing in the center.

  For a moment, Gabriel was overwhelmed. In the eyes of the children, especially the older ones, he saw a glimpse of himself as a child. He remembered standing in the waiting room of the hospital in Sunbury after his mother died, trying to get something to eat from the vending machine. He didn’t have any money and so he crawled on the ground to check under the machine for lost coins.

  Gabriel tamped down the memory. If Grace hadn’t come upon him that day, his life would have turned out very, very differently.

  Julia greeted all the children, crouching down to their level. She seemed perfectly at ease, chattering and laughing with them in Italian.

  After the introductions were made, the Emersons were led to a side yard where the rest of the orphanage’s children, ages one to twelve, had gathered. The staff brought out the infants, so that they too could join the party.

  Gabriel had been unable to rent a petting zoo but had secured the services of four ponies and their handlers. The ponies were tethered at the far end of the yard, surrounded by a crowd of excited children.

  There were balloons and games, and a large, inflated bouncing castle. There were tables of food and desserts, and a large pyramid of wrapped gifts.

  “How will they know which gift is for which child?” Gabriel pondered aloud.

  Julia glanced at the pyramid. “I’m sure each gift is labeled. ”

  “What if they don’t like the present they receive?”

  “Elena asked the children what they wanted and we bought it. ” Julia squeezed his hand. “Stop fussing. The children will see you frowning and you’ll scare them. ”

  Gabriel sniffed at being so maligned but cautiously adjusted his expression.

 
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