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Gabriels redemption, p.34
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.34

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 34

 

  “Can’t you figure them out with me? I’m a good listener. I can help. ”

  “You are a good listener. The best. But sometimes a man needs to do things alone. ”

  “Is that man-speak for ‘Don’t worry your pretty little head, darlin’?”

  “Man-speak?” He chuckled, pressing his lips to her palm. “You’re adorable. ”

  She pulled away, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “Now is not a good time to be patronizing, Gabriel. ”

  He rolled to his side and kissed the wrinkle between her eyebrows. “I’m not patronizing you. You are adorable. ” He paused, his eyes focused and intense. “You need to be a mother. Seeing you with the children—how loving and at ease you are. You’re a natural. ”

  “Today was a special day. Your ponies were a hit. ”

  “You were right, as usual. ”

  “Then why are you so sad?”

  “I can’t stand to leave them there. ” Gabriel’s eyes and tone evidenced his distress.

  Julia observed him, realizing that whatever distress he felt at the orphanage had been very well hidden.

  “The children are treated nicely. The staff love them. They’re safe. ”

  “It’s still an orphanage. ”

  “Yes. ” Julia pushed a curl back from his forehead. She ran her fingers through his hair in an attempt to soothe him.

  “I know what it’s like,” he said quietly. “When my mother died, there were several months when I didn’t know where I’d end up. It could have been an orphanage or foster care. I could have been shipped back to New York to live with my mother’s family. I was in limbo, never knowing if someone was going to show up to take me away or if Grace and Richard were going to tire of me and pack my bags. ”

  “They would never have done that. ”

  “I didn’t know. They were strangers to me. I wasn’t especially adoptable. My father disowned me, and my mother’s family didn’t want me. They would have left me to an orphanage—my own flesh and blood. Now do you understand why I don’t want anything to do with them?”

  Julia placed her hand against his face. “Yes. But you were very adoptable. Grace and Richard were attached to you from the beginning. ”

  “If they hadn’t taken me, what would have happened?”

  “There’s no point in going down that road. You have a family that loves you and you have me. ”

  “You’re everything, Julianne. ”

  The beauty of his words pierced her heart. She leaned forward to kiss him, trying to show how much his words meant to her.

  When she pulled away, he grasped her hand at the wrist. “We could adopt. ”

  “I thought you wanted to try to have a child first. ”

  He looked away.

  “Has something changed?” she pressed, noting his body language.

  “Children like Maria deserve a home. She doesn’t even speak!” Gabriel became visibly agitated.

  “Maybe we should try to help Elena find a family for her. You know lots of people. ”

  “What about us?”

  “Us?”

  “Why don’t we take her?”

  Julia searched his eyes, surprised to discover that he was serious.

  “Sweetheart, we aren’t in the best position to take home a toddler. ”

  “We love each other and we’d love her. We have a house and a yard. We speak Italian. ”

  “Maria is a toddler with special needs and we’re first-time parents. I’m already worried about making mistakes. ”

  Gabriel sat up. “How could you make a mistake? You are everything that is good and gentle. Children are drawn to you. ”

  “I’m not ready. ”

  “What if you had help? I’m owed a sabbatical. That was part of my agreement with BU when I left Toronto. ”

  Julia gave him an incredulous look. “You’d use your sabbatical to stay home with me and a baby?”

  “Why not? Children aren’t awake all the time. We could take turns. You have to admit that having an extra pair of hands would make things easier. ”

  “Neither one of us knows very much about caring for a toddler. ”

  “We have Rebecca. ”

  Julia laughed. “Rebecca is wonderful, but she’s our housekeeper, not a nanny. Her kids are grown up. I don’t think she’d want to help us with a child. ”

  “I think you’d be surprised if you asked her. She’s already volunteered to help more when we have a baby. ”

  Julia pulled away from him. “You’ve spoken to her about this?”

  He held his hands up. “No. But before we were married, she mentioned that she hoped she’d be with us for a long time, long enough to see us start a family. ”

  He frowned. “I’m not the enemy, Julianne. I’m not constantly looking for ways to sabotage your education. Or your life. ”

  She ducked her head. “I’m sorry. I feel as if the slightest disturbance will cause me to lose my focus and I’ll flunk. ”

  “I think that’s the most honest thing you’ve said about your program. ”

  She lifted her face, eyes narrowing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “It means, darling, that you’re worried about failing. Even though so many people are eager to support and help you. Including me and Rebecca. ”

  She started to protest, but he interrupted.

  “Anxiety over starting a family is legitimate. But I think you’d be anxious about your program anyway. That has more to do with how you see yourself than how you see the program. ”

  Julia’s eyes widened.

  “I—that’s not true. ”

  “It is. I know, I felt the same way when I was at Harvard. I think anyone who has an accurate sense of self has the same concern. ” He moved his hand to the back of her neck, urging her forward. “You can do it, Julianne. I believe in you. ”

  Tears pricked at the back of her eyes and she found herself in his arms, clutching him tightly.

  He moved his mouth to her ear.

  “I’d like to take Maria home with us. I’d like to take all the kids home with us. But this thing with Harvard is something you need to deal with on your own. ”

  “Is that why you won’t tell me what’s troubling you?”

  Gabriel exhaled loudly.

  “No. I’m still working things out in my mind. ”

  “Without me. ”

  “I’ll share it with you eventually. As I said in Umbria, I won’t do anything without discussing it with you first. I just need some time. ”

  She shook her head but elected not to argue with him.

  “Will you continue your work with the Italian Home for Children?”

  “Yes. They need me, of course, and I’ve promised the students that if they graduate high school with an excellent grade point average that I’ll send them to Italy. ”

  “You’re already changing the lives of children. You should be proud of yourself. ”

  He gave her a half-smile. “Are you sure you aren’t ready for adoption? We’d love her. ”

  His eyes were dark with emotion.

  Julia thought back to what she’d seen that day—the way Gabriel was with Maria and the other children. At that moment, Julia truly wanted to give him what he was asking for. But she knew it was wrong.

  “We would. But if we love her, we need to do what’s best for her. And that’s probably finding a local family. Not two American newlyweds who don’t know what they’re doing. You’d have to give up smoking. ”

  “That isn’t a problem. ” He looked at her carefully. “You’re worried about the drugs, aren’t you?”

  She squirmed and he frowned at her.

  “You don’t seem to have a lot of confidence in me. ”

  “I have every confidence in you. But you have to remember that I watched my mother relapse more than once. ”

  He disentangled himself from her arms. “Well, I’m not going to relapse. ”

  “Good. ”

  “Maybe we should talk about your own relapses. Just last month you were struggling with something and you turned to Paul. ”

  Julia’s brown eyes flashed. “You don’t get to throw that back in my face. I apologized, remember?”

  “You’re right. I’m sorry,” he said stiffly.

  “Are we having an honest and open conversation? Or are you trying to manipulate me?”

  Gabriel glared. “We’re having an honest and open conversation. I apologize for bringing up Paul. ”

  She sighed.

  “I understand that it’s difficult to work with the children at the orphanage and to leave them there. I feel it too. But it isn’t in Maria’s best interest for us to take her now. ”

  “The orphanage is good, but it isn’t the same thing as having a family. ”

  “Which is exactly why we shouldn’t take her. ”

  Gabriel moved to his feet. “That is not the Julianne I know speaking. ”

  “Oh, yes it is. ” She stood in front of him.

  “The Julianne I know would give the clothes off her back to a homeless person. ”

  She took a step closer, her face flushed with anger.

  “I would give the clothes off my back for Maria. But I want her to be with a family who are stable and experienced when it comes to children. She’s been traumatized. Taking her to a place where she doesn’t know the language, away from her city and her friends, would only upset her. We’d be hurting, not helping. And I won’t let you do that. And I don’t care if you think that I’m being a coldhearted bitch or whatever the hell you have running through your mind. ”

  She gave him a reproachful look before retreating to the bedroom.

  “Fuck!” he shouted, picking up her glass of water and throwing it.

  The glass shattered against the floor of the terrace.

  From a distance, Gabriel heard the door to the bathroom slam shut.

  He placed his hands on the balcony, leaning against the edge, and hung his head.

  Chapter Thirty-four

  August 2011

  Washington, D. C.

  Senator Talbot’s son Simon stood to his feet and quickly pulled on his jeans.

  “Where’s my shirt?” He looked in vain for the light blue polo that perfectly matched the color of his eyes.

  “It’s on the chair. ” His girlfriend, Natalie, sat up, not bothering to clutch the sheet to her chest.

  As usual, his eyes dropped to her breasts, which had been surgically enhanced the year previous. He placed a knee on the bed.

  “God, I’m glad I bought these. ” He dropped his head and drew one of her nipples into his mouth, sucking it strongly before biting with his teeth.

  “Come on. ” She reached out to palm him through his jeans, but he pulled back.

  “I have to go. I’ll call you. ” He located his shirt and pulled it over his head before hastily retrieving his shoes and socks.

  “When will I see you?” She knelt behind him and pressed her lips to his neck. With a single finger, she traced his jaw, gliding over the scars that were the result of his one and only violent encounter with Gabriel Emerson.

 
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