Gabriels redemption, p.35
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.35

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 35


  He shook her off. “Stop that. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” She sat back on her heels repentantly. “No one notices them. I think they make you look rugged. ”

  He turned, his eyes glacial pools.

  She tilted her head to one side. “When will I see you?”

  “Not for a while. ”

  “Why not?”

  “We need to cool off. ”

  “But things have been going well. I work for your father now, for God’s sake. ”

  “And I told him we were casual. That was his condition for hiring you. I can’t be seen going in and out of your apartment anymore. People are watching. ”

  “Then we can meet at a hotel. ” She reached for him but caught only air.

  Simon walked toward the bedroom door. “He wants me to take Senator Hudson’s daughter to dinner. ”

  “What?” She leapt from the bed. She stood in front of him, naked, her green eyes sparking with anger and her long, red hair a riotous mess.

  Simon placed one of his hands on the back of her neck.

  “Don’t get hysterical. ”

  She shivered at the coldness of his voice. “I won’t. I’m sorry. ”

  He stroked his thumb along the curve of her neck.

  “Good. Because I don’t like it when you get hysterical. ”

  He dropped his hand to her ass.

  “It’s just dinner. She finished her junior year at Duke and she’s here for the summer. I’m going to take her out and, hopefully, persuade her to put a good word in for my dad with her father. We could use his endorsement. ”

  “Are you going to fuck her?”

  Simon snorted. “Are you kidding? She’s a virgin. I had enough of that shit dealing with Julia. ”

  Natalie wrinkled her nose at the mention of her former roommate.

  “What makes you think the Hudson girl is a virgin?”

  “Her family is religious. They’re from the South. It’s a guess. ”

  “Religion didn’t keep Jules from going down on you. ” Natalie crossed her arms in front of her.

  “Keep your mouth shut about Julia. I don’t need her asshole boyfriend fucking things up for me. ”

  “He’s her asshole husband now. ”

  “I don’t care what he is. You know the score. ” Simon pulled her closer. “Don’t bring them up again. ”

  “How do you think I feel? My boyfriend is being set up with another goody two-shoes because his father thinks I’m a whore. ”

  Simon gripped her ass with both hands.

  “We’re finally getting what we want. We just need to wait until after the election. ”

  “Oh, I can be patient. ” She dropped to her knees in front of him, quickly freeing him from the confines of his jeans. “But I think you need a reminder of who you’re walking out on. ”

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Florence, Italy

  Gabriel smoked a lonely cigarette out on the terrace, staring at the shards of a broken water glass. He’d upset Julianne.

  She’d seen him throw things before. He’d murdered her old cell phone when that motherfucker Simon called her.

  Gabriel inhaled, drawing the air deep into his lungs before exhaling through his nostrils.

  He did not think of their relationship as tempestuous. Although they’d had more conflict recently. They’d fought back in Selinsgrove over her paper. They’d fought in Umbria when he’d asked about her mother and she’d told him he was mindfucking her.

  Tonight they’d descended to a new low when she accused him of thinking she was a bitch. Nothing was further from the truth. He couldn’t even place the word and her name in the same sentence.

  But he’d lost his temper before he had the chance to say that.

  His secrets were hurting her. He knew that. But he couldn’t unburden himself until he’d found a solution. He didn’t want to appear weak and undecided, or worse, to watch her compassion change into pity. He’d rather alienate her temporarily than lose her respect.

  And he hadn’t found a way forward. Not yet. He was caught between two extremes, both of which were unacceptable. At the moment he lacked the courage or the wisdom to find a middle path.

  He finished his cigarette and lit another one. Perhaps he lacked both courage and wisdom.

  Julianne was correct. If they adopted a child, he’d have to quit. He’d quit cigarettes before, after his stint in rehab. He could quit again.

  He thought about Tom and Diane. They’d gone from the elation of discovering they were expecting to the devastation of learning that their child had a life-threatening birth defect. He couldn’t imagine how powerless they felt. He’d had a glimpse of such impotence when Paulina—

  Gabriel forced himself to focus on the cigarette he held between his fingers. He couldn’t allow his mind to wander down that road. Not tonight.

  He gazed at the skyline of Florence, at the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, waiting until he was sure Julia was asleep.

  He visited the bathroom, brushing his teeth and dropping his clothes to the floor. He showered quickly, knowing that she’d smell the smoke on his skin.

  Naked and with damp hair, he slid between the sheets. He didn’t touch her. A quick glimpse of the bed in the lamplight revealed that she was wearing a nightgown and curled on her side, facing away from him.

  Message received, sweetheart.

  As he settled into bed he thought, perhaps, that he heard a murmur of distress emanating from her direction.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

  When she didn’t respond, he switched off the light and turned his back to her.

  It only took a moment for Julia to shift so she was spooning him from behind.

  “I’m sorry, too. ”

  “We promised we wouldn’t go to bed angry anymore. ”

  “I’m not angry, Gabriel, I’m hurt. ”

  He reached back to grasp her wrist and pulled her arm so that it draped over his waist. “You’re right about Maria. I just wanted to do something.

  “I don’t think you’re a bitch. I’d never think of you that way. You’re my beloved. ”

  “Then I need you to be kind to me. I have to tell you, Gabriel, this past little while has been really difficult. I don’t want our marriage to be like this. ”

  His body tightened.

  “I’ll find a way to make it up to you. I promise. ”

  “I don’t want you to make it up to me. Just tell me what’s wrong. ”

  “I will. I promise. ”

  “Tell me now. ” Her tone was harsh.

  “Please, Julianne,” he whispered. “I’m asking you, please, to give me a little more time. ”

  “So you can come to some momentous decision without me?”

  “I wouldn’t do anything without talking to you first. But haven’t you ever been worried about something and tried to figure out how to deal with it? You can’t exactly make those decisions for me. ” He shook his head. “I’m asking you, Julianne, to have a little compassion. ”

  She searched his eyes and found nothing insincere in them.

  “I can give you a little more time. But I want you to call Dr. Townsend. ”

  Gabriel opened his mouth to protest but was interrupted.

  “I won’t accept your refusal. Either tell me what’s troubling you, or tell him. But for both our sakes, Gabriel, tell someone. ”

  With a deep exhalation, he nodded.

  Gabriel was awake before sunrise and quit the suite before Julianne awoke. Though it pained him to leave the warmth of her embrace, he was on a mission. The sooner he gathered the information he needed, the closer he would be to a solution.

  (Or so he hoped. )

  That afternoon, he had an important meeting scheduled with his old friend, Dottore Vitali, the director of the Uffizi Gallery. Now Gabriel was more determined than ever to show his wife how much he loved her. And to do so publicly.

; As he exited the hotel, he reflected on the fact that he preferred Florence in the morning—the quiet of the streets before the city shook off its slumber.

  He stopped at the café at the Gucci Museum in Piazza della Signoria and bought an espresso and a sweet roll. He enjoyed his breakfast outside, along with his newspaper, La Nazione, biding his time until he could call for Elena at the orphanage.

  At ten o’clock, he rang the doorbell. Elena was surprised to see him and even more surprised when he revealed the reason for his visit.

  She thanked him for his concern for Maria and suggested that if he wanted to help, he could assist in covering the costs for the therapist she was seeing in an effort to help her recover her speech.

  When Gabriel raised the subject of adoption, Elena quickly explained that adopting a child in Italy could be difficult. Only married couples were permitted to adopt, and they must have been married for at least three years. Even if he and Julianne had decided to adopt Maria, the Italian government wouldn’t let them.

  Gabriel left the orphanage duly chastened, but not without making a substantial donation to cover Maria’s expenses. He made it clear that Elena was to contact him if any needs arose.

  Lost in thought, he wandered to a café at Santa Croce. Instead of watching the beautiful women walk by, he made a few phone calls, prevailing upon Florence’s finer families to consider supporting the orphanage through foster care or adoption.

  Reactions were mixed. Everyone was willing to part with their money for charity, but not a single couple would agree to become foster parents. Adoption was absolutely out of the question.

  Once again, Gabriel was confronted with the lavishness of grace as he contemplated all the reasons why Richard and Grace could have said no to adopting him, but didn’t.

  Julianne awoke to an empty bed and a quiet hotel room. But Gabriel had left a glass of water on the nightstand, along with a note,


  I’ve gone to run errands.

  I’ll be back in time to get ready for the exhibition opening tonight.

  I love you,

  And I like my body when it is with your body,


  On the back of the note, Gabriel had transcribed a poem by e. e. cummings: “i like my body when it is with your. ”

  Julia read and reread the poem, wondering what Gabriel’s errands were.

  In truth, she felt guilty. Gabriel was correct—Maria needed a family to love and care for her. Julia could see why Gabriel was drawn to her.

  As all the anxiety about graduate school and her career washed over her, she couldn’t shake the suspicion that she was being selfish by valuing her education over the welfare of a child.

  Still, it didn’t seem right to take Maria from the only country she’d ever known and place her in a house with strangers. Especially since Julia didn’t know what Gabriel was troubled about.

  Maybe he wants children right away and he’s gearing himself up to tell me so.

  Julia entertained the thought but put it aside. Gabriel recognized her anxiety about grad school. He wasn’t going to add to it.

  She’d worked so hard to get herself to this point. His remarks the evening before about “the Julianne he knew” had cut her deeply. She’d tried to be compassionate her whole life. Surely being a good person didn’t entail the abandonment of one’s dreams.

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