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Gabriels redemption, p.42
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.42

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 42

 

  “I know I have no right to ask you. I know that I’m troubling you by being here. ” He cleared his throat. “But I had to say these things in person. I wronged you. I was monstrous. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. ”

  Now she was crying, tears slipping from her eyes and down her perfect face.

  “Stop. ”

  “Paulina. We did this one, beautiful thing together. Let’s not mourn her by living empty, wasted lives. ”

  “How dare you! You come to me to ease your conscience and say something like that!”

  Gabriel ground his teeth together.

  “I’m not here to ease my conscience. I’m here to make amends. ”

  “My baby is dead and I can’t have another. Make amends for that. ”

  He tensed. “I can’t. ”

  “You never loved me. I wasted my life on a man who merely tolerated me. And only because I was good in bed. ”

  A muscle jumped in Gabriel’s jaw.

  “Paulina, you have many admirable qualities, not least of which are your intelligence, your generosity, and your sense of humor. Don’t sell yourself short. ”

  She laughed mirthlessly. “In the end, it didn’t matter. No matter how smart I am, I was dumb enough to try to change you. I failed. ”

  “I’m sorry. ”

  “I moved on with my life and you come here to dredge it all up. ”

  “That wasn’t my intent. ”

  “But you did it just the same. ” She wiped her eyes with her hands, shifting her body away from him. “You get to go home to your young, pretty girlfriend knowing that she could give you a child, if that’s what you want. Vasectomies are easily reversed, but what happened to me can never be undone. ”

  Gabriel hung his head.

  “I’m sorry. For everything. ”

  Reluctantly, he stood to his feet. He moved to walk past her, but she caught his hand.

  “Wait. ”

  Gabriel looked down at her, his eyes wary.

  “I met someone. He’s a professor. He helped me get a job teaching English literature while I finish my PhD by extension. ”

  “I’m glad. ”

  “I don’t need your money. I won’t be withdrawing from the trust fund again.

  “Keith is a widower with two little girls. One is seven and the other is five. Can you imagine? They call me Auntie Paulina. I get to dress them and do their hair and have tea parties with their dolls. I met someone who loves me. And his girls need me. So even though I can’t have a child, I’m still going to be a mother. Or at the very least, an auntie. I forgive you, Gabriel. But I won’t have this conversation again. I made my peace with the past, as much as I can. ”

  “Agreed. ”

  She gave him a genuine smile, and he brushed his lips against the top of her head.

  “Good-bye, Paulina. Be happy. ”

  He released her hand and walked away.

  Chapter Forty

  August 2011

  Cambridge, Massachusetts

  Going for a run?” Julia glanced up from the breakfast table to see Gabriel clad in his jogging clothes and shoes. He was wearing a crimson Harvard T-shirt and black shorts that hung loosely from his hips.

  “That’s right. ” He crossed the room in order to kiss her.

  “So—are we going to talk soon?”

  Gabriel turned away and began disentangling the earphones that connected with his iPhone. “About what?”

  “About what’s bothering you?”

  “Not right now, no. ” He removed his sunglasses from their case and quickly cleaned them with the fabric of his shirt.

  Julia bit her tongue, for her patience was almost at an end.

  “Have you made an appointment to see your doctor?”

  “Here we go,” he muttered, placing his palms flat on the kitchen island and leaning into them, head bent and eyes closed.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” She crossed her arms over her chest.

  He didn’t move.

  “No, I haven’t called the doctor. ”

  “Why not?”

  “Because I don’t need to see him. ”

  She uncrossed her arms. “But what about the vasectomy reversal? You’ll need to speak with him about that. ”

  “No, I won’t. ” He straightened, nonchalantly picking up his sunglasses and placing them on his face.

  “Why not?”

  “I’m not having my vasectomy reversed. I’d like us to pursue adoption. I know we can’t adopt Maria, but I’d like us to look into adopting a child when you graduate. ”

  “You’ve decided,” she breathed.

  A muscle jumped in his jaw.

  “I’m protecting you. ”

  “But what about all our conversations? What about what we talked about in the orchard?”

  “I was wrong. ”

  “You were wrong?” She scrambled to her feet. “Gabriel, what the hell is going on?”

  “Can we please not do this right now?” He began walking toward the door.

  “Gabriel, I—”

  “When I get back,” he interrupted. “Give me thirty minutes. ”

  She bit back an angry response.

  “Just tell me one thing. ”

  He paused, looking at her through his sunglasses.

  “What’s that?”

  “Do you still love me?”

  His expression grew pained. “I’ve never loved you more. ”

  And with that, he opened the door and fled into the warm morning air.

  “How was your run?” Julia greeted a hot and sweaty Gabriel as he entered the kitchen.

  “Good. I’m just going to take a shower. ”

  “Care for some company?”

  He gave her a half-smile. “After you. ”

  Julia preceded him up the stairs and they entered the master bedroom together.

  He sat on a chair, pulling off his shoes and socks and peeling away his shirt.

  “Did running clear your head?” She studied him intently. The sheen of perspiration was visible on his tanned skin, his muscles rippling with every movement.

  “Somewhat. ”

  “Tell me what’s troubling you. ”

  He sighed loudly, squeezing his eyes shut. Then he nodded and she sat on the edge of the bed, waiting.

  He placed his forearms on his knees, leaning forward. “My whole life I’ve been self-centered. I don’t know how anyone could stand to be near me. ”

  “Gabriel,” she reproached him. “You’re eminently lovable. That’s why women fall at your feet. ”

  “I don’t care about that. It’s all based on appearances. They wouldn’t care if I was selfish so long as I gave them a good fuck. ”

  Julia grimaced.

  “I know you. I know all of you and I don’t think you’re selfish. ”

  “I pursued you when you were my student. I was terrible to my family and to Paulina,” he countered.

  Julia looked over into darkened, tortured eyes.

  “That’s in the past. We don’t need to speak of it. ”

  “Of course we need to speak of it. ” He placed his head in his hands, gripping his hair. “Don’t you understand? I’m still being selfish. I could hurt you. ”

  “How?”

  “What if Paulina’s miscarriage was my fault?”

  Julia’s stomach lurched.

  “Gabriel, we talked about this. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. ”

  “It was my fault I was out on a bender all weekend. If I’d been home to care for her, I could have taken her to the hospital. ”

  “Please don’t go down that road again. You know where it leads. ”

  He kept his eyes on the floor. “It leads to the conversation we had in the orchard. ”

  “The orchard?”

  “I’ve been talking to you about having a baby. But I never stopped to think about it in light of what happened with Paulina. ”

  “Gabriel, please. I—”

  He interrupted her. “What if her miscarriage was the result of a genetic abnormality? Something I contributed?”

  Julia was stunned into silence.

  “I told you I wanted a child. But I never stopped to think about the risks. ”

  “Miscarriages are common, Gabriel. It’s tragic, but it’s true. Have mercy on yourself. There’s a reason why you had that dream about Maia. Accept the peace she offered you and let it go. ”

  “What if the same thing happens to us?” His voice broke on the last word. “Look at what your father and Diane are going through. ”

  “It would be devastating. But this is the world we live in. There’s illness and death. We can’t pretend we’re immune. ”

  “We can avoid unacceptable risks. ”

  Julia’s eyes grew sad. “So now you don’t want a baby with me?”

  He lifted his head to see tears in her eyes.

  “All this talk of Paulina. ” Julia swallowed hard. “I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but I envy her. You shared a life-changing experience with her that we might not be able to have. ”

  “I thought you’d be relieved. ”

  “Nothing in what you’ve said brings relief. ” She searched his eyes. “And you certainly don’t look happy. ”

  “That’s because I want what I can’t have. I can’t go through what I went through with Paulina again. I can’t and I won’t. I won’t let that happen to you. ”

  “No children,” she whispered.

  “We’ll adopt. ”

  “So that’s it. ”

  He nodded.

  Julia closed her eyes, letting the implication of his words wash over her. She thought of their future, of the images she’d daydreamed about. She thought about telling Gabriel that she was pregnant, about carrying his child inside her body, about holding his hand while she gave birth to a son . . .

  All the images vanished as if in a puff of smoke. Julia felt the loss immediately. She hadn’t realized how much she wanted to have those experiences and to share them with him. Now that he was telling her she couldn’t, she felt pain.

  “No. ”

  “No?” His eyebrows lifted.

  “You want to protect me, and that’s admirable. But let’s be clear, there’s something else. ”

  “I don’t want to see you hurt. ”

  “It goes deeper than that, doesn’t it? It’s wrapped up in what happened between your father and your mother. ”

  Gabriel stood up, dropping his shorts to the floor. He turned away, standing naked before her.

  She cleared her throat. “Sweetheart, I know that you have scars. You can’t even look at the things in your desk drawer. ”

  “This isn’t about that. This is about choosing the risks I’m willing to take. Your father could lose Diane and the baby. I’m not prepared to take that risk. ”

  “Life is risk. I could get cancer. Or get hit by a car. You could wrap me in bubble wrap and keep me indoors and I could still get sick. I know that I could lose you too. And as much as I don’t want to say it, someday you’re going to die. ” Her voice broke on the last word. “But I choose to love you now and I choose to build a life with you knowing I could lose you. I’m asking you to make that same choice. I’m asking you to take the risk, with me. ”

 
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