Gabriels redemption, p.43
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.43

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 43


  She moved to him and took his hand in hers.

  He looked down at their entwined fingers. “We don’t know what the risks might be. I have no idea what’s in my medical history. ”

  “We can be tested. ”

  He squeezed her hand before releasing it.

  “That isn’t enough. ”

  “Some of your relatives are still alive. You could try to speak with them, find out about the medical history of your parents and grandparents. ”

  He scowled. “Do you think I would give them the satisfaction of crawling after them, begging for information? I’d rather burn in Hell. ”

  “Listen to yourself. You’re right back where you started—thinking that you aren’t good enough to reproduce. And refusing to find out if there are any obvious issues in your family tree. What about your dream about Maia? What about Assisi? What about me, Gabriel? We prayed for a child. We’ve been praying that God would give us our own child. Are you taking back that prayer?”

  He clenched his fists at his sides but didn’t respond.

  “All because you don’t think you’re good enough,” she whispered. “My beautiful, broken angel. ”

  She wrapped her arms around his neck.

  Gabriel let out an anguished sound as he returned her embrace.

  “I’m making you dirty,” he whispered, his sweat-slicked chest pressing against her blouse.

  “You’ve never been cleaner. ” She tenderly kissed his stubbled jaw.

  They held one another before Julia led him to the bathroom. Without words, she turned on the shower and quickly divested herself of her clothing.

  He followed her inside the shower.

  The water was warm and it fell like rain, bouncing and dancing over their bodies and down to the floor. Julia poured soap into her hands and began to wash Gabriel’s chest, her palms gliding lightly over his pectorals.

  He wrapped a hand around her wrist. “What are you doing?”

  “I’m trying to show you how much I love you. ” She pressed her lips to his tattoo and then continued, lathering his abdomen with her hands. “I seem to remember a beautiful man doing this for me once. It was like a baptism. ”

  They were silent as she explored the steel and sinew of his arms and legs, the firmness of his backside and the bumps of his spine. She took her time, gently touching him until all the suds had rinsed away.

  His eyes pierced hers. “I’ve hurt you, again and again. Yet you’re so giving. Why?”

  “Because I love you. Because I have compassion for you. Because I forgive you. ”

  He closed his eyes and shook his head.

  Julia began washing his hair, coaxing him to lean forward so she could reach every dark strand.

  “God hasn’t punished me yet,” he murmured.

  “What are you talking about?”

  “I keep waiting for him to take you away. ”

  She brushed the shampoo from his eyes so he could open them.

  “That isn’t how God works. ”

  “I’ve lived an arrogant, selfish life. Why shouldn’t he punish me?”

  “God isn’t hovering above us waiting to punish us. ”

  “No?” His eyes were tortured.

  “No. Did you ever once feel that way when we were in Assisi? When we were sitting near St. Francis’s crypt?”

  He shook his head.

  “God wants to rescue us, not destroy us. You don’t have to be afraid of being happy, thinking that he wants to take that happiness away from you. That’s not who he is. ”

  “How can you be sure?”

  “Because when you’ve had a taste of goodness, it helps you recognize the difference between good and evil. I believe that people like Grace and St. Francis and a whole host of other kind, loving people show us what God is like. He isn’t waiting to punish you and he doesn’t give you blessings just to strip them away. ”

  She slid her hands up his chest until they rested on either side of his face.

  “I’m not going to let you delay having your vasectomy reversed. Whatever you discover, whatever happened, you’re my husband. I want a family with you and I don’t care what your DNA says. ”

  His fingers encircled her forearms.

  “I thought you weren’t ready to have a baby. ”

  “I’m not. But I agree with what you said in the orchard. If we want to have a baby, we need to start discussing it with the doctors. ”

  “What about adoption?”

  “We can do both. But please, Gabriel, you need to have the procedure reversed if only to show that you believe you will be a good father. And that you aren’t a prisoner of your history. I believe in you, sweetheart. How I wish you believed in yourself. ”

  He stood under the spray of the shower, closing his eyes and letting the water run over his head. He released her, running his hands through his hair before stepping aside.

  Julia took his hands in hers.

  “These hands are yours. You can use them for good, or for evil. And no amount of nature, biology, or DNA determines those decisions for you. ”

  “I’m an alcoholic because my mother was. That wasn’t a choice. ”

  “You chose to go into recovery. Every day, you choose not to drink or to use drugs. It isn’t your mother or AA that’s making that choice—it’s you. ”

  “But what will I pass on to our children?” His voice sounded desperate. “I have no idea what’s in my family tree. ”

  “My mother was an alcoholic. If you’re going to focus on family history, you should ask what I’m going to pass on. ”

  “The only things you could pass on would be beauty and kindness and love. ”

  She smiled sadly. “That’s what I was going to say to you. I saw how the children at the orphanage reacted to you. I saw you laughing and playing with them. And taking Maria for a pony ride. You will give our children love, protection, and care. You will give them a home and a family. And you won’t cast them out when they make a mistake, or stop loving them when they sin. You will love them so desperately you’d die for them. That’s what a father does. And that’s what you will do. ”

  His eyes lasered into hers. “You’re very fierce. ”

  “Only when I’m protecting someone I love. Or when I’m fighting to stop an injustice. Your giving in to those old lies would be unjust. You’ve done so much to help me, Gabriel. Now it’s my turn. If you want to forget about your family, I’ll support you. If you want to trace every branch of your family tree, I’ll help. But don’t let guilt and fear rob you of your choices. You made the decision to have the procedure reversed. I think you should stick to it. Even if we decide we want to expand our family through adoption. ”

  “It would be easier for me to forget about my family. But I can’t try to have a child with you without knowing more about them—at least to discover any obvious health concerns. ”

  “It won’t be easy. But you’ll have someone beside you, supporting you. Right now your past has power over you because you don’t know what’s there. Once you know, you won’t have to worry about it anymore. Take a risk with me, Gabriel. ”

  He buried his face in her neck.

  Of all the gifts God gave me, he thought, the greatest one is you.

  Chapter Forty-one

  Although Gabriel’s concerns were not entirely assuaged by Julianne’s words, he felt relieved. Her belief in him, her love for him, chipped away at his self-doubt. Truly he was blessed beyond all reason to find such a lover, such a wife. When she’d looked into his eyes and said she wanted him to reverse the procedure whether they planned to have a baby or not . . . Gabriel would remember that moment for the rest of his life.

  A proverb from the Hebrew Bible came to his mind: Whoso findeth a wife findeth a great good.

  It was at night, when he felt tortured by his past and fearful for his future, that his hope was shaken. Rather than leaving her side to haunt the house in search of alcohol, Gabr
iel resolved to wrap his arms around her and hold on. His brown-eyed angel didn’t eliminate his concerns. But she gave him the strength he needed in order to fight.

  The day after their shower, she’d found him in his study on the second floor, poring over a pile of books, his laptop open on the desk.

  “Hi. ” She entered the study, carrying a glass of Coke. “I brought you a drink. ”

  He regarded her appreciatively. “Thank you, darling. ”

  He patted his lap and she placed the drink on the desk before joining him.

  “Did you put this here?” He gestured at the toy train engine, which was now sitting atop a stack of files.

  “Yes. ” She squirmed, wondering how she was going to explain herself.

  “I’d forgotten about it. It makes a good paperweight. ”

  “I should have asked before I went through your things. ”

  He shrugged. “It was time. The train was one of my favorite toys as a child. ”

  “It looks like an antique. Where did it come from?”

  Gabriel scratched at his chin. “I want to say that it came from my father. I seem to remember him giving it to me. But that can’t be right. ”

  Julia offered him a sympathetic look.

  “What are you working on?”

  “My book. I’m writing a section on Hell. I think I’ll include some remarks on the Guido story. I’ll cite your paper as an authority, of course. ” He kissed her.

  “That will be easier to do now that my paper is being published. ”


  “I received an email from the conference organizers telling me that a European press has agreed to publish a few of the papers. They want me to submit mine. ”

  “Your first publication. Congratulations. ” Gabriel hugged her tightly, a feeling of pride washing over him.

  “It will be a great line item for my CV. ” She toyed with his glasses. “But I’m going to need a favor. ”

  “Anything. ”

  She lifted her eyebrows. “Anything?”

  “For you, my love, I would endeavor to pluck the stars from the sky, only to shower them at your feet. ”

  Julia pressed her hand over her heart. “How do you do that?’

  “Do what?”

  “Say things like that. That’s beautiful. ”

  He offered her a half-smile. “I’ve spent years studying poetry, Mrs. Emerson. It’s in my DNA. ”

  “It certainly is. ” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him determinedly.

  Their embrace grew heated. Gabriel was about to sweep his books from his desk and lay Julianne out on top of it when she remembered she was there to ask him a favor.

  “Um, sweetie?”

  “Yes?” His voice was a half groan as his hands roamed up and down her sides.

  “I need to ask you something. ”

  “Go ahead. ”

  “My paper is going to need some revisions before I send it in. They want the manuscript the first week of December. Will you read it and make some suggestions?”

  Her expression telegraphed her trepidation. They’d had a fight about that paper a few months previous. She didn’t want to fight with him about it again.

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