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Gabriels redemption, p.45
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.45

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 45

 

  “You’re my daughter. You’ll always have a room in my house. ” A gruff voice sounded behind them.

  Diane and Julia turned to see Tom standing in the doorway.

  “That’s nice, Dad, but you don’t have to save a room for me. ”

  “It’s your room. ” His tone and expression brooked no argument.

  Julia merely sighed and nodded.

  She gestured to the walls, which were white. “Have you picked out colors?”

  Diane smiled. “Pale blue and red. I was thinking about having a sailboat theme. Maybe painting a mural of a boat on the wall. I thought it would be soothing. ”

  “That sounds beautiful. I’ll look for some bedding and things with sailboats on them. ”

  “Thank you. ”

  “I’ll make sure my little brother has everything he needs. I’m looking forward to spoiling him. ”

  Tom’s eyes watered. But he would never admit it.

  “So you’re going to decorate?” he asked his fiancée.

  “I think we should do a few things. Maybe not everything. After the honeymoon we could paint the walls. ” Diane looked up into his face, her eyes cautiously hopeful.

  “Whatever you want. ” Tom leaned over to kiss her, pressing his palm lightly over where their child was growing.

  Julia moved to the door, wanting to give them some privacy. “I’ll just go downstairs and see what Gabriel and Uncle Jack are doing. ”

  “Sorry, sweetie. ” Diane pulled away from her fiancé, but not before moving her hand gently over where his hand had rested.

  “Would you like to take those with you? I think they belonged to your mother. ” Diane pointed at the boxes that were sitting in the closet.

  The air in the room swiftly changed as Tom and Julia followed the path of her finger.

  “What?” Tom’s tone was sharp.

  “They’re just sitting there. Maybe there’s something she’d like to take home with her to Massachusetts. But if you don’t want them or you don’t want them now, that’s fine. I opened them just to see what they were, but I closed them back up again. I came across them when I was emptying this room out. ”

  “I’d like to look at Mom’s stuff. ” Julia was conscious of her father’s fists opening and closing.

  “I’m not all fired up about having this conversation three days before my wedding,” Tom growled.

  “Honey,” Diane reproached him.

  “All right. Why don’t you ask Gabriel to come up and help me carry them down to your car?”

  Julia nodded and exited the room, but not before seeing her father pull Diane into his arms.

  As she descended the staircase to the front hall, she heard voices coming out of the living room.

  “You tell her yet?” Julia’s Uncle Jack, Tom’s brother, was speaking.

  “No. ” Gabriel’s tone was clipped.

  “You going to?” Jack’s gruff voice grew louder.

  “Since everything has been quiet, I haven’t seen the need. She’s been upset enough recently. I’m not about to add to it. ”

  “She better not be living in fear. ”

  “She isn’t. ” Gabriel sounded impatient.

  “I find she is, you and me got a problem. ”

  Julia’s footsteps echoed across the hardwood floor and the voices stopped.

  She entered the living room and saw Jack standing by the far wall, his form menacing.

  Gabriel was standing a few feet away, having adopted a similar posture.

  “What’s going on?” she asked.

  Gabriel lifted his arm and she went to him, curling into his side. “Nothing. Did you help Diane?”

  “A little. But I need your help now. I have a few boxes I need to carry out to the car. ”

  “Absolutely. ” Gabriel gave Jack a significant look as he followed Julia into the hall.

  The day before the wedding, Julia agreed to help Diane’s sister, the maid of honor, by running errands. She visited the florist to double-check the order, she visited the church hall to inspect the decorations, and she stopped in at Kinfolks restaurant.

  Kinfolks would not have been her choice as the location of the rehearsal dinner, but since it was a place that held sentimental value for both the bride and groom, she kept her opinion to herself.

  She’d just finished her meeting with the owner and the manager, ascertaining that everything would be ready for that evening, when she ran into Deb Lundy, her father’s ex-girlfriend, and Natalie, her daughter.

  Julia tried to plaster an artificial smile on her face as Deb approached her.

  “Hello, Jules. I haven’t seen you in a long time. ”

  “Hi, Deb. How are you?”

  “Just fine. Natalie is home for the weekend and we’ve been doing some shopping. ” Deb lifted the numerous bags that she was carrying.

  Julia’s gaze moved nervously from the tall blond woman to her daughter, who was standing some feet away with a sour expression on her face. Both women were dressed in expensive clothing and obviously designer sandals. Both women clutched large Louis Vuitton handbags.

  Natalie was an attractive young woman, with red hair and green eyes. She and Julia had been roommates at Saint Joseph’s University. They’d even been friends. But that was before Natalie decided to sleep with Julia’s then-boyfriend, Simon, and invite her to join them in a threesome.

  “Natalie was supposed to be in the Hamptons this weekend with her boyfriend. You remember him, don’t you? Simon Talbot, the senator’s son?”

  “I know who he is. ” Julia resisted the urge to comment further. Deb knew exactly who Simon was to Julia and that he’d been arrested for assaulting her two years previous. Sadly, the arrest had yielded only a plea agreement and community service.

  Ignoring Julia’s obvious discomfort, Deb prattled on.

  “Mrs. Talbot became ill and so their trip to the Hamptons was canceled. But I’m glad Natalie was able to come home. We see so little of her now that she’s working for the senator’s presidential campaign. She has a very important job. ”

  “Congratulations,” said Julia, trying to keep the contempt out of her voice.

  Natalie ignored Julia and turned to her mother. “We need to go. ”

  Julia watched her former roommate curiously. The last time they’d seen one another was in this very restaurant. Natalie had cornered her and shown her a clip from a video that Simon had made. A video that showed Julia in a compromising position. Natalie had threatened to post the video on the Internet if Julia didn’t withdraw the assault charges against Simon.

  In a surprising turn of events, Julia had stood her ground. She even threatened to go to The Washington Post and tell them that Simon had sent his new girlfriend to blackmail her. The senator would not have been pleased.

  At the time, Natalie seemed skeptical that Julia would carry through on her threat. But she must have changed her mind. There was no evidence that the video had been shared or posted anywhere. It was as if they’d given up.

  Julia wondered occasionally why she hadn’t heard from them. But she decided to count herself lucky and simply accept her good fortune.

  Seeing Natalie now, Julia expected her to be rude or aggressive. She expected Natalie to offer veiled threats or innuendo. Instead, she appeared agitated, shifting her weight back and forth and glancing at the door. It was as if she were afraid of something.

  Julia didn’t see any intimidating people in the restaurant or outside on the sidewalk. She wondered what was bothering Natalie. And why her smugness and superiority had been magically eliminated.

  Deb gestured to her daughter to wait.

  “It was good seeing you, Jules. I hear your dad is getting married again. ”

  “Tomorrow, yes. ”

  “Never thought he was the marrying kind. I guess old age will do that to you. ”

  Julia lifted an eyebrow. Deb was at least as old as her father, if not a year or two older. But she had no wish to be drawn into a confrontation.

  “Let’s go. ” Natalie tugged on her mother’s arm, and the two women walked toward the door.

  Julia watched their departing backs with the distinct sense that she was missing something. Something important.

  “Aren’t you exhausted?” Rachel leaned over the kitchen island two days later and rested her head on her outstretched arm. “We were out late the night of the rehearsal dinner, and out late last night at the wedding. I need more sleep. ”

  Julia laughed as she shucked corn for dinner. “I guess it’s a good thing I had a nap this afternoon. ”

  Rachel rolled her eyes. “Sure you did. Gabriel said he napped this afternoon, too, but he’s never napped a day in his life. I doubt he naps when you’re in bed with him. ”

  The color rose in Julia’s cheeks, and she focused intently on the corn as she changed the subject. “The wedding was beautiful. I can’t believe I got to dance with my dad at his wedding. ”

  “I don’t think I have the energy to celebrate your birthday tonight, Jules. I’m sorry I’m a bad friend. ” Rachel’s voice was muffled by a yawn.

  “Why don’t you go and take a nap?”

  “I tried. Like you, my husband followed me. Ergo, no nap but lots of babymaking. ”

  Julia snickered. “How is that coming along?”

  Rachel slumped forward dramatically. “I need a vacation. ”

  “From babymaking?”

  She groaned, eyes shut.

  “Yes, damn it. We’re having sex all the time but I’m not getting pregnant. It’s depressing. ” She opened her eyes and rested her head on an upturned hand. “I need a break. Let me come and visit for a few days. I won’t be a bother, I promise. ”

  “I thought you wanted a baby. ”

  “I do, but at what cost? I never thought I’d say this, but we’re having too much sex. I’m beginning to feel like a machine. ”

  “Good God, what have I wandered into?” Gabriel’s eyebrows knitted together as he entered the kitchen from the back porch.

  “Nothing. Your sister is just worn out. Rachel, skip dinner and go lie down in our room. You can join us for dessert. ”

  “Really?”

  Julia waved a cob of corn in the direction of the stairs. “Go. ”

  Like a shot, Rachel was off her stool and flying through the door.

  Gabriel watched her departing form and shook his head. “Tell me we aren’t going to be like that. ”

  “We aren’t going to be like that. ” Julia pressed a kiss to his temple.

  “Promise?”

  “Promise. ”

  “You convinced me to pursue a reversal, no matter what. And you’ve almost convinced me that my family history doesn’t matter. ”

  “It doesn’t, sweetheart. Believe me. ”

  He took the corn out of her hand and set it aside before clasping her hands in his.

  “We can’t get our hopes up. It’s been almost ten years since my vasectomy. ”

  “I’d be happy adopting. But for your own sake, I want us to try. Eventually. And with less drama than what we’re seeing with Rachel and Aaron. ”

 
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