Gabriels redemption, p.46
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.46

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 46


  Gabriel laughed and pulled her into his arms.

  Julia snuggled against him, her mouth opening wide into a sustained yawn.

  Gabriel eyed her with concern. “Why don’t you go and take a nap?”

  “There’s too much to do. ”

  “Nonsense. Richard is reading a book on the back porch and Aaron is snoring in front of the television. I think we’ll be having a late dinner. ”

  “I gave our room to Rachel. ”

  “Then use the couch in the study. ” He pressed his lips to her forehead. “They worked you pretty hard at the rehearsal and the wedding. You could use a nap. ” He winked. “Since you didn’t have one this afternoon. ”

  Julia kissed him and exited the kitchen.

  Left to his own devices, Gabriel retrieved a small leather book from his briefcase and went outside to join Richard on the porch.

  “It’s a beautiful day,” Richard remarked, closing his crime novel.

  “Yes. ” Gabriel sat down in the Adirondack chair next to his adoptive father’s.

  “What are you reading?”

  Gabriel showed him the book, on which the word Journal was embossed on the front in gold lettering. “It’s my mother’s diary. ”

  The two men exchanged a look.

  “I found something in it from Grace. ” Gabriel unfolded two pages that had been tucked inside the journal.

  Richard gazed on the papers with interest.

  “What are they?”

  “Names, addresses, and telephone numbers. One is for my father. The other is for Jean Emerson of Staten Island. She’s my grandmother. ”

  “Is this the first time you’ve seen those pages?” Richard made eye contact with his son.

  “Yes. Grace gave me my mother’s things when I was a teenager. But I never looked at them. ”

  Richard nodded, a look of recollection on his face.

  Gabriel peered at Grace’s handwriting. “I’m wondering why she did this. ”

  “I’m positive we spoke to you about this when you were a teenager. Don’t you remember?”

  Gabriel’s attention momentarily fixated on the woods behind the house.

  “Only bits and pieces. ”

  “When your mother died, social services located your grandmother and asked her to take you. She refused. Grace telephoned her, trying to figure out what the problem was. After she spoke to your grandmother, she placed her name and address with your mother’s things, thinking that you might want to contact her one day. ”

  “I don’t remember Grace telling me that she spoke with my grandmother, just that social services located my relatives and they didn’t want anything to do with me. ”

  Richard frowned.

  “You were only a boy. There was no point in burdening you with everything that happened. I thought that we disclosed the details when you were older. ”

  Gabriel shook his head.

  Richard’s mouth tightened. “I apologize. We should have told you. ”

  “You don’t have anything to apologize for. You and Grace took me in when my own flesh and blood disowned me. ”

  “You are our son. ” Richard’s voice grew husky. “You have always been our son. ”

  Gabriel’s hands gripped the journal more tightly.

  “Will it—offend you if I try to find out more about my biological parents?”

  “Of course not. It’s your heritage and you have a right to know about it. ”

  “You’re my dad,” Gabriel observed quietly.

  “Always,” said Richard. “And no matter what. ”

  “I put you and Grace at risk. You mortgaged your home to rescue me. ”

  “A parent’s love isn’t conditional. No matter what you did, you were always our son. I simply prayed that one day you’d come back to us. And you did. ”

  Gabriel’s knee began to bounce in agitation.

  Richard’s gray eyes grew very intense as he watched him.

  “We didn’t give birth to you, but you are our son. You belonged with us. ”

  “What did Grace say to my grandmother?”

  Richard sat back in his chair.

  “I think she explained who she was and what happened to your mother. I know she talked about you. She hoped she could reason with your family. ”

  “And could she?”

  “No. ” Richard appeared grim. “Your grandmother was too blinded by her own morality and her anger with her daughter. She disowned your mother when she became pregnant, and I doubt they saw one another after that. ”

  “What about my father? Did Grace call him too?”

  Richard shifted his weight. “I know we spoke to you about this because it came up in connection with your birth certificate. Your father persuaded your mother not to list him, which is why it only names your mother. ”

  “So how did Grace find him?”

  “Through your grandmother. She wasn’t in a hurry to help her grandson, but she was eager enough to name your father. She had his address and telephone number, which is probably what you have there. ” Richard gestured toward the diary. “Grace knew better than to call him at home. She called him at the office. He refused to speak with her. ”

  “I can recall Grace saying that my father knew where I was but that he wasn’t coming to get me. ”

  “She hoped your relatives would welcome you, which is why she called them. ”

  “Grace thought the best of everyone. ”

  “She did. But she was no fool. After speaking with your grandmother and trying in vain to talk to your father, she let it go. You’ve been with us ever since. ” He looked at Gabriel sadly. “Grace expected that she would be here when you found those pages. I know she would have wanted to talk to you about them. ”

  “I should have looked at them earlier. ”

  He thought for a moment about the vision he had of Grace and how she’d forgiven him. He still mourned her.

  “Julianne is very fond of you. ” Gabriel changed the subject, if only to free himself of his painful musings.

  “As I am of her. I have her and you to thank for allowing me to come home. ”

  “This will always be your home. ” Gabriel shifted in his chair. “She thinks that if God is like a father, he must be like you. ”

  Richard chuckled. “A high compliment, but an unwarranted one. I’m imperfect like everyone else. ”

  “Would that I could have one quarter of your imperfection,” Gabriel muttered, lowering his head.

  “Grace and I always thought of you as a gift. But since she died, I’ve realized something even more profound. ”

  Gabriel lifted his head, turning to look at his father.

  “I know that you feel some sort of gratitude to us for adopting you—as if we did you a favor. But you’re looking at things the wrong way. ”

  Richard’s eyes met Gabriel’s.

  “God gave you to us because he knew we needed you. ”

  The two men exchanged a long look before gazing out at the orchard and losing themselves in silence. And if anyone had commented on the fact that Gabriel’s eyes were wet, he would have said it was because of his allergies.

  Chapter Forty-four

  September 9, 2011

  Durham, North Carolina

  April Hudson exited her apartment building with the intention of driving to campus, but she was stopped abruptly by a man carrying roses.

  “Hi,” he said, smiling.

  “Simon!” She ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and squealing. “What are you doing here?”

  “I came to see you. And to give you these. ” He lifted the dozen long-stemmed red roses he held in his left hand.

  “They’re beautiful. Thank you. ” She jumped up and down and hugged him.

  He laughed at her exuberance and returned her embrace, burying his nose in her long, blond hair.

  “I was worried I wouldn’t see you again. Do you want to come in?” she mu
rmured against his neck.

  He nodded, and she led him to the elevator.

  “These are really beautiful. ” She held the bouquet close to her face, inhaling the scent. “And you chose red this time. The first time we went out, you bought white. ”

  “White symbolizes virginity. ” He reached out to touch her long, straight hair. “That doesn’t apply anymore. ”

  She cringed as if he’d struck her and quickly handed him back the flowers.

  He was going to ask what the problem was when the elevator door opened. She stepped around him and walked quickly to her apartment, her flip-flops snapping down the hall.

  “April? Wait up. ” He jogged after her, still clutching the bouquet.

  She pulled her keys out of her backpack and opened the door to her apartment. She moved behind the door as if she were going to close it in his face.

  “Wait a second. ” He placed his palm against the door, holding it open.

  “Look, you didn’t have to fly all the way down here and give me flowers just to gloat. I know I’m not a virgin anymore. ”

  “What are you talking about? I’m not here to gloat. ”

  “Did you tell all your friends? I’m sure they had a big laugh over it. Take the nice Christian girl out a couple of times and she gives it up like it’s prom night. ”

  “That isn’t what happened. ” Simon glared.

  “After we spent the weekend together, you didn’t contact me. No phone calls, no texts. Now it’s the weekend and you show up on my doorstep. Did you fly all the way down here for a booty call?”

  “Of course not. If you’d let me explain, I—”

  “I’m not a booty call, Simon. Take your red roses and go back to Washington. I can’t keep you from bragging about what happened, but it would be nice if you let me tell my parents first. I don’t want my father reading in the newspaper about how I got drunk and slept with you on our second date. ”

  She started to close the door, but he flexed his arm, stopping her.

  “Just hold on. Can I come in?”

  “No. ”

  He leaned closer, dropping his voice.

  “I came here because I wanted to see you. And I chose red roses because I thought you’d like them. ”

  April clutched the edge of the door tightly but didn’t respond.

  “Let me take you to dinner and we’ll talk. If you don’t like what I have to say, I’ll get back on a plane and you’ll never see me again. ”

  Her green eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What’s your angle?”

  “I like you. ”

  “That’s it?”

  “That’s it. Isn’t that reason enough?”

  “What about your father and the presidential campaign?”

  Simon’s eyes widened. It took a moment for him to recover himself.

  “He asked me to take you out. I did. That’s where the politics ended. ”

  “I don’t believe you. ” Her voice was soft and she looked like she was about to cry.

  “Have a little more confidence in yourself, April. You’re pretty, you’re sweet. I wouldn’t have invited you to the Hamptons and taken you out for mojitos simply for politics. ”

  Her expression telegraphed her disbelief.

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