Gabriels redemption, p.6
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.6

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 6


  Julia tightened into a ball but did not cry.

  Chapter Four

  Very early the next morning, Julia’s cell phone rang.

  She jerked awake, the sound of the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” reverberating around the room. She stared as the phone vibrated against the desk. But she didn’t answer.

  A few minutes later she heard a chime, indicating she’d received a text.

  Curiously, she walked over to the desk and picked up her phone. The text was, remarkably, from Dante Alighieri.

  I’m sorry.

  While she was contemplating what to type in response, another text arrived.

  Forgive me.

  She began formulating a reply when she heard movement in the hallway. Someone rapped on her door.

  Please let me in.

  Julia read the newest text before walking to the door. She opened it a little more than a crack.

  “Hi. ” Gabriel greeted her with a hesitant smile.

  She gazed at him, noting that his hair was wet from the shower but that he hadn’t shaved. An attractive dark stubble covered his face and he was dressed in a white T-shirt and old jeans, his feet bare. He was, perhaps, the most beautiful sight she’d ever seen.

  “Is there a reason you’re knocking on my door at six o’clock in the morning?” Her tone was colder than she’d intended.

  “I’m sorry, Julianne. ” His expression was suitably contrite.

  (It certainly helped that his eyes were bloodshot and his clothes were rumpled, as if he’d simply lifted them out of a bag destined for the Salvation Army and put them on. )

  “You hurt me,” she whispered.

  “I know. I’m sorry. ” He took a step forward. “I reread your paper. ”

  She put a hand on her hip. “You knocked on my door to tell me that?”

  “I called, but you didn’t answer. ” He grinned. “It reminded me of Toronto, when I had to climb through your window. ”

  Julia’s cheeks flamed at the memory of Gabriel standing in her backyard in order to bring her dinner, as she greeted him in a towel, fresh from the shower.

  “You forgot something. Something important. ”

  In his hand, he held the illustration of The Contention for Guido de Montefeltro. “I found it on the floor of the bedroom last night. I’m not sure which one of us was carrying it, but someone dropped it. ”

  Julia ignored the illustration that he’d left in her mailbox back in Toronto and searched his expression, instead. He appeared agitated, a sharp worry visible in his eyes. He ran his fingers through his wet hair.

  “I know you needed to get away from me, but I think we’ve been separated long enough. Can I come in?”

  Julia stepped back.

  He entered and she closed the door behind him.

  She crossed over to the couch and curled up on it, wrapping the old blanket around her shoulders.

  He watched her movements, noticing that her body was now curved into a protective ball. He placed the illustration on top of her computer and shoved his hands into his pockets.

  “I read your paper again. I also went back to the Inferno. ” His eyes met hers. “I said some things yesterday I shouldn’t have. ”

  “Thank you. ” Her posture relaxed somewhat.

  “I have some suggestions to improve your paper. ” He leaned back against the desk, resting his hips against the edge. “I know it’s important that you stand on your own two feet. But I’m happy to help, if you need me. ”

  “I’d welcome your advice, as long as you don’t tell me what to think. ”

  “I would never tell you what to think. How could I?” His face grew gentle. “Your ideas are one of the many things I love about you. ”

  His eyes fell to the illustration.

  “I overreacted. I apologize. But the subject of your paper is somewhat personal, Julianne. The story of Francis risking Hell to save Guido’s soul represents what I was trying to do when I made my confession to the disciplinary committee back in Toronto. ”

  A lump appeared in Julia’s throat. She didn’t like thinking about what had happened the previous year. The disciplinary committee and their subsequent separation were far too painful to dwell on.

  “I’ll admit I wasn’t merely reacting to your thesis. I was reacting to what I took to be your dismissal of the story. Our story. ”

  “I never meant to dismiss something so important. I know you risked everything to help me. I know you went through Hell. ” Her features grew determined. “If the situation had been reversed, I would have descended to Hell to rescue you. ”

  A smile pulled at the edges of Gabriel’s lips. “Beatrice knew she couldn’t accompany Dante through Hell, so she sent Virgil, instead. ”

  “The only Virgil I know is Paul Norris. I doubt you would have welcomed his help. ”

  Gabriel snorted. “Paul is hardly a candidate for Virgil. ”

  “He was for me. ”

  Gabriel scowled, for the thought of Paul comforting Julia in his absence still rankled.

  “I was a bastard. Then and now. ” He pushed off the desk and stood in front of her, taking his hands out of his pockets.

  He glanced at the space next to her. “May I?”

  She nodded.

  He sat beside her and held out his hand. She took it.

  “I didn’t mean to hurt you. ”

  “I know. I’m sorry, too. ”

  He pulled her onto his lap and buried his nose in her hair.

  “I don’t want you to have to lock yourself in the bathroom to get away from me. ”

  He cupped her face and pressed their lips together. After an instant, she responded.

  Gabriel kissed her with restraint, his lips warm and inviting. Back and forth and back and forth, he teased and nibbled at her mouth. Finally, she wrapped her hand around his neck, urging him closer.

  He traced the seam of her mouth with his tongue. When she opened, he gently slipped inside, touching their tongues together. He’d never been able to lie with his kisses. They communicated far too much of his feelings. Julia felt his contrition and his sadness, but she also felt the undiminished flame of his desire.

  His palms slid from her face to her hips, lifting her until she was straddling him. Their upper bodies pressed together as they continued to embrace, mouths eager and exploring.

  “Come to bed. ” Gabriel’s voice was a husky plea as he cupped her backside, pushing her over the evidence of his arousal.

  “Yes. ”

  “Good. ” He brought his lips to her ear. “We still have time to make up properly before our houseguests expect breakfast. ”

  Julia pulled away. “We can’t make up properly with guests in the house. ”

  “Oh, yes we can. ” His blue eyes glinted dangerously. “I’ll show you. ”

  “Last night was terrible. ” Gabriel lay on his back, one of his arms behind his head. He hadn’t bothered to cover himself. Their bedroom was warm and his beloved wife was lying next to him on her stomach, equally naked. In moments like this he wished they could spend their days in bed, unclothed.

  “It was. ” Julia lifted herself on her forearms so she could see his eyes. “Why didn’t you come and talk to me?”

  “I wanted to read your paper again. And I thought you needed space. ”

  “I don’t like fighting with you. ” Julia ducked her head, the strands of her hair skimming the tops of her breasts. “I hate it. ”

  “I don’t like it either, which is surprising, really. I used to love to fight. ” His lips curled into a pout. “You’re turning me into a pacifist. ”

  “I’m not sure you’ll ever be a pacifist, Gabriel. ” Julia’s voice wobbled. “Being a grad student is hard enough. I need your support. ”

  “You have it,” he whispered fiercely.

  “I didn’t set out to disagree with you in my paper. It just sort of—happened. ”

  “Come here.

  Julia stretched out on top of him and he placed his arms around her.

  “We need to figure out a way to disagree without having a repeat of yesterday. My heart can’t take it. ”

  “Neither can mine,” she whispered.

  “I promise not to be a selfish bastard, if you promise not to lock yourself in the bathroom. ” His eyes bore into hers.

  “I promise not to lock myself in the bathroom, if you can give me space. I was trying to get away from you while things were escalating. You wouldn’t let me go. ”

  “Point taken. We can take a break during an argument, but we have to promise to talk later on. And not the next morning. I’m not letting you, or myself, sleep on the couch again. ”

  “Agreed. The couch is very uncomfortable. And lonely. ”

  “I didn’t express myself very well when we talked about your paper. I’m sorry for that. I wasn’t worried about you disagreeing with me. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re on record as disagreeing with me because it will show everyone that you think for yourself. ”

  “I don’t disagree with you for the sake of being contrary. ” A wrinkle appeared between Julia’s delicately arched eyebrows.

  Gabriel tried to kiss the wrinkle away, but without success. “Of course not. Much as it may surprise you, I can be wrong, on occasion. ”

  “My Professor? Wrong? Inconceivable. ” She laughed.

  “Yes, it really is surprising, isn’t it?” He shook his head wryly. “But by the time I finished your paper the second time, you’d convinced me that the standard interpretation was wrong. ”

  “What?” Julia couldn’t believe her ears.

  “You heard me. Your paper changed my mind. Although I have some suggestions for how you can strengthen the last part. You didn’t quite convince me there. ”

  “I could use a few pointers. I’ll give you credit in the footnotes. ”

  His hands slid to her backside. “I’d be honored to appear in one of your footnotes. ”

  She hesitated for a moment. “You don’t think the paper is terrible? That I’ll make a fool of myself?”

  “No. Once I got over my knee-jerk reaction and paid closer attention to your argument, I realized that Professor Marinelli is right. Your paper is good. ”

  “Thank you. ” Julia pressed her cheek against his chest. “It’s hard for me to be a student in the same field as you. I always feel as if I’m trying to catch up. ”

  Gabriel’s fingers tangled in her hair.

  “I can work harder at being more supportive. We aren’t in competition. In fact, I’d like to co-author an article with you, someday. ”

  Julia lifted her head. “Really?”

  “I think it would be good for us to create something together, out of our shared love of Dante. And I’m proud of you for having the courage of your convictions. When you defend your paper at Oxford, I’ll be sitting in the front row thinking, ‘That’s my girl. ’”

  “It’s a dream come true, to hear you say that. ”

  “Then I’ll keep saying it. ”

  Chapter Five

  The Emersons’ relatives wisely refrained from commenting on how relaxed and happy they appeared when they finally exited their bedroom, just before lunch.

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