Gabriels redemption, p.62
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.62

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard  
Page 62


  “Don’t give me that Godfather bullshit. I’ve seen the movie. ”

  Robert’s eyes moved to the space behind her, and he nodded. “Alex here will walk you out. If you want, I can make a phone call to Harrisburg and see about getting you a position with one of the state senators. ”

  “Go fuck yourself. ” She stood to her feet. “You can tell the senator and his son to do the same thing. They want to be rid of me, fine. But this isn’t over. I’m sure Andrew Sampson at the Post would be interested in hearing what I have to say about the way the Talbots do business. ”

  Robert lifted his hand. “Now don’t get carried away. As I said, I can get you a job in Harrisburg. ”

  “I don’t want to be in fucking Harrisburg, Robert. I’d like to know why I’m getting screwed. I did my job and I did it well. You know that. ”

  Robert’s eyes flickered to Alex. “Give me a minute. ”

  Alex withdrew, closing the door behind him.

  “Listen, Natalie. You don’t want to make threats that you aren’t prepared to carry out. ”

  “But—I am prepared to carry them out. ”

  “That wouldn’t be prudent. ”

  “To hell with prudence. ”

  Robert shifted in his seat. “Of course, the campaign will provide you with a generous severance package. The details will be sent to your apartment. ”

  “Hush money?”

  “Severance for being terminated due to financial exigency. ”

  “Whatever. ” She picked up her purse and headed to the door. “Tell Simon he has twenty-four hours to call me. If I don’t hear from him, he’s going to be sorry. ”

  And with that, she opened the door and stomped into the hall.

  It had been more than two weeks, and Simon hadn’t called. The damning evidence she’d sent to The Washington Post had been delivered. Fed Ex gave her confirmation of the fact. But she hadn’t heard from Andrew Sampson or anyone else. Perhaps he’d decided not to run the story. Perhaps it was too tawdry.

  The day after her trip to Fed Ex, her apartment had been trashed. It didn’t take a great deal of intelligence to figure out that the thief had been someone from the senator’s campaign. They’d taken her laptop, her digital camera, her files, and her flash drives. She no longer had anything that she could use to blackmail Simon or anyone else.

  She’d received the hush money—twenty-five thousand dollars. It was enough, she thought, to help her start a new life in California. It wouldn’t hurt for her to move away and start anew, using Senator Talbot’s money. She could plot her revenge on the Talbots from Sacramento.

  She didn’t have any evidence for her allegations, so it was unlikely that any respectable journalist would take her seriously. But she could bide her time and sell her story to a tabloid as an October surprise. That should do it.

  She smiled to herself, as she began packing her worldly goods.

  Chapter Sixty-eight

  December 28, 2011

  Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

  Julia and Gabriel were standing in the en-suite of their bathroom in Richard’s house, eyeing two different pregnancy tests that were sitting on the vanity. Both tests displayed the same result.

  “Julianne?” Gabriel’s voice was a heartbreaking whisper.

  She wasn’t looking at him; she was staring at the tests. She stood still, like a deer trying to evade a predator.

  “This is my fault. ” He lifted a hand to touch her but then thought better of it.

  She turned her head, as if she were suddenly aware of his presence.

  “How is it your fault?”

  He paused, struggling for words.

  “I didn’t protect you. I knew how anxious you were about getting pregnant. I should have worn a condom. I should have asked you about your pills. ” His voice dropped. “I failed you. ”

  Julia closed her eyes and drew a very deep breath. “Gabriel, you didn’t fail me. I’m the idiot who forgot her pills. ” A tear slid from the corner of her eye and down her face.

  He caught it with his fingers.

  “That’s enough. You aren’t an idiot. You were in a hurry because you were trying to get to me. As usual, you were worrying about someone other than yourself. ”

  More tears traced the planes of her pretty face, and her shoulders began to shake.

  “It’s too late. ”

  He moved into her and her fingers gripped his shirt, clutching him as if she were drowning.

  Chapter Sixty-nine

  That night the Emersons had difficulty sleeping. Julia was plagued by fear and guilt—fear about what would happen to her academic aspirations and guilt at placing such a high priority on them. Gabriel was conflicted. On the one hand, he was ecstatic that they were expecting a child. But Julianne’s concern and evident distress prevented him from displaying his true feelings. He, too, was mired in guilt for not having protected her.

  Of course, neither one of them expected that the vasectomy reversal would be successful so soon, if at all.

  While everyone else in Richard’s household spent the day in leisurely community, Julia stayed in bed. She was exhausted. Certainly, she wasn’t prepared to face Rachel and Aaron, even though she and Gabriel had agreed that they would wait until the three-month mark to announce their pregnancy.

  Gabriel spent the day trying to pretend that he hadn’t received what was potentially the best news of his life. He resolved to give Julianne the time and space she seemed to need to come to grips with what was, for her, a startling disappointment.

  Late that evening, she was curved into a ball, lying on her side in the large bed. Everyone else in the house was fast asleep. Everyone except her husband.

  Gabriel was spooned behind her, his arm wrapped loosely about her waist. She’d slept most of the day, so of course she wasn’t tired now. Even though he skirted the edge of exhaustion, his concern for her prevented him from resting.

  Her deepest fear had been realized. She was pregnant and only midway through her second year of a seven-year doctoral program.

  She sniffled at the thought.

  Instinctively, Gabriel drew her closer to him, his hand splaying across her lower abdomen.

  For a few moments, he allowed himself the luxury of wondering what his life would have been like if Maia had been born. He’d barely had time for Paulina when she was pregnant. He doubted his attitude would have changed when she had the baby.

  His stomach rolled. He could see himself hurling expletives at her to keep the baby quiet as Maia cried, disrupting his writing. Paulina would have had to bear the burden of parenthood alone. He wouldn’t have taken the time to feed the baby, or rock her to sleep, or, God forbid, change a diaper. He’d been a self-centered, drug-using bastard back then. It would have been negligence on Paulina’s part to leave Maia in his care.

  He would have moved out, leaving Paulina to cope with Maia by herself. Oh, he might have given her money. But his addiction would have eaten all his funds until it eventually killed him. Then Paulina and Maia would have been alone.

  Even if he’d gone into treatment and miraculously made it through, he still couldn’t imagine being an active, involved father. No. The old professor would have been too busy writing books and trying to further his career. He would have sent birthday cards and money, or, more probably, had his secretary or maybe one of the many women in his life send them for him.

  In short, he would have been like his father, fighting with Paulina on the telephone over his lack of involvement until he finally tired of the conflict and ceased contact altogether. His vision of what his life would have been like was very clear.

  He grounded himself by tightening his hold on Julianne. He was no longer the old professor; he was a new man. He resolved with everything that was in him to be the best, most active, attentive husband and father he could be.

  The first thing he needed to do was to comfort his wife. Then he needed to take step
s to ensure that she didn’t lose everything she’d worked for since she was in high school.

  He opened his mouth to begin whispering to her, but Julia extricated herself, tossing the blankets aside and moving toward the closet. He heard her switch on the light and start rummaging through some clothes.

  Gabriel followed. By the time he made it to the closet, she’d pulled on a pair of jeans and one of his old cashmere sweaters and was searching for socks.

  “What are you doing?”

  “I can’t sleep. ” She didn’t look at him as she leaned over to put on a pair of his argyle socks.

  “Where are you going?”

  “I thought I might go for a drive. Clear my head. ”

  “Then I’m going with you. ” He reached over to pull a shirt off a hanger.

  She closed her eyes. “Gabriel, I need time to think. ”

  He lifted a pair of jeans and a sweater from one of the shelves.

  “Remember what I said in New York?”

  “You said a lot of things in New York. ”

  “I said that being apart was a bad idea. You agreed with me. We’re partners, remember?”

  She kicked at the hardwood beneath her argyle socks. “I remember. ”

  “Don’t shut me out. ” His tone was almost pleading.

  “I have no idea what to say to you. This is my darkest nightmare come true!”

  Gabriel rocked back on his heels, almost as if he’d been struck.

  “Nightmare?” he whispered. “Nightmare?”

  Julia couldn’t look at him.

  “This is why I need time to think. I don’t know how to express what I feel without hurting you. I’m going to lose everything I’ve worked for because of this. You can’t imagine how much this hurts. ”

  A muscle jumped in his jaw.

  “I’m the one who was hesitant for us to have a baby. ” His voice was low. “This has brought up all my old anxieties, too. ”

  She lifted her head, her eyes flashing.

  “You know me, Gabriel. You know I won’t do anything to take this away from you. ”

  They exchanged a look before she bent her eyes to the floor.

  “Let me go with you. We don’t have to talk. I just want to be near you. ” His tone grew gentle.

  Julia realized that he was trying very hard to be considerate, even though his first instinct was to take charge and take over.

  “Fine,” she said, reluctantly.

  They walked downstairs and bundled up against the cold, winding scarves around their necks. In the hall closet Gabriel retrieved his beret and Julia found an old knitted cap that belonged to Rachel.

  “What would you think of a walk?” He toyed with the keys he’d left on the hall table.

  “A walk? It’s freezing out there. ”

  “We don’t have to walk long. The fresh air will help you sleep. ”

  “Fine. ” Julia followed him through the living room and into the kitchen, where he retrieved a flashlight.

  Then she was following him out the back door and onto the snow-covered patio.

  He didn’t offer his hand but kept close to her, as if he were worried she might fall.

  They walked in silence into the woods, their breath making ghostlike ribbons in the air. When they arrived at the orchard, Julia leaned against the old rock, hugging her arms tightly around her middle.

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