Gabriels redemption, p.63
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.63

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 63


  “We keep coming back here. ”

  Gabriel stood in front of her, shining the flashlight beam to the side.

  “Yes, we do. This place reminds me of what’s important. It reminds me of you. ”

  Julia turned away from the concern that she saw on his face.

  “I have a lot of happy memories from here. ” His voice took on a wistful tone. “Our first night together, the night we made plans to consummate our love, our engagement . . . ” He smiled. “That night back in the summer when we made love just over there. ”

  She followed his gesture to the space on which they’d lain entwined. Images and emotions crashed over her. She could almost feel his arms about her, skin against skin.

  “Several months ago I was apprehensive about having a child. You persuaded me to have hope; to look forward and not to the past. Our hope was rewarded with the knowledge that my family tree is not entirely cursed. ”

  “God is punishing me,” she blurted.

  His forehead furrowed. “What are you talking about?”

  “God is punishing me. I wanted to graduate from Harvard and become a professor. Now—”

  “God doesn’t work that way,” Gabriel interrupted.

  “How do you know?”

  He removed one of his leather gloves and brought his hand to the side of her neck, just under her ear.

  “Because a young woman, wise beyond her years, told me so. ”

  “And you believed her?” She looked up at him, eyes brimming.

  “She’s never lied to me,” he whispered. “And when a brown-eyed angel speaks to you, it’s best to listen. ”

  Julia laughed mirthlessly. “I think your brown-eyed angel screwed up. ”

  Gabriel’s face grew pained before he exerted control over his features. But she saw his expression.

  “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you. ” She reached for him and he moved closer, moving his other hand to cup her neck as well.

  “I don’t know what to say that won’t make me look like a patriarchal, unfeeling asshole. ”

  “Oh, really, Professor?”

  He pressed his lips together, his eyes guarded. “Really. ”

  “Try me. ”

  His thumbs stroked her jaw synchronously.

  “I know this isn’t what you want. I know the timing is terrible. But I can’t help it. ” His thumbs stilled. “I’m happy. ”

  “I’m terrified. I’m going to be a mother twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I’ll never be able to study for my general exams and research my dissertation. Not while I have to look after a baby. This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen. ”

  She squeezed her eyes shut and two tears escaped, trailing down her cheeks.

  Gabriel wiped them away.

  “You’re speaking as if you’ll be a single parent, Julianne. But you won’t. I’ll make sure that all the responsibility for the baby doesn’t fall to you. I’ll speak to Rebecca and ask her to move in with us. Maybe I could take a paternity leave or use my sabbatical. I’ll—”

  “Paternity leave? Are you serious?” Her eyes widened.

  “Deadly. ” He shifted his boots in the snow. “It would be a nightmare for the baby, I’m sure, to be left with me. But I’ll do whatever it takes to guarantee that you finish your program. If that means taking a paternity leave or using my sabbatical, I’ll do it. ”

  “You’ve never looked after a baby before. ”

  Gabriel gave her a look that could only be described as prim.

  “I went to Princeton, Oxford, and Harvard. I can certainly learn how to look after a baby. ”

  “Looking after a baby is not like conquering the Ivy League. ”

  “I’ll do research. I’ll buy all the relevant books on newborns and study them before the baby arrives. ”

  “Your colleagues will ridicule you. ”

  “Let them. ” His blue eyes grew fierce.

  The edges of Julia’s mouth turned up.

  “You’ll be up to your elbows in dirty diapers and burping cloths, surviving on a few hours’ sleep, and trying to soothe a cranky, colicky tyrant by reading Goodnight Moon over and over. In English. Because I don’t think Dante successfully completed his Italian translation of it. ”

  “To quote a common, urban saying: Bring it on. ”

  She grasped his wrist with her hand. “Your department will marginalize you. They’ll say you aren’t serious about your research. Their opinions might diminish the likelihood of you winning grants or further sabbaticals. ”

  “I’m a full professor with tenure. Fuck them. ”

  For one impetuous moment, Julia was seized with the urge to laugh.

  But she didn’t.

  “I’m serious, Julianne. Fuck them. What can they do to me? Barring anything Apocalyptic, they’re stuck with me. How I choose to order my family life is none of their business. ”

  “Why are you so determined to do this?” She searched his eyes.

  “Because I love you. Because I love our child already, even though he or she is probably smaller than a grape. ” He stroked her cheeks with his thumbs. “You are not alone. You have a husband who loves you and is happy we’re having a baby. You won’t go through this by yourself. ”

  He lowered his voice to a whisper. “I’m standing right here. Don’t push me away. ”

  She closed her eyes, clutching his forearms.

  “I’m frightened. ”

  “So am I. But I swear to God, Julianne, it will be all right. I will make it all right. ”

  “What if something goes wrong?”

  He brought their foreheads together. “I hope nothing like that happens. But we shouldn’t start this journey by thinking of all the terrible outcomes. You’re the one who taught me to hope. Don’t despair. ”

  “How could this happen?”

  He rummaged in his coat pocket for a handkerchief and gently wiped her face.

  “If you don’t know how this happened, darling, then clearly I’m not doing it right. ”

  He tried to smother a smirk and failed. Completely.

  Julia opened her eyes to see his own, slightly darkened with masculine pride.

  “Superman,” she muttered. “I should have known you had magic in your genes. ”

  “Why, yes, Mrs. Emerson, I do have magic in my jeans. I’d happily put on a magic show for you at any time. All you need do is ask. ”

  Julia rolled her eyes. “Very funny, Superman. ”

  He kissed her then, tenderly. It was the kiss of a man who’d just received what he desired most from his beloved. A most desired, most unexpected gift.

  “I . . . I prayed for this,” he said hesitantly.

  “I did, too. More than once. I should have known that St. Francis would not have rested until he persuaded God to give us a baby. ”

  “Oh, I don’t know about that. ” He tapped her nose with his finger. “A certain Dante scholar convinced me that St. Francis tended to get his point across with silence. Maybe he didn’t say anything. Maybe he just stood there. ”

  “Oh, he said something,” Julia complained. “This is his way of showing me my lecture was wrong and he actually fought with the demon for Guido’s soul. ”

  “I doubt that most sincerely. And so would Professor Wodehouse. In fact, I think St. Francis is probably bragging about you among the circle of the blessed. ”

  “I didn’t give him much to brag about these last few days. I’ve been spoiled and selfish. ”

  “You’re neither. ” Gabriel’s tone grew severe. “You’ve been taken by surprise, just like me, but you have more at stake. As I said before, I promise I’ll take on more in order to even things out. ”

  He hugged her tightly.

  “I didn’t expect my prayers to be answered. I still can’t get used to the idea that God would even listen to me, let alone decide to grant my requests. ”

  “Maybe this is the lavishness of Go
d’s grace, given unexpectedly. ”

  “Fun dayn moyl in gots oyern. ”

  Julia lifted her eyebrows. “Yiddish?”

  “Exactly. It means, ‘From your mouth to God’s ears. ’”

  A warm feeling expanded in her middle.

  “We’ll be able to teach the baby Yiddish. And Italian. And about his famous great-grandfather, Professor Spiegel. ”

  “And his famous mother, Professor Julianne Emerson. You will finish your program, Julianne, and you will become a professor. I swear to it. ”

  She burrowed her face in the wool of his winter coat.

  Chapter Seventy

  January 1, 2012

  Stowe, Vermont

  Paul found himself sitting next to the fireplace in a chalet in the wee hours of the morning. Heather and Chris had already retired to their bedroom, having rung the New Year in already, leaving Paul and Allison to drink their beer in companionable silence.

  They were both seated on the floor. Allison was gazing at Paul with an inscrutable expression on her pretty face.

  “Do you remember our first time together?”

  He sat bolt upright and nearly expelled his beer.

  He coughed.

  “What? Why are you asking me that?”

  She looked away, visibly embarrassed. “I was just wondering if you ever thought about it. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up. ”

  He began peeling the label from his bottle of Samuel Adams as he waited for his heart to start beating again.

  “Is that something you think about a lot? Our first time?” Paul cared about Ali and didn’t want to make her feel bad. He didn’t want her to be ashamed of their past. He sure as hell wasn’t.

  “Um, don’t you?”

  “You broke up with me, remember?” He picked at his beer bottle again. “Where are you going with this?”

  “I just wondered if you ever thought about me that way. ”

  “Of course I do. But what are you trying to do—torture me? I had to stop thinking about you like that, otherwise . . . ” Now it was his turn to look embarrassed.

  “I’m sorry. ” She wrapped her arms around her legs, resting her cheek on her knees. Her eyes found his in the firelight and she looked so lost. So sad.

  Paul shifted to stare into the flames.

  “What do you think about?” he asked at last.

  “The way you smell. The way you sound when you whisper in my ear. The way you used to look at me when we . . . ” She gave him a half-smile. “You don’t look at me like that anymore.

  “I understand why. It was my fault and I have to live with that. ”

  “Maybe everything happens for a reason. ” Paul kept his eyes fixed resolutely on the fire.

  “Maybe. I just wish I could take it back. That I wasn’t so stupid. ”

  “The long-distance thing was tough for me, too. We were arguing. ”

  “They were stupid arguments. ”

  “Yes, they were. ”

  “I’m sorry. ”

  Now he was looking at her.

  “Stop saying that, okay? You did what you thought you should do. I got over it. End of story. ”

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