Gabriels redemption, p.64
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.64

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
Page 64


  “But that’s what I’m most sorry about,” she whispered.


  “The fact that you got over it. ”

  Their eyes met, and Paul swore he saw tears swimming in her eyes.

  She brushed at them quickly.

  “Don’t get me wrong, they’re good memories, happy memories. But after you and I broke up and I started dating someone else, I couldn’t help but think about it again. ”

  “You dated a guy named Dave, right?”

  “Yeah. We worked together but not anymore. He moved to Montpelier. ”

  “You didn’t date him for very long. ”

  She pillowed her cheek on her knees again. “He was nice enough, but not as nice as you. ”

  “Did he hurt you?” Paul’s tone was wary.

  “No. But when we had sex he wouldn’t look at me. He always kept his eyes closed. I never felt like he was really there, you know? I felt like I could have been anybody. Any girl he’d taken home with him, rather than his girlfriend. ”

  “Ali, I—”

  She interrupted him. “I couldn’t help but compare him to you. That’s why I brought up our first time. How you insisted that we get to know each other really well before we had sex. How you booked a hotel just down the road for our first time. ” Her expression was wistful. “You always made me feel special, even before you told me you loved me. ”

  “You are special. ”

  She looked at him steadily.

  “Do you think we could pick up where we left off?”

  “No. ”

  She cringed.

  He reached over to grasp her hand. “I still have feelings for you. But I’m not ready to jump into something right now. Even if I were, we can’t just pick up where we left off. We’re both different people. ”

  “You don’t seem that different. ”

  “I am. Trust me. ”

  Allison squeezed his hand. “I’ve never trusted anyone more. I was jealous of Julia. Of the way you said her name. Because that’s how you used to say my name. But I broke up with you and you fell for someone else. I would have kept my mouth shut if things worked out between you two. But they didn’t. ”

  Paul took another long pull from his beer and shook his head.

  On January second, Paul had to leave for the Modern Language Association’s annual convention, which was being held in Seattle. All his interviews for prospective jobs would take place during the convention.

  Allison drove him to the airport in Burlington. Before he exited the car, she gave him a small gift bag.

  “It’s just some chocolate chip cookies I made. There might even be a book in there. ”

  Paul thanked her with a smile.

  “What’s the book?”

  “Sense and Sensibility. ”

  He looked at her quizzically. “Why are you giving me that?”

  “I thought you might find it meaningful. ”

  “Thanks,” he said. “I think. ”

  “You’re welcome. I’ll miss you. ”

  “I’ll miss you, too. Come here. ”

  He tugged her into a warm embrace.

  By way of response, she pulled back slightly before pressing a gentle but insistent kiss to his lips. She was surprised but elated when he didn’t recoil but rather deepened their connection.

  “I’ll be home soon,” he managed, when they finally pulled themselves apart.

  She answered him with a hopeful grin, waving until he disappeared into the terminal.

  Chapter Seventy-one

  January 10, 2012

  New York, New York

  Christa Peterson breezed into the Department of Italian at Columbia University. She’d enjoyed a very pleasant winter break at her parents’ home in Toronto and had even met someone with whom she’d enjoyed a brief affair. Now she was eager to resume her studies and continue her journey toward becoming a Dante specialist.

  With interest, she emptied her pigeonhole of all its mail, sitting on a chair nearby in order to peruse it. Much of the mail was junk, with the exception of a single typewritten announcement. Christa scanned it quickly.

  The announcement listed the names of three senior Dante specialists who would be visiting the department over the course of the next two weeks, as candidates for the vacant professorship. Christa read the names twice before relaxing in her chair.

  She smiled. But not because of the names listed.

  No, she smiled because a particular name had not been listed. It would seem that her plan to revenge herself on Professor Giuseppe Pacciani was already bearing fruit.

  With that delightful thought in mind, she pocketed the announcement, threw the junk mail into the wastepaper basket, and was preparing to exit the department when Professor Barini stopped her.

  “Miss Peterson, I need to speak to you. ”

  “Of course. ” Christa obediently followed the professor into her office.

  Professor Barini left the door ajar before sitting behind her desk.

  “I’d like to thank you for taking my advice about Professor Pacciani. I noticed that he didn’t make the short list. ” Christa made no attempt to hide her exultation.

  Lucia ignored the comment and retrieved a file, quickly leafing through its contents. Then she looked at Christa over the rims of her glasses. “You’ve run into a problem. ”

  “A problem? What kind of problem?”

  “You’re supposed to choose three professors to sit on your oral examination committee, but I’ve been notified by the faculty that no one is willing to do so. ”

  “What?” Christa’s dark eyes grew wide.

  “This has never happened before. As the chair, I cannot compel a faculty member to serve on your committee. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. Their lack of willingness to participate indicates that they don’t think you’ll perform to their satisfaction. ”

  Christa couldn’t quite believe her ears. It was unthinkable that every faculty member in the department would refuse to work with her. No one had given her even the slightest indication of that kind of antipathy.

  (At least, to her face. )

  “What does that mean?”

  Lucia sighed. “It means that, unfortunately, we will be granting you a terminal MA as of May and that you will need to apply elsewhere to pursue your studies. ”

  “You can’t do that!”

  Lucia closed Christa’s file with a snap of her wrist. “There are regulations about a student’s satisfactory performance in the M. Phil program. According to the faculty, you are not performing satisfactory work. ”

  “But, but, this is outrageous!” Christa sputtered. “I’ve completed all my assignments. I’ve been getting decent grades. No one has offered me any critical feedback. You can’t simply push me out of the program on a whim!”

  “We don’t have whims here at Columbia, Miss Peterson. We have standards. While it’s true you’ve been passing your seminars, you still have to take the oral exam. As I mentioned, no one is willing to serve on your testing committee. That means you won’t be able to complete the program. ”

  Christa gazed around the room helplessly, trying to figure a way out of her predicament.

  “Let me talk to them. I’ll go see the professors on my own and plead my case. ”

  Lucia shook her head. “I can’t let you do that. At this point, they’ve added a letter to your permanent file. If you go to them after the fact, they’ll view it as harassment. ”

  Christa scowled at the implication.

  “That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to harass them. ”

  Lucia gave her a long look. “Be that as it may, I can’t let you speak to them. ”

  Christa felt the control she thought she’d regained slip through her fingers.

  (It didn’t occur to her that this must have been how Professor Emerson and Julianne felt when they’d been brought before the disciplinary committee in Toronto. )

It’s too late for me to apply to other programs. This will ruin me. ” Her chin began to wobble.

  “Not necessarily. Many programs receive applications until March. My assistant can help you identify those programs. Perhaps you should consider returning to Canada. ”

  “But I want to stay here. Professor Martin said—”

  “Professor Martin is not the chair here; I am. ” Lucia nodded at the door. “I realize this is a disappointment, but perhaps at another university, you will be successful. ”

  “There must be something I can do. Please. ” Christa sat forward in her chair, begging.

  “You can appeal to the dean, if you wish, but university regulations prevent her from demanding that faculty serve on specific examination committees. I’m afraid she can’t help you. ” Once again Lucia nodded at the door. “My assistant will help you research other programs. I wish you good luck. ”

  Christa stared across the desk, in complete and utter shock. But as she exited the office, she remembered something, something Pacciani had said to her back in Oxford.

  Be careful, Cristina. You don’t want Professor Picton as an enemy. . . . Departments around the world are filled with her admirers. Your chair at Columbia was her student.

  It angered her sorely that in the end, Pacciani had been correct. But as quickly as the realization came to her, so did a possible solution. She would simply have to pursue her education outside the patronage system of Professor Picton. And that meant that she would need to research every single professor in every department that offered a doctoral program in Dante studies.

  She had days of work ahead of her, simply to find a possibility of enrolling in a doctoral program.

  (It must be said parenthetically that karma had been served. )

  Chapter Seventy-two

  Fear and anxiety are not so easily managed, especially by people who have struggled for years with both. When the Emersons returned to Cambridge, they each made appointments to see their respective therapists, immediately.

  Dr. Walters suggested several different strategies for Julia to cope with the anxiety over her pregnancy, but she stressed the fact that Julia needed to ask for help and that she also needed to accept it and not try to do everything on her own.

  Dr. Townsend painstakingly addressed Gabriel’s worries over the health and welfare of his wife and unborn child. But he was pleased with the progress Gabriel had made since the summer.

  The Emersons also visited Dr. Rubio, who confirmed the pregnancy, estimating the due date would be around September sixth. A series of appointments were scheduled, including ultrasounds to monitor the progress of the baby and any issues relating to the uterine fibroids. Julia was urged to modify her diet and to take supplements, in order to ensure her health and the health of the baby.

  She was also instructed to avoid oral sex with her husband.

  “Come again?” The Professor’s voice boomed in the small room.

  “No male-on-female oral sex during pregnancy,” Dr. Rubio repeated briskly.

  “That’s ridiculous. ”

  Dr. Rubio gazed at him coolly.

  “And where did you become board certified in obstetrics, Mr. Emerson?”

  “It’s Professor Emerson, and I went to Harvard. Where did you go, an anti–oral sex college?”

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