Gabriels redemption, p.69
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       Gabriels Redemption, p.69

         Part #3 of Gabriels Inferno series by Sylvain Reynard
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Page 69


  Aaron didn’t know what to say. When Julia announced her good news, he was envious, but not to the degree that Rachel was. After a year of trying to conceive, she was battling depression. He didn’t want to feed it by focusing on the unfairness of life and raising existential questions that might never be answered.

  “I know you’re upset, but I need you to calm down. ”

  “I want my mom. ” She pressed her forehead into his shoulder. “She would know what to do. ”

  “As much as I loved your mother, she wasn’t a miracle worker. ”

  “But she could give me advice. And I’m never going to see her again. ” A fresh round of sobs escaped Rachel’s chest.

  “You know that’s not true,” he whispered, rubbing her back once again. “This was a shock, but we have to get over it. People around us are going to have children. You don’t want this to come between you and Julia. ”

  “It won’t. ”

  “That’s my girl. So no tears tomorrow. ” He pulled away, his face marked with concern.

  “I can do that. I gave an Academy Award–winning performance earlier. I wanted to cry as soon as she told me. ”

  “I don’t want you to act, Rachel. I want you to appear to be okay and I want that to be the truth. ”

  “But I’m not okay. ” She sat on the edge of her bed.

  “I want to talk to you about that. ” Aaron joined her on the bed. “Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, I’d like us to start thinking about what we have. We have our jobs, we have a nice place to live, we—”

  “We have fertility treatments that aren’t working. ” Rachel cursed under her breath.

  “There are other options. We’ve discussed this. ”

  “I’m not ready to give up. ”

  “We don’t have to give up. But maybe we should just relax for a while. Take a break. ”

  “Take a break?” She peered over at him curiously.

  “Stop the fertility treatments and forget about having a baby. Just for a while. ”

  She crossed her arms around her middle. “No. ”

  He took her hand in his. “I think the pressure is getting to you. ”

  “I can handle it. ”

  “No, baby, you can’t. I know you like I know myself. And I’m telling you, you need a break. We need a break. ”

  “We’re supposed to try the fertility treatments for a year. We can’t stop now. ” Her chin began to wobble.

  “Yes, we can. ” He brushed his lips across hers. “We’ll talk to the doctor when we’re back in Philadelphia. Then we’re going to take a long vacation. Gabriel promised he’d lend us their house in Italy. We can take some time and just be a normal couple again. ”

  “What if this is it? What if we can’t . . . ” She couldn’t bring herself to say it.

  “Then we’ll start looking at other options. ” He placed his arm around her. “Whether or not we have a baby, we have each other. That’s something, isn’t it?”

  She nodded.

  “We need to take care of each other. And I’m not taking care of you if I let you continue like this. ”

  “I feel like a failure. ” Rachel wiped her face with the back of her hand.

  “You aren’t,” he whispered. “You’re the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. I would love to have a family with you but not if that journey is going to break you. I’m sorry, but I don’t want kids that much. ”

  Rachel looked at him, surprised. “I thought this was important to you. ”

  “You come first. You’ve always come first. ” He squeezed her shoulder. “I want the woman I married. Once we get back to that, then we can start talking about kids again. Okay?”

  Rachel was silent as she contemplated what he was proposing. She closed her eyes, and it felt as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

  Suddenly, she felt as if she could breathe again.

  “Okay. ”

  Aaron pulled his wife into his arms. “I love you. ”

  Down the hall, Julia leaned her hip against the bathroom vanity, watching Gabriel brush his teeth.

  “Your father is proud of us for having a baby. ”

  Gabriel nodded, as he continued brushing.

  “That means he’s proud of us for having sex and you for impregnating me. Do you think they make T-shirts for grandfathers that express those sentiments?”

  Gabriel made a strangled choking noise before he began spitting into the sink.

  “Are you all right?” She tapped on his back. “Can you speak?”

  He responded with more spitting and then raucous laughter.

  “T-shirts,” he managed, placing his hand on the counter to support himself. “How do you come up with this stuff?”

  “It wasn’t me who said it. I don’t think anyone has ever told me that he’s proud of me for having sex. My dad was happy for us, but he didn’t say he was proud. ”

  Gabriel deposited his toothbrush in the holder before straightening.

  “I did. ”

  They exchanged a look.

  “Yes, you did. ” Julia smiled to herself. “Uncle Jack seemed happy, when I told him. But he was acting weird on the telephone. ”

  “What did he say?”

  “He congratulated me, but he also gave me a lecture. ”

  Gabriel’s eyebrows lifted. “About what?”

  “About my need to protect myself and the baby. I assured him I was doing so and then he asked me what you were doing to protect us. ”

  “And what did you say?”

  “I said you were very attentive and that you were coming with me to all my appointments. He muttered something about that not being enough. ”

  Gabriel frowned. “Did you respond?”

  “I asked him what he was worried about, but he kind of clammed up on me. Do you think something is up with Simon and Natalie?”

  “I doubt it. If something were in the works, he’d tell us about it. ”

  “Maybe. ” Julia shook her head. “He promised me he’d keep an eye on us, and I told him I’d welcome whatever help he could give us. It was a very strange conversation. ”

  “Your uncle Jack is a strange person. Maybe he’s decided to beat up Greg Matthews in order to ensure that you get a maternity leave. ”

  “Professor Matthews already authorized it. I don’t need Uncle Jack’s help with that. ” She smiled and exited the bathroom.

  She stood by the window, looking out into the starless night.

  Gabriel could see the outline of her body through her old-fashioned linen nightshirt: her long slim legs, her rounded hips and bottom. He switched off the lights and stood behind her, his talented fingers lifting and toying with her hair.

  “Your conversation with my sister was difficult, but she took the news well, I thought. ” He linked their hands together, bringing their connection to rest over where their child was growing.

  “She and Aaron have been trying for so long and we weren’t and boom! We’re pregnant. ”

  Gabriel chuckled and rested his chin on her shoulder. “It wasn’t quite like that. There was divine intervention. ”

  “Do you really believe that?”

  “You don’t?” His body tightened.

  “I do, I just feel guilty. It seems unfair,” she whispered.

  “Perhaps we need to do a better job of supporting them. I’m sure this is hard on both of them. ” He kissed the nape of her neck, pressing his chest to her back. “Did you ever tell her how we met?”

  “No. It was too precious and too painful to talk about. ”

  “And now?” He pressed her.

  “I like the fact that it’s our secret. Your family is wonderful, but I don’t think they’d understand. My father would come after you with a shotgun. ”

  “Point taken. ”

  He began to drag his fingertips over her scalp, touching her gently, when she suddenly flinched.

sorry,” he murmured. “I forgot about your scar. ”

  “It’s all right. You only startled me. ”

  Gabriel began to caress her again, this time avoiding the stretch of raised skin beneath her hair.

  “Sharon could be nice sometimes, when she wasn’t drinking and she was between boyfriends. ” Julia swallowed hard. “She would take me to the zoo and we’d have picnics. She let me play dress-up with her clothes and she’d do my hair. I liked that. ”

  Gabriel stilled his hand, pausing thoughtfully before speaking. “I remember some good things about my mother, too. I’m sorry Sharon hurt you. I wish I could take it all away. ”

  “I wonder why Sharon was nice to me at all if she was just going to turn around and be abusive again. ”

  Gabriel continued toying with her hair. “I understand. The cycle of abuse interspersed with occasional bouts of kindness keeps you stuck, waiting and hoping for the kindness to return. And it does, on occasion, only to be swept away. I know all about that. Regrettably. ”

  Julia turned to face him. “We’ve overcome a lot. ”

  “That we have. ”

  “What happened with Simon doesn’t haunt me anymore. Not like it did. I feel as if I’ve moved past that. ”

  Gabriel cursed under his breath. “That motherfucker is lucky he has a powerful family. I still wish I could beat him senseless and teach his girlfriend a lesson. Your uncle Jack didn’t want us to let them off the hook. ”

  Julia placed a hand on his chest. “It’s over now. Simon is getting married, and Jack said that Natalie moved to California. ”

  “The farther away the better. ”

  “I don’t know if I’ll be a great mother, but I certainly have an idea of what I shouldn’t do. ”

  Gabriel touched her abdomen through her nightshirt.

  “Part of being a good parent is being a good person. And Julianne, you are the best person I’ve ever met. ”

  He kissed her softly.

  “Standing in this house, I can’t help but remember what life was like with my parents. We can have a home like theirs. A home filled with love and happiness. We’ve had so much grace lavished on us . . . ” Gabriel’s voice trailed off.

  “I’m just relieved I don’t have to do this alone. ”

  “Me, too. ”

  Gabriel took her hand and led her to the bed.

  Chapter Seventy-six

  Durham, North Carolina

  April Hudson breezed into her apartment building Monday afternoon, stopping to check her mailbox. She’d just returned from a romantic weekend in the Hamptons with her fiancé, Simon Talbot.

  She sighed as she thought about him. He was tall, blond, and handsome. He was smart and from a good family. And the things he could do with his body . . .

  The Hamptons were a sentimental favorite. It was where she’d given him her virginity. It was where he’d asked her to marry him.

  (Not, of course, in the same weekend. )

  As she shuffled through her mail, her mind was a happy whirl of wedding plans and memories from the weekend. He treated her well. And she no longer had to feel guilty about sleeping with him, because they were getting married. She was going to wake up with him every morning, forever.

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