Home > Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(3)

Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(3)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

   Rachel laughed. “Absolutely. He’ll blow it up into a poster and hang it on his wall.”

   Julia removed the baby’s knitted cap to expose the shock of dark hair. She pointed to the pink barrette she’d carefully fastened. “Clare is wearing the gift you brought us yesterday.”

   “It matches her pink sleepers.” Rachel gently touched the baby’s head. Her expression shifted minutely.

   Julia studied her friend. A trace of sadness was present in Rachel’s eyes, but only for a moment.

   Rachel smiled at her sleeping niece. “I bought a few more hair accessories last night. Since she has so much hair, we’ll have to style it.”

   Julia nodded. “Gabriel will have to carry her. I’m not supposed to lift anything over nine pounds because of the stitches.”

   Rachel glanced at Julia’s middle. “That bites.”

   “No biting.” Gabriel winked at his sister before helping Julia out of the car. “I’m glad you’re here.”

   “So am I.” Rachel watched as he carefully removed the baby carrier and turned toward the house.

   “Not so fast.” She followed him. “I want to carry her.”

   With eyes twinkling, Gabriel handed over the carrier, but not before instructing her to be careful. He greeted Richard, their father, and the two men stood next to the door, holding it open.

   Julia accompanied Rachel into the house. “Thanks for staying. I know it was a bit longer than you’d planned.”

   Rachel held the baby carrier with both hands as they approached the kitchen. “I wasn’t going to leave before you came home. Aaron had to work, otherwise he’d be here, too.”

   “It means a lot. I know you’ve been fielding phone calls and deliveries and everything else.”

   Rachel shrugged. “That’s what families do, Jules. They take care of each other. I’m just lucky I had some vacation days left. Rebecca has been spoiling us with her cooking. You should see what she made for lunch.”

   “Good. I’m starving.” Julia’s stomach was already rumbling. She stepped into the kitchen.

   The kitchen table was set with the Emersons’ best china, silverware, and crystal. Pink helium-filled balloons were tied to Julia’s chair at the foot of the table, and a huge arrangement of pink and white roses formed a centerpiece. Almost every surface of the kitchen was covered with food, flowers, or brightly wrapped presents.

   “Surprise!” An older woman with short white hair and gray-blue eyes stepped forward.

   “Katherine?” Julia fanned a hand over her mouth.

   “I thought you were in Oxford.” Gabriel shook off his surprise and greeted his former colleague with a kiss on the cheek.

   “I was. I came to Cambridge to meet my goddaughter.” Professor Picton embraced Julia and stepped back, her eyes sparkling. “Can I hold her?”

   “Of course.” Gabriel removed Clare from her baby carrier, pressing a kiss to her head before transferring her to Katherine’s arms.

   Clare opened her big blue eyes.

   Katherine smiled. “Hello, Clare. I’m your aunt Katherine.”

   The baby opened her tiny rosebud mouth and yawned.

   “Clare is a beautiful name,” Katherine continued, undeterred by the infant’s sleepiness. “I thought your parents might have named you Beatrice. But I can see you look more like a Clare.”

   “There’s only one Beatrice.” Gabriel placed his arm around Julia’s shoulders.

   “Oh, what fun we’ll have,” Katherine whispered to the child. “I’ll teach you Italian and all about Dante and Beatrice. When you’re old enough, I’ll take you to Florence and show you where Dante lived.”

   The baby seemed to stare at her aunt. Katherine bent closer and recited,

        “‘Donne ch’avete intelletto d’amore,

    i’ vo’ con voi de la mia donna dire,

    non perch’io creda sua laude finire,

    ma ragionar per isfogar la mente.’”

 

   Gabriel recognized the lines from Dante’s La Vita Nuova, as Katherine quoted his praise for the lovely Beatrice.

   Julia stood, frozen.

   Then suddenly, like an unexpected cloudburst at a picnic, Julia began to cry.

 

 

Chapter Four


   The room grew very still.

   Everyone looked at Julia, who clapped a hand over her mouth as she tried to suppress her sobs.

   Richard, Katherine, Rebecca, and Rachel stood in shock, not knowing what to do.

   “Give us a minute,” Gabriel murmured, his arm still wrapped around Julia’s shoulders. He led her into the living room to a quiet corner near the window.

   “Darling, what’s the matter? Are you in pain?” Stricken, he bent to look at her.

   Julia closed her eyes as the tears flowed. She shook her head.

   Gabriel pulled her against his chest. “I don’t understand. Do you want everyone to leave?”

   She shook her head again.

   He rested his cheek against her hair. “I didn’t know they were planning all this.”

   “There are twice as many balloons,” she mumbled.

   “Is helium dangerous for babies?”

   “No. Yes. I don’t know.” She fisted his shirt. “That’s not the point. There are twice as many gifts and flowers than what we had at the hospital. And there are flamingos on our lawn!”

   “I can remove the flamingos, darling.” Gabriel kissed her hair. “I’ll do that now.”

   “This isn’t about the flamingos.” Julia dipped her hand in one of the pockets of Gabriel’s jacket, eventually retrieving a handkerchief. She waved it in front of him. “I’m glad I bought you this.”

   She blew her nose.

   “A gentleman always carries a handkerchief, for just such occasions.” He caressed her back, his concern escalating. “You’re upset about the flamingos, but you don’t want me to remove them?”

   “The kitchen is filled with presents. Katherine came all the way from England and quoted Dante!” Julia burst into tears again.

   Gabriel frowned, for the sight of her tears pained him. “Of course there are presents. People give gifts to babies. It’s a tradition.”

   “How many of my relatives are in the kitchen?” She dabbed at her nose.

   Gabriel’s heart constricted. “Your father and Diane wanted to be here, but Tommy is sick. You’ll see them soon.” He wiped Julia’s tears away with his thumbs. “The kitchen is filled with family, our family. People who love you and Clare.”

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