Home > Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(6)

Gabriel's Promise (Gabriel's Inferno #4)(6)
Author: Sylvain Reynard

   “She appears to me sometimes in my dreams. But only when I’m in our house. I find her appearances comforting.”

   “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

   Richard appeared confused. “But you were.”

   “Not really.” Gabriel busied himself with the swing, spreading the legs and fitting the crossbar in order to steady it. “I was mired in my own selfishness.”

   “When Grace died, you came and sat with me on the ground.”

   Gabriel lifted his eyebrows.

   “From the book of Job, in the Bible,” Richard hastened to explain. “Job’s friends hear of his suffering and they come to see him.”

   “Job’s friends aren’t exactly heroes,” Gabriel objected. He attached the swing’s motor to the legs and tested the structure to ensure that it wouldn’t tip over.

   “True, true. But when they saw Job sitting on the ground, they went and sat with him. And they didn’t speak a word for seven days, for they recognized how great his sorrow was.” Richard paused until Gabriel made eye contact. “When Grace died, you came and sat with me on the ground.”

   Gabriel didn’t answer, his emotions swirling in his chest. He picked up a wrench and tightened the bolts that held the motor to the legs.

   “I’ve spent hours reflecting on my loss. But also hours remembering happy times. And the conclusion I’ve come to is that the best thing we can do for one another is to be present and to be loving.” Richard paused and pressed a kiss to the top of Clare’s head. “When my granddaughter is fussy, I can hold her. When Rachel is grieving, I can comfort her. When my son and his wife need an extra pair of hands or an expression of support, I will be with them. Time, love, and support—that is the core of being a parent.”

   Richard smiled. “You’re embarking on a new phase of life with your family. Yes, there will be challenges. But there will be time enough to worry about them as they come. Focus on the present and don’t let your worries about the future rob you of your joy.”

   Gabriel busied himself by sliding the swing off the carpet and onto the hardwood. He sat back to appreciate his handiwork. “Well done, Harvard.”

   “Well done, indeed.” Richard’s gray eyes twinkled. “But you’ve attached everything but the swing.”

   Gabriel looked at the upright apparatus in dismay. He turned around and saw the swing piece reclining secretively behind him. He grabbed his hair with both hands. “Fu-u-u. . . . . . . . . . . . dge.”

   “Welcome to fatherhood.” Richard chuckled.



Chapter Six

   Just before midnight, Gabriel walked through the darkened house with almost silent footfalls. That was his usual routine before retiring.

   He checked all the doors to ensure that they were locked and proceeded to check the windows.

   Gazing out the front windows at Foster Place, he noticed a car driving slowly. The car was black and unremarkable. But traffic was rare on Foster Place, because it was a cul-de-sac. There were two parking spots available on the street, and they were only available to residents.

   The car slowed as it passed Gabriel, continued to the end of the cul-de-sac, and drove at a snail’s pace past him once again. The front license plate was obscured by mud. The windows were darkly tinted.

   He watched as the car turned onto the next street and he replaced the curtain, covering the window. He then surveyed the ground floor.

   Some months previous, Julianne had decided to decorate the house with lanterns, each of which held a flameless pillar candle. The candles shone gently, casting warm, rolling waves. She’d placed the lanterns strategically—one in each room, one at the base of the staircase and one at the top, one outside the nursery on the second floor, and one outside the guest bathroom. The candles were set to illumine at dusk and shine until morning.

   Gabriel took a moment to admire the comforting glimmer of the lanterns, marveling at how they kept the darkness at bay. In his heart, he praised Julia’s foresight. No one would stumble on the stairs or on their way to the nursery. It was a small thing, perhaps, to light a lantern. But in Gabriel’s mind the gesture seemed all the more significant, as he considered what that evening would have been like if Julianne had not survived the delivery.

   Gabriel’s prayer was spontaneous, like his overwhelming gratitude for his family. Like the way Julianne loved him.

   Satisfied his home was secure, he climbed the staircase. He stopped by the nursery and switched on the light. The new baby swing stood proudly in the center of the room, which was crowded with gifts and baby clothes. Richard had displayed Clare’s name in large white letters above her closet.

   Gabriel smiled and switched off the light.

   In the master bedroom, a fanciful night light projected pink stars on the ceiling over Julianne’s side of the bed. He could see her curled into a ball beneath the covers. The playpen stood almost within arm’s reach of the bed. Clare was swaddled in soft material, lying in a bassinet that was securely resting atop the elevated floor of the playpen.

   He touched Clare’s head lightly, so as not to wake her. “Daddy loves you.”

   Then he turned to his sleeping wife and pressed a kiss to her hair. He took a moment to survey his surroundings, especially the large reproduction of Henry Holiday’s painting of Dante and Beatrice that hung on the wall opposite the bed. Once again, he stared at Beatrice’s face, noticing the shocking resemblance between his own brown-eyed angel and Dante’s beloved.

   Then his gaze moved to the large black-and-white photographs he’d taken of himself and Julia since they’d been together. There were others, of course. Stacks of photos lined his office, documenting Julianne’s beautiful form throughout pregnancy. And there were a hundred digital photos of Clare saved on his computer that had been taken in the hospital.

   But for now, at least, he looked with fondness at the old picture of Julianne’s graceful neck and his hands holding up her long brown hair. And then the photo of her sitting on the edge of the bathtub, her beautiful back and the side of one of her breasts exposed.

   Longing stirred within him. Longing for the connection of their bodies, something that hadn’t been possible the past few weeks. Love had taught him patience, for he would not be so selfish as to press his wants on her now. But Professor Emerson was not a patient man. Nor was he naturally inclined to be celibate.

   The more he thought of his wife and her lush and beautiful body, the more his longing grew.

   He rubbed at his eyes. A few more days. I was celibate for months before Julianne and I were married. Surely I can survive a few more days.

   Groaning, he crossed to his side of the bed near the window. He was used to sleeping naked, but that was no longer appropriate. With the scowl of the oppressed, he pulled off his T-shirt and threw it, leaving him clad only in pajama bottoms. Then he pulled back the covers.

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