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

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



   Verona, Italy

   The poet paused, his quill hovering like an anxious bird over the vellum.

   The words he’d placed in the mouth of his beloved were convicting. Even the ink condemned him.

   In penning Purgatorio, he’d been forced to reexamine his life in the aftermath of her death. His tribute to Beatrice was both homage and penance. But this was not the end.

   No, Beatrice’s death was not the end of their love. He loved her still and in loving her would be transformed.

   The bird of his quill returned to the vellum, giving voice to his loss. He had not been worthy of her in this life. But perhaps, in the next . . .

        “Turn, Beatrice, O turn thy holy eyes,”

    Such was their song, “unto thy faithful one,

    Who has to see thee ta’en so many steps.

    In grace do us the grace that thou unveil

    Thy face to him, so that he may discern

    The second beauty which thou dost conceal.”


   Here was his beloved now, beautiful and resplendent. Their love remained, but it had changed. And in changing, it deepened and became the stuff of eternity.

   The poet looked out over the city of his exile and mourned for his home. He mourned for Beatrice and what had not been.

   He hoped for what was to come. Her love had pointed him beyond herself, beyond their earthly love, to something transcendent, perfect, and eternal. He vowed, even as he purged his soul, that the words he penned would be prophetic and that all promises he made to her would be fulfilled. . . .



Chapter One

   September 2012

   Mount Auburn Hospital

   Cambridge, Massachusetts

   Professor Gabriel O. Emerson cradled his newborn daughter to his chest. He was reclined in a chair next to his wife’s hospital bed, where she lay sleeping. Despite the protestations of the nursing staff, he’d refused to place the baby in the nearby bassinet. She was safer in his arms, resting over his heart.

   Clare Grace Hope Emerson was a miracle. He’d prayed for her in the crypt of St. Francis in Assisi, after he’d married his beloved Julianne. At the time, he’d been unable to father a child, the result of his own self-loathing. But with Julianne at his side, as his Beatrice and his wife, he had prayed. And God had answered his prayer.

   The baby stirred and moved her head.

   Gabriel held her securely, his large hand covering her back so he could feel the rhythm of her breath.

   “We loved you since before you were born,” he whispered. “We were so excited you were coming.”

   In this moment—this quiet, tender moment—Gabriel had everything he had ever wanted. If he had been Dante, he was Dante no longer, for Dante never knew the pleasure of marrying Beatrice or of welcoming a child born of their love.

   The poet in him reflected on the strange course of events that had taken him from the depths of despair to the heights of blessedness.

   “Apparuit iam beatitudo vestra,” he quoted with sincerity, thanking God that he hadn’t lost his wife and daughter, despite the complications during delivery.

   The specter of his father intruded on his happiness, prompting a spontaneous promise. “I will never leave. I will be here with you both, my darling girls, for as long as I live.”

   In the darkness of the hospital room, Gabriel resolved to protect, love, and care for his wife and his daughter, no matter the cost.



Chapter Two

   One week later

   Mount Auburn Hospital

   Cambridge, Massachusetts

   It began with an email.

   It was a small thing—the checking of email. Perhaps it was one of the smallest, most inconsequential of actions. One tapped the screen of one’s phone and email messages appeared.

   A wise Canadian once wrote, The medium is the message. And in this case, the email and its contents were incredibly important.

   There had been whispers.

   The community of Dante specialists was not particularly large, and Professor Gabriel O. Emerson was well known. He’d been the top student to graduate from his program at Harvard, and in a very short time he made a name for himself at the University of Toronto.

   Then he’d been besieged by scandal—a scandal involving his beloved Julianne, who also happened to be his graduate student. There had been an investigation. A tribunal. A ruling. A resignation.

   The university kept the matter quiet. Julianne graduated and began doctoral studies at Harvard. Gabriel accepted a position as full professor at Boston University. They’d married on January 21, 2011.

   But still, there were whispers. Whispers from a former graduate student named Christa Peterson, who claimed Emerson was a predator and Julianne was a whore.

   Although Gabriel had done his best to silence Christa and to combat the rumors, the whispers continued. Now, a few months away from their second wedding anniversary, Gabriel kept his own counsel, not wishing to give voice to his worries. But in truth, he feared he’d tainted Julianne’s career. At this time, the academic community was far more forgiving of its male senior faculty than its young female graduate students.

   Gabriel knew this. Which was why he stared for some time at the email message he’d received.

   The message was from a group Gabriel had heard of but never met. He read the message and then once more, just to be sure he hadn’t misunderstood.

   A strange feeling washed over him. His skin prickled. Something momentous was about to happen. . . .

   “Gabriel?” Julianne’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Do we have everything? Rachel took home the flowers and balloons.”

   Gabriel opened his mouth to tell his wife about the email he’d just received, but was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Dr. Rubio, their obstetrician. She had a habit of popping up, like gray-eyed Athena in Homer’s Odyssey. Dr. Rubio appeared, made pronouncements, and vanished, sometimes leaving havoc in her wake.

   “Good morning.” She greeted the Emersons with a smile. “I need to go over a few things before Julia and Clare are discharged.”

   Gabriel returned his cell phone to his jacket pocket. He’d received the scare of his life a few days previous, when he mistakenly thought Julianne hadn’t survived the delivery. Anxiety still clung to him, like a hangover he could not shake.

   Which was why, upon hearing Dr. Rubio’s lengthy list of admonitions and instructions, he promptly forgot about the very important email and the absolute necessity of revealing its contents to his wife.



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