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GABRIEL'S REDEMPTION
by Sylvain Reynard

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance, Erotic Romance

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As Julianne waited for the water level to rise, she felt the hairs of her neck stand on end. She turned to find Gabriel standing by the vanity. He’d unbuttoned the top three buttons of his dress shirt; a few strands of chest hair were now visible over the band of his white undershirt.

“I’ll never tire of looking at you.” He pressed a kiss to her neck before removing the plush towel she’d wrapped around herself.

“I should paint you.” He stroked her spine with his fingertips, up and down.

“You painted me the other night, Caravaggio. We got paint all over the floor.”

“Ah, yes. It pained me to have to clean it up. I was hoping we could add to it.”

“That will have to wait for a night when we don’t have guests.” She gave him a saucy look. “Care to join me?”

“I prefer to watch.”

“Then I’ll be sure to put on a show.” She lifted her hair from her neck with both hands, arching her back into the pose of a pinup girl.

He groaned and took a step forward.

She held out her hand, stopping him.

“I left my bubble bath in the guest bathroom last night. Would you mind getting it for me?”

“Not at all. Goddess.” He tasted her lips before walking away.

A few minutes later, he handed the bubble bath to Julia, who proceeded to lace the water with its sandalwood-and-satsuma-scented essence before climbing into the tub.

She arranged herself in what she thought would be a provocative pose.

Gabriel adjusted the lighting, dimming it before disappearing into the bedroom. A moment later, he returned, and Julia heard the voice of Astrud Gilberto floating from the speaker that was mounted in the ceiling.

Julia gave her husband an appreciative look. “Thank you, darling.”

Wordlessly, he unbuttoned his shirt. He pulled it off and removed his T-shirt, exposing his tattoo and the light dusting of dark hair on his muscled chest.

Julia watched as he hung his shirt on a hook before his hands went to his belt. He smirked as he slowed his movements, teasing her.

She rolled her eyes. “The bathwater will be cold by the time you finish.”

“I doubt it. I certainly won’t be standing out here when I finish.”

“Why not?”

“Because I intend to finish inside you.”

With a smirk, he hung up his trousers before divesting himself of his boxers.

Julia knew her husband’s body well, but even so, his figure always took her breath away. He had wide shoulders that tapered to a narrow waist and hips, which framed muscular thighs. His arms, along with his abdominals, were well defined, as was the V that sloped to his all-too-prominent sex.

“It kills me when you look at me like that.” His eyes fixed hers hungrily.

“Why?” She stared at him shamelessly, moving forward in the bathtub to make room for him.

“Because you look as if you want to lick me. All over.”

“I do.”

In a flash, Gabriel settled behind her, wrapping his long legs around hers.

“That scent is familiar.”

“I bought the bubble bath because it reminded me of the massage oil you used in Florence. You rubbed my back, remember?”

“As I recall, I rubbed more than that.” Gabriel nuzzled her ear with his nose. “You have no idea what that scent does to me.”

“Oh yes, I do.” Julia rested against his chest, feeling him hard against her lower back.

“Before we move on to—ah—other activities, I’d like you to talk to me.”

“About what?” Julia tensed.

He placed his hands on either side of her neck and began to massage her.

“Relax. I’m not the enemy. I’m simply trying to persuade you to confide in me a little. You tend to take bubble baths when you’re stressed. And you’ve been taking them daily.”

“I just have a lot on my mind.”

“Tell me.”

She used her left hand to skim the surface of the water, pushing the suds back and forth.

“I worry about grad school and flunking out. I worry about my lecture.”

He squeezed her shoulders.

“We’ve spoken about your lecture and I gave you my honest opinion— it’s good. You aren’t going to flunk out of your program. You just have to take grad school one semester at a time. You don’t have to entertain our relatives this week. Tomorrow, we’ll announce that you’re spending the day working on your paper. They’ll entertain themselves during the day, and tomorrow night I’ll grill steaks for dinner. I’m sure Rachel and Tammy will pitch in.”

Julia’s muscles began to soften under his fingers. “That would help. Thank you.”

“I’d do anything for you,” he whispered, pressing his lips against her neck. “You know that, don’t you?”

“I do.” She turned and kissed him earnestly.

When they broke apart, she smiled. “You’ll have your birthday when we’re in Italy. How would you like to celebrate it?”

“With you. In bed. For a couple of days.” He spread his arms around her waist, stroking the skin around her navel.

“Would you like to invite people to join us in Umbria? They could come with us to the exhibition in Florence.”

“No, I want you all to myself. We can invite them to Cambridge for your birthday.”

Julia placed her hand over his, stopping his movements. “I don’t like making a big deal about my birthday.”

He leaned back. “I thought we were past that.”

“We’ll be busy in September.”

“Twenty-five is a milestone birthday.”

“So is thirty-five.”

“My milestones are only important because of you. Without you, they’d be empty days.”

Julia buried her face in his chest. “Do you have to be so sweet?”

“Since I’ve eaten sour for most of my life, yes.” With his mouth, he explored the curve of her neck and the soap-slicked skin of her shoulders.

“Then I guess we’re having a party in September. We should celebrate Labor Day weekend.” She kissed his pectorals before facing forward once again.

“I hate to break it to you, darling, but we’re growing old.”

“So I’ve heard.”

He moved her so she was facing him, bringing her legs around his waist.

“Lucky for you, I’m not too old to keep you up all night. I believe this is a room we haven’t christened—yet…”