National bestselling author Sylvain Reynard continues the story of Gabriel and Julia, two lovers bound together by their darkest desires.
But those very desires may destroy them . . .
Professor Gabriel Emerson has embarked on a passionate, yet clandestine affair with his former student Julia Mitchell. Sequestered on a romantic holiday in Italy, he tutors her in the sensual delights of the body and the raptures of sex.
But when they return, their happiness is threatened by conspiring students, academic politics, and a jealous ex-lover. When Gabriel is confronted by the university administration, will he succumb to Dante’s fate? Or will he fight to keep Julia, his Beatrice, forever?
In Gabriel’s Rapture, the brilliant sequel to the wildly successful debut novel, Gabriel’s Inferno, Sylvain Reynard weaves an exquisite love story that will touch the reader’s mind, body, and soul, forever.
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Sylvain Reynard is a Canadian writer with an interest in Renaissance art and culture and an inordinate attachment to the city of Florence.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Professor Gabriel Emerson was sitting in bed, naked, reading La Nazione, the Florentine newspaper. He’d awoken early in the Palazzo Vecchio penthouse of the Gallery Hotel Art and ordered room service, but he couldn’t resist returning to bed to watch the young woman sleep. She was on her side facing him, breathing softly, a diamond sparkling on her ear. Her cheeks were pink from the warmth of the room as their bed was bathed in sunshine from the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The bed covers were deliciously rumpled, smelling of sex and sandalwood. His blue eyes glimmered, traveling lazily over her exposed skin and long, dark hair. As he turned back to his newspaper, she shifted slightly and moaned. Concerned, he tossed the paper aside.
She brought her knees up to her chest, curling into a ball. Low murmurings came from her lips, and Gabriel leaned closer so he could decipher what she was saying. But he couldn’t.
All of a sudden, her body twisted and she let out a heart-wrenching cry. Her arms flailed as she wrestled with the sheet that shrouded her.
“Julianne?” He placed a gentle hand on her bare shoulder, but she cringed away from him.
She began muttering his name, over and over again, her tone growing progressively more panicked.
“Julia, I’m here,” he raised his voice. Just as he reached for her again, she sat bolt upright, gasping for air.
“Are you all right?” Gabriel moved closer, resisting the urge to touch her. She was breathing roughly, and under his watchful gaze, she fanned a shaking hand over her eyes.
After a long, tense minute, she looked at him, eyes wide.
He frowned. “What happened?”
She swallowed loudly. “A nightmare.”
“What was it about?”
“I was in the woods behind your parents’ house, back in Selinsgrove.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows knit together behind his dark-rimmed glasses. “Why would you dream about that?”
She inhaled, drawing the sheet over her exposed breasts and up to her chin. The linen was full and white, swallowing her petite frame whole before billowing cloudlike over the mattress. She reminded him of an Athenian statue.
He ran his fingers gently over her skin. “Julianne, talk to me.”
She squirmed under his piercing blue eyes, but he would not let her go. “The dream began beautifully. We made love under the stars, and I fell asleep in your arms. When I woke up you were gone.”
“You dreamed I made love to you, then abandoned you?” His tone cooled to mask his discomfort.
“I woke up in the orchard without you once,” she reproached him softly.
The fire in his belly was instantly quenched. He thought back to the magical evening six years ago when they first met, when they simply talked and held each other. He’d awoken the following morning and wandered away, leaving a sleeping teenage girl all alone. Surely her anxiety was understandable if not pitiable.
He unwound her clenched fingers one by one and kissed them repentantly. “I love you, Beatrice. I’m not going to leave you. You know that, right?”
“It would hurt so much more to lose you now.”
With a frown he wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pressing her cheek to his chest. A myriad of memories crowded his mind as he thought back to what had transpired the evening before. He’d gazed on her naked form for the first time and initiated her into the intimacies of lovemaking. She’d shared her innocence with him, and he thought he’d made her happy. Certainly it had been one of the best evenings of his life. He pondered that fact for a moment.
“Do you regret last night?”
“No. I’m glad you were my first. It’s what I wanted since we met.”
He placed his hand on her cheek, tracing her skin with his thumb. “I’m honored to have been your first.” He leaned forward, his eyes unblinking. “But I want to be your last.”
She smiled and lifted her lips to meet his. Before he could embrace her, the chimes of Big Ben filled the room.
“Ignore it,” he whispered fiercely, his arm stretching across her body, pushing her to recline beneath him.
Her eyes darted over his shoulder to where his iPhone lay on the desk. “I thought she wasn’t going to call you anymore.”
“I’m not answering, so it doesn’t matter.” He kneeled between her legs and lifted the sheet from her body. “In my bed, there’s only us.”
She searched his eyes as he began to bring their naked bodies into closer contact.
Gabriel leaned forward to kiss her, but she turned her head. “I haven’t brushed my teeth.”
“I don’t care.” He lowered his lips to her neck, kissing across her quickening pulse.
“I’d like to clean up first.”
He huffed in frustration, leaning on one elbow. “Don’t let Paulina ruin what we have.”
“I’m not.” She tried to roll out from under him and take the sheet with her, but he caught hold of it. He gazed over the rims of his glasses, his eyes sparkling with mischief.
“I need the sheet to make the bed.”
Her eyes traveled from the white fabric that was clutched between her fingers, to his face. He looked like a panther waiting to pounce. She glanced over the side of the bed at the pile of clothes on the floor. They were beyond her reach.
“What’s the problem?” he asked, stifling a grin.
Julia blushed and gripped the material more tightly. With a chuckle, he released the sheet and pulled her into his arms.
“You don’t need to be shy. You’re beautiful. If I had my wish, you’d never wear clothes again.”
He pressed his lips to her earlobe, gently touching the diamond stud. He was certain his adoptive mother, Grace, would have been happy that her earrings found their way to Julia. With another brief kiss, he turned away, sliding over to sit on the edge of the bed.
She slipped into the washroom but not before Gabriel caught sight of her alluring back as she dropped the sheet just outside the door.
While brushing her teeth, she thought about what had transpired. Making love with Gabriel had been a very emotional experience, and even now her heart felt the aftershocks. That wasn’t surprising considering their history. She’d wanted him since she spent a chaste night with him in an orchard when she was seventeen, but he’d been gone when she awoke the next morning. He’d forgotten her in the aftermath of a drunken, drug-induced haze. Six long years passed before she saw him again, and then, he didn’t remember her.
When she encountered him again on the first day of his graduate seminar at the University of Toronto, he was attractive but cold, like a distant star. She hadn’t believed then that she’d become his lover. She hadn’t believed it possible that the temperamental and arrogant Professor would reciprocate her affection.
There were so many things she hadn’t known. Sex was a kind of knowledge, and now she knew the sting of sexual jealousy in a manner she’d never experienced before. The mere idea of Gabriel doing what they’d done with some other woman, and in his case many other women, made her heart ache.
She knew that Gabriel’s trysts were different from what they’d shared—that they were assignations not brought about by love or affection. But he’d undressed them, seen them naked, and entered their bodies. After being with him, how many of those women craved more? Paulina had. She and Gabriel had maintained contact over the years since they conceived and lost a child together.
Julia’s new understanding of sex changed her view of his past and made her more sympathetic to Paulina’s plight. And all the more guarded against losing Gabriel to her or to any other woman.
Julia gripped the edge of the vanity as a wave of insecurity washed over her. Gabriel loved her; she believed this. But he was also a gentleman and would never reveal that their union had left him wanting. And what of her own behavior? She’d asked questions and talked when she expected that most lovers would have been silent. She’d done very little to please him, and when she tried he’d stopped her.
Her ex-boyfriend’s words came screaming back at her, swirling in her mind with condemnation:
You’re going to be a lousy lay.
She turned away from the mirror as she contemplated what might happen if Gabriel was dissatisfied with her. The specter of sexual betrayal reared its maleficent head, bringing with it visions of finding Simon in bed with her roommate.
She straightened her shoulders. If she could persuade Gabriel to be patient and to teach her, then she was confident she could please him. He loved her. He would give her a chance. She was his as surely as if he’d branded his name on her skin.
When she stepped into the bedroom she caught sight of him through the open door to the terrace. On her way, she was distracted by a beautiful vase of dark purple and paler, variegated irises sitting on top of the desk. Some lovers might have purchased long-stemmed red roses, but not Gabriel.
She opened the card that was nestled amongst the blossoms.
My Dearest Julianne,
Thank you for your immeasurable gift.
The only thing I have of value is my heart.
Julia reread the card twice, her heart swelling with love and relief. Gabriel’s words didn’t sound like they were penned by a man who was dissatisfied or frustrated. Whatever Julia’s worries, Gabriel didn’t seem to share them.
Gabriel was sunning himself on the futon, his glasses off, his chest gloriously exposed. With his muscular, six-foot-two frame, it was as if Apollo himself had deigned to visit her. Sensing her presence on the terrace, he opened his eyes and patted his lap. She joined him, and his arms enveloped her as he kissed her passionately.
“Why, hello there,” he murmured, brushing a stray tendril back from her face. He peered at her closely. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Thank you for the flowers. They’re beautiful.”
He brushed his lips against hers. “You’re welcome. But you look troubled. Is it about Paulina?”
“I’m upset that she’s calling you, but no.” Julia’s expression brightened. “Thank you for your card. It said what I desperately wanted to hear.”
“I’m glad.” He squeezed her more closely. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”
She toyed with the belt to her bathrobe for a moment, until he took her hand in his. She looked at him. “Was last night everything you’d hoped for?”
Gabriel exhaled sharply, for her question had taken him by surprise. “That’s a strange question.”
“I know it had to be different for you. I wasn’t very...active.”
“Active? What are you talking about?”
“I didn’t do much to please you.” She blushed.
He stroked the flushing skin lightly with the tip of his finger. “You pleased me a great deal. I know you were nervous, but I enjoyed myself tremendously. We belong to one another now—in every way. What else is troubling you?”
“I demanded that we switch positions when you would have preferred me on top.”
“You didn’t demand, you asked. Frankly, Julianne, I’d like to hear you demand things of me. I want to know that you want me as desperately as I want you.” His expression relaxed, and he drew a circle or two around her breast. “You dreamed about your first time being a certain way. I wanted to give that to you, but I was worried. What if you were uncomfortable? What if I wasn’t careful enough? Last night was a first for me too.”
He released her, pouring coffee and steamed milk from two separate carafes into a latté bowl and spreading the tray of food between them on the banquette. There were pastries and fruit, toast and Nutella, boiled eggs and cheese, and several Baci Perugina Gabriel had bribed a hotel employee to run out and purchase along with the extravagant bouquet of irises from the Giardino dell’Iris.
Julia unwrapped one of the Baci and ate it, eyes closed with pure pleasure. “You ordered a feast.”
“I awoke ravenous this morning. I would have waited for you but...” He shook his head as he picked up a grape and fixed her with a sparkling eye. “Open.”
She opened her mouth, and he popped the grape inside, tracing his finger temptingly across her lower lip.
“And you must drink this, please.” He handed her a wine glass filled with cranberry juice and soda.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re overprotective.”
He shook his head. “This is how a man behaves when he’s in love and he wants his sweetheart healthy for all the sex he plans on having with her.” He winked smugly.
“I’m not going to ask how you know about such things. Give me that.” She grabbed the glass from his hand and downed it, her eyes focused on his, as he chuckled.
She stuck her tongue out at him before fixing herself a breakfast plate.
“How do you feel this morning?” Gabriel’s face grew concerned.
She swallowed a piece of Fontina cheese. “Okay.”
He pressed his lips together firmly, as if her answer displeased him.
“Making love changes things between a man and a woman,” he prompted.
“Um, aren’t you happy with, uh, what we did?” The pink of her cheeks faded immediately, leaving her pale.
“Of course I’m happy. I’m trying to find out if you’re happy. And based upon what you’ve said so far, I’m worried that you aren’t.”
Julia picked at the fabric of her robe, avoiding Gabriel’s probing gaze. “When I was at college the girls on my floor would sit around and talk about their boyfriends. One night they told stories about their first times.” She nibbled at the tip of one of her fingers.
“Only a few of the girls had good things to say. The other stories were awful. One girl had been molested as a child. Some of the girls had been forced by a boyfriend or a date. Several of them said that their first times were completely awkward and unfulfilling—a boyfriend grunting and finishing quickly. I thought, if that’s all I can hope for, I’d rather stay a virgin.”
She fixed her eyes on the breakfast tray.
“I wanted to be loved. I decided it would be better to have a chaste affair of the heart and mind through letters than a sexual relationship. I had my doubts that I would ever find anyone who could give me both. Certainly, Simon didn’t love me. Now I’m in a relationship with a sex god, and I can’t give him anything like the pleasure he gives me.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows shot up. “Sex god? You’ve said that before, but believe me, I’m not—”
She interrupted him, looking him straight in the eye. “Teach me. I’m sure last night was not as, um...fulfilling as it usually is for you, but I promise that if you are patient with me, I will improve.”
He cursed obliquely. “Come here.” He pulled her around the breakfast tray and into his lap again, wrapping his arms around her. He was quiet for a moment, before sighing deeply.
“You assume that my previous sexual encounters were completely fulfilling, but you’re wrong. You gave me what I’ve never had—love and sex together. You’re the only one who has ever been my lover in the true sense.”
He kissed her gently in solemn confirmation of his words. “The anticipation and the allure of a woman are crucial to the experience. I can safely say that your allurements and my anticipation were like nothing I’ve ever experi...
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