Dark Impulse Ch. 21byAurora Black©
Upon returning to his apartment, Gabriel immediately closed the blinds, blocking out the harsh glare of the noonday sun. He climbed into bed, dead tired from his lack of sleep the night before. His entire being was crushed by despair.
She didn't believe a word that I said about loving her. She didn't want to listen.
Trembling slightly, he buried his face in the bedspread and allowed his exhaustion to envelop him, to carry him into another dream.
* * *
The weather was as hot as Hell itself. Gabriel could feel the heat of the blazing sun on his closed eyes as he slowly regained consciousness. The last thing that he remembered was the menacing swarm of black birds approaching from the sky, pursuing him and Grace. She had stopped at the edge of the trees, begging him to wait as her hand reached out to nothing. He recalled his great confusion at the time, but now her reasons were clear to him.
The child. She was a mother, with an instinct to protect her child from harm.
Gabriel heard the splashing of water in the distance, giggles and whispers. He cracked open his eyes and saw that he was still in Central Park, lying on a checkered blanket which was stretched over the grass. He sat up and saw a picnic basket beside him, filled to the brim with ripe and juicy fruit, bread, cheese and wine.
"So, you're finally awake."
Startled by the sudden sound of Grace's voice, he turned around on the blanket in time to watch her emerge from the cool water of the Lake. She'd been swimming with her clothes on, and as she stepped out Gabriel saw her peach dress cling faithfully to every curve of her body. His mouth went dry as she drew closer.
She stood over him, and he felt her eyes travel the length of his body like licks of fire. She slowly lowered herself onto the blanket beside him, her gaze never leaving his face.
He stared at her. "Gracie..."
Grace placed a finger against his mouth, silencing him. Her voice was tender.
"I love you, too."
Before he could respond, she kissed him hard and long. Her mouth was desperate and hungry against his, and he felt as if his soul was floating away on the breeze. She broke the kiss, her eyes shining like onyx jewels. Her expression was one of feverish longing and torment, and Gabriel reached out to touch her face.
A slight rustling sound captured his attention and he looked over Grace's shoulder to see Rafe standing beside the water, watching them. When the child's eyes met Gabriel's, he smiled widely at him. Gabriel smiled back, his heart pounding.
Rafe's eyes were still locked with Gabriel's as he addressed his mother.
"Can I go play in the trees, Mom?"
Grace reached into the picnic basket and retrieved a strawberry before looking over her shoulder at Rafe. "Yes, but don't go too far away, sweetheart."
The boy smiled again and ran into the thicket of trees, and when he disappeared Gabriel finally snapped out of the trance that had come over him.
He looked at me with such hope in his eyes. What do you want from me, kid?
He returned his attention to Grace, who stared back at him as she gently bit into the strawberry. Some juice covered her lips, and Gabriel felt his body stirring as he watched her lick it away. Leaning forward, she held the fruit to his lips.
He couldn't take his eyes off of her; she was a sweet temptress, Eve before sin was released into the world. Her hair was still damp from her swim, and it flowed seamlessly down her shoulders and back like ebony silk. He took a bite from the berry, and he could hear his blood rushing in his ears as he chewed and swallowed.
It had been far too long since he had been so close to a woman, dream or no dream.
As if she read his thoughts, Grace removed the berry from his mouth and replaced it with her moist lips. Heat surged through Gabriel as he responded to her kiss, his tongue meeting hers in an erotic dance. They both moaned from the intensity before she placed her hands on his chest, pushing him down onto the blanket.
Against his will, Gabriel's thoughts returned to the previous danger and he briefly held her away from him. "Why is everything suddenly so peaceful here, Gracie?"
She climbed on top of him, her wet hair dripping water onto his face and neck as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt. A slight smile played on her lips as she revealed his chest to her heated gaze. She looked into his eyes as she spoke.
"We are in the eye of the storm, Gabriel. The threat has passed for now, but it will return. It is only a matter of time before it comes back, stronger and more fierce than before. Until then, we should focus on us. Together, we can survive anything."
She reached for a succulent grape and held it over his exposed skin, crushing it in her hand. He groaned as the juice ran in rivulets over his bared flesh, the feelings of desire growing too powerful to deny. She followed the trails with her satiny tongue, and he automatically reached up to cradle her head in his hands. Moaning, he arched up to her mouth as she tasted him, lost in the shattering sensations.
"Gracie... you have no idea how much I've missed you."
She raised her head to whisper hotly in his ear. "Show me."
Gabriel brought her down to him as he flipped them over. He hovered above her, trying to capture every detail of the perfect moment in his memory. His eyes darkened with passion as he clearly read the signs of her excitement; her shallow breathing, the unfocused quality of her gaze, the writhing movements of her body.
He lowered his head and kissed along the hollow of her throat, his lips leaving a searing heat in their wake that caused Grace to cry out and grasp his wide shoulders.
Her voice shook. "Gabriel, I'm scared."
He raised himself onto his arms and looked down at her.
"I would never do anything to hurt you, baby. Not again."
She brought his face to her heaving breasts, and he could hear the racing of her heart beneath his ear. Her voice was thick, filled to overflowing with emotion.
"It's not you that I fear, but myself. I want you so much, but I'm so damned afraid of opening up to you that I... I just can't allow myself to..."
Grace trailed off with a heavy sigh, and he searched her eyes with his own.
The words came from the depths of his soul and spilled from his lips.
"Listen to me, Gracie. You can trust me, I swear to you. Please, don't shut me out."
The sound of a snapping twig startled them from their intimate embrace, and Grace sat up on the blanket, tilting her head towards the trees.
"Rafe? Is that you?"
There was no response. In the circle of Gabriel's arms, Grace shivered from the sudden chill that swept across her skin. Clearing her throat, she tried again.
"Sweetie, is everything okay?"
The only sounds they could hear were of the steadily growing wind at their backs and of their own breathing. Grace gently broke away from Gabriel and stood up, heading in the direction of where Rafe had gone moments before.
"Rafe, honey? If this is a joke, I'm not laughing..."
When she disappeared into the trees, Gabriel rose from the blanket and looked around. His brow furrowed as he noticed the dark gray clouds in the sky.
There weren't any clouds before... and I've never seen them move so rapidly.
He turned, his eyes searching the woods for a glimpse of Grace's peach sun dress He couldn't see anything, so he drew closer and called out to her.
"Gracie! We've got to hurry and get out of here. Something's not right."
He turned again to face the water, and he jumped when he saw Rafe standing before him. The little boy stared up at him with fear in his eyes.
"Have you seen my mom, Mister?"
Gabriel felt a wave of panic swell in his stomach at the thought of Grace possibly getting lost in the woods, and it took everything he had to suppress it so he wouldn't frighten the child. He forced a smile as he bent down slightly towards Rafe.
"She went looking for you, kid. Let's go and see if we can find her, okay?"
He held out his hand, and the little boy took it without a moment's hesitation.
Just then, a bloodcurdling scream erupted from the trees. A woman's scream.
Gabriel felt his heart screech to a halt. Oh, God.
The short span of a few seconds seemed like an eternity as Gabriel and Rafe ran down the path, navigating through the twisted maze of trees in search of Grace. Gabriel's palms grew sweaty from the exertion and sheer terror that he felt, and the boy held on tighter so he wouldn't slip out of Gabriel's grip.
Finally, they reached a clearing and Gabriel saw Grace lying motionless on the ground. He turned to Rafe and knelt down, placing his hands on the little boy's shoulders and meeting his eyes.
"I need you to stay here for a minute. Would you do that for me?"
Rafe nodded silently, his eyes trusting. Gabriel ruffled the boy's hair affectionately before he rose and cautiously walked towards Grace with a feeling of dread.
Please God, let her be okay. Lord, I beg of you. Please...
His view of Grace blurred with tears as he approached; she was as still as a statue. He fell to his knees on the ground beside her, his hands automatically reaching out to search for a pulse that he knew he wouldn't find. She was dead.
The pain of his realization was so intense that he wanted to join her. He gathered her lifeless body in his arms and threw his head back, screaming out his sorrow and rage. He didn't care when the skies opened up and the hot rain poured down, he didn't care about anything except that the woman he loved was dead.
A small hand touched his arm, and Gabriel heard Rafe's sobs echo his own. He reached out for the child and felt his tiny face burrow into the warmth of his chest.
They sat there for a long time as the rain continued to fall, mixing with their tears.
* * *
Gabriel awoke to a wet pillow and a stomach tight with tension as he tried to analyze the meaning behind the dream. He had to see Grace as soon as possible, to warn her and try to connect with her. The ringing of the cordless telephone beside the bed interrupted his thoughts; he picked it up and pushed the button.
"Gabriel, it's me."
Hearing Grace's familiar voice after experiencing such a dream took his breath away. The power of his relief was staggering, and Gabriel felt himself sway.
"Are you there?"
He forced himself to get his act together, and with effort he managed to answer.
"Gracie, yes. I'm here. Sorry, I just... I guess I hadn't really expected you to call."
He heard her sigh on the other end of the line.
"Well, I've been thinking about what you said. I've decided to help."
He gripped the phone tightly, feeling dizzy with the hope of winning her trust.
"Really? Thank you, Grace. You won't regret this, I promise you."
Grace's voice sounded both wary and weary.
"I hope that I won't. We'll keep in touch."
Realizing that she intended to hang up, Gabriel leaned forward in bed.
She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to massage away the ache there.
Gabriel looked at the clock; it was 6pm. He had slept the entire day away.
"Where are you now?" He had to see her with his own eyes, talk with her up close.
"I'm calling from a bar in Midtown, near Rockefeller Center. Why?"
He licked his lips, which had gone dry. "Want some company?"
Grace was silent for a long moment. Gabriel heard her soft breathing as she thought over his suggestion, and he prayed that she would say yes.
She took a deep breath before replying. "I'm sorry but I have to decline. I only came here to use the pay phone, and after I call Mosely I'll be running around again."
Gabriel tried his best not to let his disappointment show in his voice, but it was painfully obvious anyway. He grasped desperately at straws, trying to save face as the feeling of rejection clawed at his insides.
"Oh. Okay. That's okay. I just thought that... hey, you're going to call Mose?"
She bit her lip at the hurt that she sensed in his voice after she turned him down.
"Yes. I was going to do it earlier, but I had to give a statement to the campus police about the break-in at my office. I just got out of there a little while ago."
Gabriel leaned back against the pillows, grateful for the change in subject.
"How did that go?"
Grace sighed heavily, scoffed at herself.
"I told them that I had no idea who could have done such a thing. Indeed, I'm having a hard time figuring out what's really happening."
A frown crossed his face at her words. "What do you mean by that, Gracie?"
She rested her head against the wall of the phone booth, cradling the receiver.
"After you left the Cloisters, David called my cell phone. I lost my temper and accused him of being behind the break-in. You should have heard the confusion in his voice; he actually sounded as if he didn't know anything about it."
Gabriel tucked a lock of hair behind his ear thoughtfully.
"What do you make of this?"
Mystified, she shook her head even though she knew he couldn't see her.
"Your guess is as good as mine, Gabriel. When I stood in the wreckage of my office, my instincts told me that it was him. But his reaction was very strange, and now I'm extremely confused. I don't know what to think anymore, or what to feel."
He closed his eyes and recalled her embrace in his dream. Her kisses, her passionate hunger. When he spoke again, his urgency was clear in his voice.
"What do you feel, Gracie?"
Grace paused; it was apparent that he wasn't talking about David anymore. She closed her own eyes, and she could almost feel Gabriel standing beside her. She felt as if she could reach out her hand and touch him, his presence was so strong.
She looked down and saw that her hands were shaking. Balling them into fists, she cleared her throat and disengaged her thoughts from their dangerous course.
"I feel that we should end this call now, so I can speak with Mosely."
Gabriel ran a hand over his face, silently chiding himself.
Damn. I really set myself up for that one, didn't I?
His voice was plaintive when he replied. "When can I see you again?"
Grace's breath caught at the vulnerability that she heard in his words, which were spoken in a voice that sounded like warm honey, sultry and soothing, and for the third time that day she wondered if he was for real.
The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them. "Tomorrow's my day off. I'm going to be busy for most of the morning, but afterwards I'm free."
A pleasantly surprised grin spread across Gabriel's face at her response. He had expected another rejection. "Where do you want to meet, and when?"
She felt her face flush with pleasure when she noticed that his tone instantly changed from solemn to enthusiastic when she'd stopped trying to push him away.
"Sonnet Books, on the corner of West 57th and 8th near Columbus Circle at noon."
Gabriel's grin widened. "Okay, Gracie. Looks like you've got yourself a date."
Despite herself, she felt a smile of her own growing. The man was insufferable.
"This is not a date, Gabriel. It's strictly business."
He chuckled softly, and the tiny hairs on the nape of her neck stood up in awareness.
"Whatever you say, darlin'. I'm looking forward to seeing you, no matter the circumstances."
She didn't know what to say to that, except "See you tomorrow, then."
He sighed softly. "Bye, baby."
* * *
Grace returned the phone to its cradle, stunned once again by Gabriel's tenderness.
My God, he's acting as if we were an actual couple! As if five years worth of obstacles, silence and built-up resentment didn't exist! As if I wasn't married...
She tried to squash the tiny voice inside that whispered reminders that she wouldn't be married for much longer. She shook her head as if she could rid herself of the hope of reuniting with Gabriel that way, but it didn't work. All it did was make the throbbing in her skull increase tenfold, until the numbers on the keypad in front of her eyes blurred and melted away like ice.
She pressed her face against the cool glass of the old-fashioned phone booth as she tried to will her breathing and pulse back to their normal pace.
A middle-aged woman noticed Grace's struggle and lightly tapped on the glass beside her head, concern in her eyes. "Are you okay, sugar?"
In the several minutes since ending her conversation with Gabriel, the hellish pounding had slowly faded to a manageable level. She managed to smile at the woman.
"Yes, I'm fine now. Thank you."
The woman nodded hesitantly and returned to her companions, and Grace eventually turned her attention back to the task at hand. She opened her purse and retrieved the business card that Mosely had sent her. She picked up the phone and dialed his home number, proud of herself when she punched it in with a steady hand.
She couldn't help but smile into the phone. "Hello, Mose. It's been a long time."
For a moment, he couldn't breathe. "Grace?"
"Yes, it's me. I want to set up a meeting with you as soon as possible."
Mosely fumbled with the words, tongue-tied from hearing her voice after so long.
"You do? Sure! What day do you have in mind?"
Over her shoulder, Grace heard someone make a music selection from the bar's jukebox, and a moment later the place was filled with a smooth R&B beat.
She nervously bit her bottom lip.
"I'm sorry if this is short notice, but I was wondering if we could meet tomorrow morning. If you're not able to get away from D.C. so soon, I understand..."
"No! I mean, yes. I can get away for a few hours tomorrow. Just say the word."
Grace smiled again. "Wonderful. Meet me at 10am in front of the Manhattan Bank..."
Her smile abruptly faded and she grew silent as she remembered what else she had to do the next day besides meeting old friends and flames. Unpleasant business which she wished with all her heart she could avoid, but couldn't afford not to. The price would be too high if she didn't get it over with for her own peace of mind.
"Grace, what's wrong?" Mosely's worried voice shocked her out of her thoughts.
She cleared her throat. "I was just thinking that 10:30 would be better."
He didn't sound convinced, but to her relief he changed the subject.
"So, what's this all about? I take it that this isn't entirely a social call."
Her smile was wistful. Sad. "No, it's not. I have something to show you that may be related to my husband's investigation. It's in my safe deposit box."
Mosely leaned forward in his chair. "Grace, haven't you heard the news?"
Grace frowned as her stomach clenched. "What news?"
"The investigation has been called off indefinitely."
Her hand gripped the receiver so tightly, it was a miracle that it was still in one piece. Her throat moved, but no words would come out. When she finally spoke, her voice was strained.
"W-What? Why would they stop it just like that?"
Mosely sighed heavily. "I guess you didn't watch television today."
"What would I have seen, Mose?"
"You would have seen your husband giving a press conference from the London area hospital where he's staying, telling the world about his kidnapping and attempted assassination at the hands of mercenary nutcases. Nutcases who, apparently, are also responsible for the death of Travis Cooper."
Grace's hand flew to her mouth to smother a gasp.
Oh my God. Why didn't David tell me what happened when he called? Was it because his pride prevented him from telling such a thing to the wife who wants a divorce, or because it wasn't true? The blood sample on the shirt: Was it really from a fight, like he told me, or was it as I suspected? What if I was wrong about him?