Just before sunrise, Julia awoke with a start.
Her handsome husband was by her side, his face boyish in sleep. It was the face of the young man she met on Grace’s back porch. She traced his eyebrows and the stubble on his chin, a tremendous feeling of love flowing through her. A tremendous feeling of contentment and joy.
Not wanting to disturb him, she crept from their bed. She picked up his discarded shirt from the floor and put it on before tiptoeing out to the balcony.
The faintest hint of light shimmered from the horizon, over the gently rolling hills of the Umbrian landscape. The air was chilly, far too cold to be outside in anything other than a hot tub, but the view was unspeakably lovely, and she felt the need to drink in its beauty. Alone.
Growing up, she felt so unworthy of having her deepest desires satisfied, of being loved absolutely. She didn’t feel that way anymore. This morning, expressions of gratitude bubbled up from her soul, wafting Heavenward.
Gabriel stretched out his hand to Julia’s side of the bed, but found only her pillow. It took a moment for him to awake, exhausted as he was with the previous evening and early morning’s activities. They’d made love several times and taken turns worshipping one another’s bodies with mouths and hands.
He smiled. All her fears and anxieties appeared to have vanished. Was it solely because they were married now? Or was it because
enough time had passed that she knew beyond doubt that he wouldn’t take advantage of her?
He didn’t know. But he was pleased because she had been pleased. And when she gave herself to him in a way that she’d never been able to before, he treasured that gift, knowing that it was given out of love and absolute trust.
Awaking to an empty bed made him nervous, however. So rather than indulge himself in these silent musings, he quickly went in search of his beloved. It didn’t take long for him to find her.
“Are you all right?” he called, as he walked out onto the balcony.
“I’m wonderful. I’m happy.”
“You’ll catch pneumonia,” he chided, slipping off his robe and wrapping it around her.
She turned to thank him and noticed that he was naked. “So will you.”
He grinned, positioning himself in front of her and opening the robe so it wrapped around both of them. She sighed at the pleasurable feeling of their naked bodies pressed tightly together.
“Was everything to your liking?” Gabriel rubbed her back through the robe.
“You couldn’t tell?”
“We didn’t have a lot of conversation, if you recall. Perhaps I kept you up too late. I know we were making up but…”
“I’m a little out of practice, but deliciously worn out.” She flushed. “Last night was even better than our first time together. And certainly, as you put it, more vigorous.”
He chuckled. “I concur.”
“We’ve been through so much. I feel as if our connection is deeper.” She nuzzled his shoulder with her nose. “And I don’t have to worry about you disappearing.”
“I’m yours,” he whispered. “And I feel the connection too. It’s what I needed. It’s what you deserve. When I touch you, when I look into your eyes, I see our history and our future.” He paused and lifted her face so he could see her better. “It’s breathtaking.”
Julia kissed him delicately and snuggled closer in his arms.
“I spent too long in the shadows.” Gabriel’s voice brimmed with emotion. “I’m looking forward to being in the light. With you.”
She placed a hand on either side of his face, forcing him to see her. “We’re in the light now. And I love you.”
“As I love you, Julianne. I’m yours for this life and the next.”
He kissed her lips once more and led her back into the bedroom.