Read And the Greatest of These Is Love: A Contemporary Christian Romance Novel Online
Authors: Staci Stallings
Tags: #Christian Books & Bibles, #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Religious & Inspirational Fiction, #Religion & Spirituality, #Christian Fiction, #Inspirational
Then as she stood, Gabi’s ears suddenly picked up on the familiar melody, and tears flooded her eyes.
The words of “Wind Beneath My Wings” began behind her as more children and some not so children anymore kept filing onto the stage, all in a line, roses upon roses, children upon children. Coming to her to thank her, not for putting on a play but for loving them every day of their lives.
The music and the words, in perfect harmony cascaded over her heart, and by now she was having trouble holding everything — the flowers, the emotions, the tears. The children behind her swayed in perfect rhythm, and the song they sang seemed to float through her very soul.
And then the line was gone, and she stood, center stage, surrounded by her kids, crying her eyes out, and never wanting this night — or this feeling — to ever end. Nothing could be better than this.
However, in the next heartbeat, it was for just then, Irvin stepped out onto stage, and Gabi shook her head as her tears flowed freely. Looking every bit the strong, confident young man she now knew him to be, he walked gallantly to her and laid a single, white rose on top of all the others.
“I love you, Miss T,” he whispered as he put his arms around her and hugged her to him, crushing the flowers between them. Words couldn’t say what Irvin said with that hug. When he pulled away and looked at her, the tears shimmering in his eyes were clearly visible. “You’re the best, Miss T.”
Suddenly her heart was filled to overflowing with the love it had been keeping at arm’s length for so long. She didn’t fight it. She didn’t try to tell herself they didn’t really mean it. She just let it flow into and over her, and for the first time in her life, she let the love, their love, truly find her heart.
As the chorus behind her faded, she took a deep breath and smiled. What an amazing feeling this was. She looked through the spotlight and the tears into the darkness of the wings wishing with all her heart that there could be more little children. And somehow she knew there would be. Many, many more children — searching for love, and without a doubt she would find a way to show every last one of them how amazing this felt, how incredible it was to simply be loved. Then the curtain moved, and suddenly she saw a little pair of eyes gazing from the depths of the darkness there into her soul, and for an instant she thought she might just float away.
But then, as the music faded, a single, little boy stepped out, and every person in the entire room held their breath.
As she watched him walk toward her, she wanted to smile, but there were no brain waves available for anything other than total shock. She watched as Antonio — white rose in hand — looking every bit the angel she now knew him to be walk toward her — and for the life of her she couldn’t move. He came all the way to center stage and smiled shyly at her.
“Miss T,” he said softly obviously trying to project his voice but failing to get it past the emotion in his little body. “I want to thank you for everything you did for me, and no matter what, I want you to know I love you.”
The smile and the tears came then of their own free will, and she took the rose he offered and she bent and hugged the little boy to her. Their tears mixed together, no longer tears of pain and fear but now tears of joy and promise.
“I love you too, Antonio,” she whispered. “I love you, too.”
For a long moment, nothing moved, and then slowly Antonio moved away and smiled at her. She watched as he stepped back to join Irvin and the others, but when she looked back to the curtain, there was suddenly no air left in the room.
Everything around her spun as Andrew stepped from the darkness of the wings into the light, and her knees went weak beneath her. It was like a dream as she watched him walk toward her, and as many times as she had looked into those eyes, she now saw something very different looking back at her. She willed her mind to focus on what it was, but just staying on her feet was challenging enough.
With each step he took, her chest tightened so that breathing was impossible. When he was only a foot away from her, he stopped and looked down at her with the most serene look she had ever seen in anyone’s eyes, and all her fears fell away from her as well. Suddenly, remarkably, all she felt was peace and overwhelming love for this man who had walked with her through so much.
“In a world,” he began, each word like a soft, gentle note, “full of dirty windows and broken down play equipment, you made it a point to never hold anything back from these children. You showed them that it’s not the
in this world that matter — the only thing that matters is what you feel in here.”
Softly he placed his hand over his heart, his gaze never wavering from hers. “Gabi, with your love, you showed me a place where there is no fear, no poverty, no despair. You proved to me that if there is enough love, all the obstacles can be overcome.”
She smiled at him and shook her head, but in one instant her smile was replaced with shock.
“Gabriella Treyvillion,” he said as he went down to one knee and reached into his pocket. When she saw the box in his hand, she almost dropped the flowers, but the second he looked up at her, she knew what her answer would be. “I love you with all of my heart. You have taught me to be the man I always wanted to be. Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
She had no idea where they all came from, but suddenly the tears were dripping from her eyes onto the roses as she nodded through them.
His hesitant, hopeful smile lit every dark corner that was left in her heart. “Is that a yes?”
“That’s a yes!” she said as the entire room exploded in applause.
He stood then, found her hand amongst the flowers, and slipped the ring on her finger. Just like that, she was right where she was always meant to be — in his arms with his lips on hers, and nowhere else had ever felt so perfect.
“Have you seen Andrew yet?” Gabi asked, scrutinizing herself in the mirror. The white lace dress, the long simple veil. How had she gotten her again?
“He’s downstairs.” Pam fluffed out the train of Gabi’s dress and then came to readjust the veil.
“Is he nervous?” Gabi smoothed her hand down across her stomach and turned to get a silhouette view of herself. Would he like it? Would he hate it? Was she enough?
“Hello. He’s marrying you, what does he have to be nervous about?” Pam asked, putting her hand on the back of Gabi’s veil and then looking at her in the mirror. “You look beautiful, Gabi.”
“Any last words of advice?” Andrew rubbed his hands together and willed his nerves to stop playing tag with each other.
“Just love her,” Bryan said simply. “That’s it. Just love her.”
Andrew looked at his brother and smiled. “That I can do.”
“Gentlemen, we’re ready,” Father Callihan said, appearing at the door.
“This is it,” Bryan said, clapping Andrew on the shoulder.
“Yeah.” Andrew exhaled, hardly allowing himself to believe he was really here. “This is it.”
Gabi heard the violin music swelling just outside her window, and she knew it was time. She should be happy; she should be excited, thrilled beyond imagination, but the only thing she could really feel was nervous.
A soft knock sounded on the door, and Pam went to answer it.
“Wow!” Irvin stepped into the room and stopped the instant he saw her standing by the mirror. “You look beautiful, Miss T.”
“Thanks, Irvin.” She smiled, and with one look in his eyes, she knew everything was as it should be.
“You ready?” he asked, offering his arm for her to take.
Slowly she nodded and retrieved the bouquet of ivory and mauve roses from Pam.
“Here we go.” Pam lifted the folds of the skirt and followed the two of them from the room.
At the end of an aisle of green grass, flowers, and a white runner, Andrew stood waiting for the woman of his dreams to appear from behind the French doors. This was the moment he had waited a lifetime for, and he willed his brain and heart to remember every last detail.
He watched as Pam emerged, flowers in her hair, and he heard Bryan exhale behind him. Even Andrew had to admit she was beautiful, and he smiled at her as she made her way down the aisle. Just behind Pam came Antonio and Greg, looking very dapper in their pint-sized tuxedos.
He tried to take it all in — to capture it all on the impressionable film of his mind. He wanted to remember this feeling and every, single detail forever, and yet he was afraid if he missed something, some important moment, all of it might be lost to him forever.
However, he needn’t have worried for at that instant, she appeared at the doors on Irvin’s arm, stunningly radiant, and he knew if he lived forever, he would never forget this moment or this feeling.
Gabi peered out over the heads of the guests, and suddenly her knees went wobbly underneath her. How could anything in her life be this perfect? Surely this was just some unimaginably good dream. Surely this couldn’t really be happening to her. Andrew couldn’t really be standing there waiting for her at the end of the aisle, looking at her like that. Oh, to be able to capture this feeling and hold onto it forever.
“You ready?” Irvin asked, the concern in his voice evident as he looked at her.
“Yeah,” she said with a nod, and in her heart she knew it was true. “I’m ready.”
And together they stepped out into the bright sunshine.
Andrew could no longer feel his heart beating, and he knew for sure he was no longer breathing, but at the moment nothing besides her beauty — inside and out — was getting through to his brain. With every step she took toward him, his love for her grew. She was taking a leap of faith, a leap of love, a leap of pure trust in him, and he swore at that moment that he would never give her cause to regret that leap.
Her heart felt as though it might burst wide open when they reached the end of the carpet and Andrew stepped out to meet them.
On cue Irvin extended his hand, and Andrew shook it and smiled.
“You take care of her,” Irvin said, and seriousness and protection echoed in his voice.
Andrew nodded. “I will.”
Then Irvin turned to her and took her into his arms. “I love you, Miss T.”
“I love you, too, Irvin,” she said, and she knew that no father had ever loved his daughter as much as Irvin loved her at that moment.
He pulled away, smiled at her, and confidently relinquished her into Andrew’s care. She took Andrew’s offered arm, and as they walked forward to face a new life together, she knew with all her heart that this was as right as the world would ever be again.
Father Callihan smiled at them both. “Andrew and Gabriella have chosen a reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians,” he intoned as Andrew clutched Gabi’s hand tucked securely around his arm. “And now I will show you a way which surpasses all others. If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy, and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give everything I have to feed the poor and hand over my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
“Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not prone to anger; neither does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure.
“Love never fails. Prophecies will cease, tongues will be silent, knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect, and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I shall know even as I am known.
“There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these… is love.”
In the depth of her very soul, Gabi knew the absolute foundational truth of those words for, in fact, it was love that had led her through the darkness of her past, through all the struggles, through all the pain into this place of wondrous light, standing by a man she would love forever, surrounded by friends whose love never failed, and with love on their side, she had no doubt that absolutely anything was possible. That, in the end, no matter what else happened, there was and always would be… love.
Sneak Peek at another Best Selling Christian Romance
From Staci Stallings
MORE THAN THIS