More visual inspiration-excerpt #3

April 7, 2013

Since my novel spans so many years I needed a vision of an older Preston and Konrad so I trolled the internet for more images. I don’t know if other writers work this way, but as I said, I need a visual or a playlist to help me along. Of course I could continue to use more images of Nacho Figueras, the to-die-for face of Ralph Lauren Polo, but I had someone a little different in mind.

Here’s an older Preston and Konrad, plus another excerpt.

This scene takes place in Seville, Spain where the boys have gone to check out the Andalusian horses.

The next morning, we took a bus to a stud farm in Jerez de la Frontera. We passed the two-hour drive by feasting on the bocadillos we’d purchased at the bar near the hostel. The “sandwiches” were stuffed with salty Iberian ham and goat cheese, and we shared a wedge of cold potato omelet spiked with chorizo. Two liters of mineral water helped to wash down the hefty breakfast, and then we napped the rest of the way. By the time we arrived at Finca Mejia, where the horses were bred and controlled, we were eager to begin our tour.

I’d never seen an Andalusian, although I’d heard about this special breed. Anyone who loved horses knew they existed, but few had the money to own one. Highly prized as a warhorse, due to their speed and agility, their numbers had dwindled throughout the centuries. After reaching dangerously low levels, exportation of mares had been strictly forbidden to give Spanish and Portuguese breeders the opportunity to develop and expand their stock. The majority of them were bred here in the Andalusia province of Spain, thus the name. In Portugal they were called Lusitanos. Universally, they were known as the pure Spanish or Iberian horse.

Kon and I sat side by side with other prospective buyers and horse aficionados, hardly able to contain our excitement. The owner of this particular stud farm was quite aware of the impact his animals made as they entered the arena. There was a collective murmur from the crowd when the string of horses stopped within ten feet of the wooden fence separating them from the audience. They were magnificent! Most of them were gray and averaged fifteen and a half hands. Abundantly thick manes and long flowing tails set low and tight against their bodies, were distinctive features.

Before the animals were allowed to circle the ring so we could admire them from different angles, the owner gave a brief lecture on the origin of this ancient breed. In heavily accented English, he explained that these horses had lived on the Iberian Peninsula for thousands of years. Known for their strong but elegant build, they were prized as a war or cavalry horse until mounted knights began using heavier and heavier armor. They were soon replaced with larger but slower moving draft horses. The trend was later reversed with the development of firearms and the need for a more rapid and agile animal.

“Why were they in such demand?” a visitor asked. “They’re good looking but so is the Arabian.”

The owner of the farm was a white-haired gentleman who sat on a horse like a warrior. The pride in his voice was clearly evident as he extolled the virtues of this particular breed. “These horses evolved in hilly and rugged terrains, señor. Fighting for survival and grazing amidst the rocky landscape led to the development of a strong arched neck, hind legs positioned well underneath the body, with strong hock action, and small rounded hoofs. These attributes make the horse much more agile than the standard Arabian or other breeds, and they are, without a doubt, quite beautiful.”

“I see,” the man nodded.

“But your prices are outrageous,” another person commented. “I can buy two thoroughbreds for the price of one Andalusian.”

“You can also drive a Fiat rather than a Mercedes,” the Spaniard acknowledged haughtily. “Furthermore, your attitude has already cost you one of my animals. I suggest you visit another stud farm if you intend to buy.”

“My money is as good as anyone else’s,” the guy volleyed.

“It’s not always about money,” the Spaniard replied. “I’m very selective about my buyers. I would never sell one of my horses to anyone who couldn’t fully appreciate its value.”

“Bah!” the prospective buyer spat out before standing and blundering out of the arena.

“Shall we proceed?” the Spaniard asked coldly, scanning the rest of us to see if there were other visitors who wanted to join the deserter.

“Yes,” the group begged collectively.

What followed was an educational afternoon, learning about his magnificent animals, their care, their bloodlines, and their availability. We drifted off into small groups, each with a guide, so we could ask questions and take our time without worrying about someone else’s agenda. Our companion was Miguel, a young Gaucho about Kon’s age. He walked and talked with the swagger of ownership, which prompted me to ask, “Are you a family member?”

“Don Alvaro is my grandfather.”

“The old dude?”

Si.” Yes, he said, nodding.

“Is he as tough as he sounds?”

Miguel laughed. “Tougher.”

“I know all about those kind of men,” I admitted. “My Dad is demanding as hell.”

Abuelo loves his animals more than anything else.”

Konrad whistled suddenly and we stopped. “Now, that is a beauty,” he said, walking toward a frisky young mare that pranced as he approached. She was dark gray with a snowy white mane and tail. Her oval eyes sparkled with intelligence, and she bobbed her head as Kon got closer, acknowledging his presence with a flick of her tail and a flutter of long lashes.

“She’s flirting with him,” I said, astounded.

Es una coqueta, a teaser,” Miguel said.

“She’s a sweetheart,” Kon said, stroking her gently. “What’s her name?”

“Dulce,” Miguel said. “It means ‘sweet’.”

“What a perfect name,” Kon said admiringly. “May I ride her?”

“What is your profession if you don’t mind my asking?” Miguel stated, trained to cross-examine potential riders.

“I’m a professional polo player.”

Miguel looked Konrad up and down appreciatively. His eyes lingered a little too long, in my opinion, making my hackles rise. The young Spaniard was just as hot as Kon in a swarthier, dark-haired kind of way. If I hadn’t been so madly in love, I would have paid a lot more attention to the slim-hipped brunet who was staring at Konrad with blatant interest.

More Inspiration-Excerpt #2

April 7, 2013

Once the idea was firmly planted, I needed an image of my own characters to keep me inspired. I like them to stick around while I’m writing so I usually have them as a header on the current chapter I’m working on. Preston is thirteen in this next scene and the young model below fit the image in my head.

Konrad is eighteen, blond, blue-eyed, and buff. This guy fit the part.

Here’s a scene from Konrad’s first introduction into professional polo.

I stared out the window, paying little attention to the landscape which was miles and miles of steaming hot nada. August in Texas wasn’t exactly paradise, so there were no distractions from my melancholy thoughts. It never occurred to me that Konrad might change as well, but of course it was a very real possibility. I’d had his undivided attention for three years, and it would be over by the end of next week. Once we were let loose in the world, there’s was no telling what could happen.

I got a little preview of the future as soon as we drove past the great willow tree marking the entrance of the club. A small crowd of people gathered near the clubhouse, greeting players and their retinue. I assumed these were the big shots in charge of the tournament. I recognized a few faces from pictures I’d seen in polo magazines and was impressed anew. One of the greatest Texans to play the sport, Cecil Smith, now in his late seventies, was a part of the group, along with the owner of the club, Norman Brinker. They were meeting and greeting the arrivals, and when our turn came, Konrad was acknowledged with backslapping enthusiasm.

“So you’re the young man Cecil has been jawing about,” Mr. Brinker remarked. “Welcome to Willow Bend.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“I’m glad you could make it, son,” Cecil added, joining in the conversation.

“Thank you for the opportunity, sir,” Konrad said, removing his hat respectfully and shaking the older man’s hand with the same reverence he’d have paid God. If Konrad idolized anyone it was Cecil Smith. The legendary wrangler-turned-polo- player had been instrumental in arranging for Kon’s invitation to play in this tournament.

In his prime, Cecil Smith had been a 10 goal player for twenty-six consecutive years, the highest ranking one could attain in the sport. He’d also been credited with taking polo out of the drawing room and into the bunkhouse. His glory days had marked the zenith of American Polo, and long after he’d retired in 1967, he had continued to ride and train polo ponies on his ranch out in Boerne, not too far from our San Antonio home. He was always on the lookout for homegrown talent, and Konrad had caught his eye a while back. It was always a great source of pride for Cecil whenever a local boy could stick it to the millionaires and upper-class stiffs. He had shown the world that one needn’t be a blue blood to succeed in polo. All you needed was talent, guts, and a love for the sport and the animals that were the true players. Without a good pony you were nothing.

“Go out there and make me proud, son.”

“Yes, sir…thank you, sir,” Konrad stammered, tripping over his words in embarrassment.

“And who’s this young man?” Cecil asked, finally acknowledging my presence.

“This here is Pres, Mr. Smith. He’s an upcoming rider and acting as my groom today.”

“A good groom is harder to come by than a wishing well in the middle of Hill Country,” he drawled. “Are you any good, boy?”

“I try to be, sir.”

“Tryin’ is only good in horseshoes, Pres. Grooms are the unsung heroes of polo and I would expect you to go the extra mile for your friend and his ponies. How many do you have?” he asked, turning back to Konrad.

“Just the two for now,” Kon admitted.

“You’re goin’ to need at least three more, son.”

“I understand, sir. I can’t afford them yet.”

“You show me what’s what this weekend and I’ll see what I can do about getting you another pony.”

Konrad’s mouth dropped open in shock. “I’ll do my best to make you proud, sir.”

“See that you do, boy…see that you do.” He doffed his Stetson at the two of us and walked off toward another group.

“Holy shit,” Konrad breathed.

“No pressure,” I said, grinning up at him.

He let out a whoop and dragged me off toward the stables. Kon’s parents and Monica had long since taken off to check into the motel rooms they’d booked for our stay. The clubhouse accommodations were allotted to the royals and other more famous players. We nobodies had to fend for ourselves.

I craned my head in all directions, trying to spy a world-renowned figure, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a group of men leading horses covered in red blankets with the letter H embroidered in gold. I assumed these were the Harriott horses belonging to the brothers from Argentina, some of the best players of our time.

“Stop gawking,” Kon scolded.

“Can’t help it,” I said. “Isn’t that Prince Charles?” I whispered, pointing out the familiar face.

“Don’t point!” Kon barked. “People will think we’re a bunch of hillbillies.”

“We are,” I reminded him.

“Shut up, Flea,” he said, prodding me forward. We were approached by a stable hand who showed us our assigned stall and encouraged us to make use of whatever we needed. There were bales of hay and bins of feed for the taking. I stopped thinking about celebrities and got down to the business of making our horses comfortable. While I pitched hay and mixed feed, Kon went to get his pair of ponies. I imagined myself in the role of player instead of helper. One day I’d be a part of this world and people would be waiting on me instead of the reverse. I hoped that my friendship with Konrad would withstand our separation. It was the only damper on the horizon but one I tried to rationalize as necessary to my growth. Mom had promised to let me return home each summer but assured me with a knowing smile that I’d stop wanting to after a while. I doubted it. Leaving Konrad was the hardest thing I’d do in my short life. There was a part of me that wanted time to stand still, but I knew that change was inevitable.

What Inspires A Story

April 7, 2013

A while back,I watched a Barbara Walters Special featuring Nacho Figueras. He’s one of the most easily recognized faces in professional polo, not only for his looks, but also his spectacular skills. The guy definitely inspired my muse and sparked a memory, which I banked for a time until I could create a story within this rarefied world.

Fire Horse is about two cowboys from San Antonio Texas, who fell in love with the sport, and not surprisingly, with each other. It spans thirty-five years, 1976 to the present, and takes us on a fast-paced and exciting journey from the arid plains of Texas to England, Spain, and beyond. I hope you get a chance to meet the characters in my new universe. Konrad Schnell is a home grown Texan while Preston Fawkes is the product of two very different cultures–a cowboy father and a very proper English mother. They’re both wonderfully complex and I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with these guys. I know I have.

Here’s the first excerpt:

San Antonio, Texas 1976

I was ten years old when I met Konrad Schnell, Monica’s only brother. Konrad, with a K, had been fifteen at the time, and already someone to be reckoned with on the polo field. Taller than the tallest person I knew―my dad―Kon was everything I wanted to be and more. I’d never have his golden hair or meaty limbs; I wasn’t built like that, but I did have the blue eyes, although not quite as arresting as his. Konrad stood out in a crowd, so good-looking he practically sparkled.

The kids had dubbed him Big Foot because his size-fifteen riding boots had to be custom made by a specialty shop in Dallas. He was graceless on the ground but fluid and masterful on horseback. I’d met him the day he spied me losing my balance on the wooden practice pony and tumbling headlong onto the dirt-packed floor. The sound of his throaty laugh had reverberated in the barn, and my first reaction was to retaliate, but his size was so intimidating I didn’t think I’d stand a chance.

Amazingly, Konrad stopped laughing as soon as he saw my flushed face and clenched fists. What he did instead was stick his big hands under my armpits and lift me back up on the pony as if I were weightless.

“Try and grip with your knees this time, kiddo, and don’t bend over too far. If this was the real McCoy, you’d be sporting hoofprints.”

“I wish I could practice on a real pony.”

“Why don’t you?”

“My dad gets pissed every time I mention it.”

“Then why did he join this club?”

“My mother’s a big fan so he signed up to keep the peace. As for me, he’d rather I learn how to rope and steer our cattle like a proper cowboy. He thinks polo is for rich guys who have nothing better to do than chase a ball across a field and flirt with the women in big hats.”

“It takes talent and guts to play the sport,” Konrad said heatedly. “He should try it sometime―maybe then he’d change his opinion.”

“He’d rather die than admit he’s wrong,” I said. “I don’t understand what my mom was thinking when she married him. He’s not right for her.”

Konrad hooted at my audacious statement. “What qualifies you as an authority on marriage?”

“I know when something isn’t working,” I said softly.

“You don’t know Jack, kiddo. Talk to me when your balls drop and they’re covered with hair.”

My mouth sagged open. No one in my immediate vicinity ever talked about body parts, especially mine.

Konrad punched my arm playfully when he saw the expression on my face. “Come on, you little flea. Show me some moves.”

His challenge had started the ball rolling and marked the beginning of the most important relationship in my life. I became Konrad’s shadow, and he took on the role as mentor, friend, and most importantly, champion. I think he was flattered by my open admiration, and knowing I was risking punishment by escaping to the Polo Club whenever I had a chance, had made every minute together count. I usually burst through the stable doors half an hour after school let out and his first question was always, “How much time do we have?”

Mom was our conspirator, managing the duplicity by concocting one excuse after another to keep Dad in the dark. She was still working on him to let me go to boarding school, but in the meantime, daily lessons by the local superstar would provide a good foundation for my future.

I was grateful Konrad bothered with me at all. He could have been out there carousing with his friends or warding off the beautiful women hovering around him like gnats, instead of futzing around with a snot-nosed kid who was too precocious for his own good. But we’d established a connection the afternoon he’d wiped the dirt off my breeches and plunked me back on Woody, the practice tool every aspiring polo player had to contend with. Some inexplicable thread had woven its way between the two of us and it grew tighter with each passing day.

He’d allowed me to hang out with him and his friends. The boys, all in their mid-teens, treated me like their mascot but used me like a stable boy, having me fetch and carry at will. It never felt degrading, though, only exciting. I knew I was being groomed by learning from the bottom up. Shoveling manure, and laying fresh hay for the polo ponies, was mixed in with impromptu tutorials on Woody’s back. The guys would point out my mistakes, and Konrad always stayed behind to make sure I didn’t dismount without correcting my blunders.

“It’s critical to your safety and everyone around you that you perfect this move, Flea.”

“I’m so bored,” I moaned and whined, complaining about the repetition.

“It’s a part of your training,” he’d say doggedly. “If you’re going to be a slacker, do it somewhere else.”

“Why can’t I practice on one of your ponies?”

“Not until I’m sure you won’t cause them any harm.”

Konrad treated his ponies like precious children. Later, I’d come to find out why. A polo player was only as good as his mount. The deep connection between rider and steed was never as apparent as it was in this fast and dangerous sport. They became extensions of each other, and a subtle press of knee or inadvertent pull on reigns could mean the difference between making a goal and flubbing the entire match. They had to be as fearless as their riders, galloping headlong toward goal posts while players all around them pushed and shoved them out of the way, screaming invectives, and did everything in their power to prevent them from reaching the other side. Without the element of trust between horse and rider, there was no hope of excelling on the field.

“The only way you can connect with your pony is through respect.”

“What do you mean?”

“Love them with all your heart but always be their master.”

“I’m not sure I understand you, Kon.”

“Feed them when they’re hungry, soothe them when they hurt, make sure they’re always warm and dry at night, but when you’re out on the playing field, whip them if necessary. By feeling your strength and positive energy, they’ll respond with equal enthusiasm. If you show fear or weakness, they’ll get skittish and back off.”

“Do I have to do anything special to show them I’m master?”

“Love them above anything else.”

“Do you?”

“Natch.”

Release Party and Giveaways

April 7, 2013

Hi all! I’d like to thank everyone for stopping by today to help me celebrate my new release, Fire Horse. Anyone who comments will be entered into a drawing for a free copy of the novel in either paperback or e-book format. Winners choice. The paperbacks will be signed and customized, but you’ll have to wait for the awfully slow crawl of snail mail delivery.

Please leave your email info when you comment so I’m not scrambling to find you at the end of the day. 3 winners will be chosen and I’ll make the announcement early Monday morning.

Let’s get started. First off, I want to thank the incredible Anne Cain for my cover art. She blew me away with her vision of my work and I couldn’t be more pleased. I am so honored to be a recipient of her amazing talent.

Here’s the official blurb for the novel. Also, an excerpt of the first chapter is now available on the Coming Soon page of the Dreamspinner site so I will be posting snippets from other chapters instead.

Fire Horse Blurb

Preston Fawkes is ten the first time he meets fifteen-year-old Konrad Schnell at the San Antonio Polo Club. Captivated by the mystique surrounding the sport of kings, Pres vows to learn the game at the hands of his newly acquired friend and mentor. The hero worship soon grows into something deeper, but the friends are separated when Preston goes off to boarding school in England.

The relationship that follows is riddled with challenges―their age gap, physical distance, and parental pressure taking precedence over feelings yet to be explored. Although their bond goes deep, they deal with the reality of their situation differently: Preston is open and fearless while Konrad is reticent and all too aware of the social implications of making a public stand.

Their paths intersect and twine, binding them as tightly as a cowboy’s lasso, but fate may alter their plans. How will love overcome the divots in the turf as they gallop toward the future—one where obstacles no longer stand in their way?

Stick around for the next post immediately following this one. I talk about the source of inspiration for this story.

Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling

November 19, 2012

Torn between honor and desire, John struggles to define who he is and what Gregorio could mean to him. Mayon by Mickie B. Ashling, available from Dreamspinner Press.

The Philippines, 1946

After being discharged from the Marines, John Buchanan takes a position as overseer for plantation owner Ignacio Saenz. The work is good, but the real draw for John is Mount Mayon, the active volcano looming in the island’s horizon. Finally he has a chance to put his interrupted studies in vulcanology into practice.

Gregorio Delgado, the current overseer, isn’t thrilled at being replaced. However, he can’t ignore his attraction to John, who appears to be a kindred spirit. But John throws mixed signals—and more importantly, he pays too much attention to Margarita, one of Ignacio’s marriageable daughters.

As John and Gregorio begin a tour of the haciendas, John discovers he has far more in common with his new acquaintance than he thought possible. Torn between honor and desire, John struggles to define who he is and what Gregorio could mean to him. Like the unpredictable volcano, equal parts beauty and danger, Gregorio becomes an obsession that could erupt at any minute and destroy them both.

Length: Novel | Genre: Historical: World | Buy as eBook | Buy as Paperback

Mickie B. Ashling’s blog tour for Mayon!

November 17, 2012

Please join Mickie B. Ashling in celebrating her newest release, Mayon, a historical romance set in the Philippines.  She’ll be making several stops and giving away a few e-books at a drawing after the tour is over.  Anyone who comments will be entered into the contest.  You can find her at:

November 17th – M/M Romance

November 18th – Book Junkie
November 19th – Armchair Reader
November 20th – Coffee and Porn in the Morning

Joyfully Jay
November 21st – Love to Read for Fun
November 22nd – Pants Off Reviews
November 23rd – Mamba’s Lair

Hope to see you there!

Daddio by Mickie B. Ashling

July 23, 2012

Lil and Grier’s romance continues in the third book of the Horizon Series. Daddio by Mickie B. Ashling, available from Dreamspinner Press.

Sequel to TasteHorizons Series: Book Three

Six months after meeting at the Taste of Chicago, Lil Lampert and Grier Dilorio are living together. Their physical bond glows brighter than ever, but the couple soon realizes that it takes more than three magic words and outstanding sex to make a partnership work.

Like any fledgling, Grier is learning how to navigate his new life. His problems should have ended when Jillian signed the papers acknowledging him as Luca’s biological father and he got the opportunity to pursue a career in interior design.  Instead, he’s hampered by old fears and bad habits that are hard to let go.

Adjusting to a small apartment in a four-season state—with a much younger man sporting a stubborn streak—is a challenge for Lil. His position as Luca’s “Daddio” is a delicate balancing act between doing what he thinks is right and deferring to Grier’s eight years of experience.

Life is stressed enough, but now Lil and Grier also face an unexpected complication from a powerful, far-reaching ruling body. Suddenly Luca’s safety—and their happiness as an emerging family—depends on Lil’s keen understanding of human nature and Grier’s willingness to learn.

Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Horizons Series by Mickie B. Ashling

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Cleave by Mickie B. Ashling

May 11, 2012

Sloan has a hard decision to make, go back to Cole or stay with Trent. What is the best for him? The third installment of Cutting Cords, Cleave by Mickie B. Ashling.

On New Year’s Eve, Cole Fujiwara stands vigil at his father’s deathbed while his surrogate wife, Noriko, gives birth to twins. As Cole contemplates his future, he acknowledges that he’s living his father’s dream… and that he’s probably destroyed his chance at happiness with Sloan, the love of his life.

Finding harmony in an emerging D/s relationship has not been without issue for Sloan Driscoll and his Master, Trent Hamilton. Their journey has been littered with mishaps, but their powerful love and sexual connection continue to bind them together—until Sloan comes face to face with Cole for the first time in nine months.

The meeting means different things to each of them. To Cole, it’s the first step on the path to a reunion. To Sloan, it’s a terrible mistake, one he confesses immediately. As for Trent, the bitter realization that a connection between the former lovers still exists forces him to issue an ultimatum. Is Sloan willing to do anything to prove their relationship is worth saving, including becoming Trent’s 24/7 slave? And if Sloan stays with Trent, how can Cole ever hope to find happiness again?

Series: Cutting Cords by Mickie B. Ashling
Genre: BDSM/Kink
Length: Novel
Pages: 230

Buy as eBook (available formats: .epub, .prc, .prc, html, pdf)
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Vessel by Mickie B. Ashling

October 7, 2011

Will Sloan find a way to deal with Cole’s ultimatum or will his forays into the world of BDSM end their relationship forever? Vessel by Mickie B. Ashling, available from Dreamspinner Press.


Sequel to Cutting Cords

Five years into their relationship, Sloan Driscoll’s peaceful existence is suddenly upended. His lover, Cole Fujiwara, gives him an ultimatum: agree to a surrogate birth or break up. Noriko Evans, a beautiful woman of Japanese/American descent, is handpicked by Cole’s father to be the surrogate. At the same time, Trent Hamilton, model and established Dominant, sets his eyes on Sloan, offering him another life choice.

Sloan is thrown off balance by this series of events he can neither understand nor control. He’d thought the topic of children had been laid to rest years ago, but with the advent of a new form of genetic testing, Cole’s fear of passing on retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that leads to blindness, has been greatly reduced. Noriko’s abrupt appearance threatens Sloan, as does Sloan’s attraction to Trent and a side of the BDSM world he’d never thought to explore.

Will Sloan be able to muster the inner strength he’ll need to deal with one shocking revelation after another, or will he succumb to a dangerous coping mechanism? His decisions will either lead to salvation… or hasten the end of the relationship that literally saved his life.

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Genre: BDSM/Kink
Length: Novel

Momentos: Mick’s Journey by Mickie B. Ashling

July 18, 2011

Follow Mick through the life and loves that bring him strength and joy. Momentos: Mick’s Journey by Mickie B. Ashling, available from Dreamspinner Press.

Before Mick Henley brought Paul Alcott and Tono Garat together in Loving Edits, it was simply Mick and Paul, two optimistic teenagers who began a love affair that would span twelve years—and leave an indelible mark on their lives.

The passionate young lovers shared a series of firsts before Paul’s harsh father drove a wedge between them, shattering their dreams and destroying everything Mick believed to be true about love. After Paul’s defection, Mick met Tono, a closeted Spanish athlete, who helped heal his broken heart.

From passionate highs to heartbreaking lows, Mick inspires the two most important men in his life and brings them together with his impending death. They’ll learn that all their memories, even the most difficult to bear, are precious and that love is the most amazing journey of all.

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