Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Chapter 3

Joffrey, one of his father’s scouts asked, “My Prince, is your head screwed on straight?”
“Joffrey, shut it before I shove my foot up your ass.”
“Yes, my liege.” The man gave a mocking bow. “I will just point out that your father will be furious when he finds out.”
“I do not have time to wait for his decision,” Bane growled. “Now, hand it over.”
“Fine but I do so under protest.” The man pulled out a sack and tossed it at him.
Inside was a crushed herb that would neutralize the sleeping powder the witch had given her grandson. Luckily for him, it was odorless and undetectable.
 Staring down at the bag in his hand and the sketch of a rather handsome man, Ryder had the strongest urge to scream. Holding back was causing his left eye to twitch.
How the hell was Ryder suppose to find a specific werewolf in a forest this size?! It wasn’t as if he could use magic to track him. And if he by chance ran into another werewolf Ryder doubted they would have been very cooperative.
Yeah, that conversation would go well.
“Hey, would you happen to know where your prince is?” He asked the air.
Ryder stepped forward, turned around and deepened his voice when he spoke. “Why do you ask?”
He spun. “Why? Well, you see I kind of need to kidnap him, or a lot of people are going to die. Judging from the look on your face you won’t be helping me.”
Ryder sprung around, let out a pathetic rawr and pretended to have claws, slashing at the air.
Spinning once again, he held up his hands to ward off his imaginary assailant. “Ah, no, no, there is no need for claws. I am just going to fuck off now.”
Shoulders sagging, he let out a heaving sigh. Even if he did find Prince Bane, it wasn’t likely the man would follow him blindly to his grandmother’s…or stand patiently by and let him throw the sleeping powder in his face. The whole plan was utterly ridiculous.
Ryder’s father’s pale face, his mother's cries, and his King’s look of anguish all flashed in his mind. Ridiculous or not, he had no choice. No matter how difficult, or wrong, Ryder would do it. 
Shaking his head, he folded the paper and slipped it into one of his cloak pockets. And with a heavy heart, Ryder walked deeper into the forest.
His jaw dropped when he turned the bend and came face to face…face to chest with the man he was looking for.
Oh, the drawing had not done the man justice. Bane was the kind of man Ryder would climb in an instant. Well, he would if men like Bane were interested in someone like him. Most weren’t.
But damn. The werewolf prince was all rugged, tan, probably over six foot, with deep-set brown eyes, a hawkish nose, muscles Ryder would love to lick, and a very, very, biteable bottom lip. Oh, and that five o’clock shadow
Rudely interrupting Ryder’s thoughts, Bane asked, “What are you doing here little boy?”
Cheeks heating, he proceeded to fumble his words. “Um, I, well, you see…” His fumbling came to a screeching halt when Ryder realized what Bane had called him. “Little boy?! I am not a child!”
"Oh? Apologies.” The man smirked. “I was fooled by your lack of height. Though, my question still stands.”
Ryder’s hand clenched around the bag, but instead of glaring, as he wanted to, he smiled. “I’m here for you,” he announced, tossing the black powder in Bane’s face.
Face scrunching up, Bane sneezed.  “What…” The word came out slurred as he stumbled back and began to sway. Seconds later Bane’s eyes rolled back, and he dropped to the ground with a loud thump. 
Looking at the man’s collapsed body, Ryder snorted, “Well, that was easy.”
With Bane laying on the ground, Ryder had a chance to take all of him in. And all of him was a hell of a lot of man           
How the fuck was he supposed to get Bane back to his grandmother’s?
Ryder rubbed his face—this was going to suck.
Thirty minutes later
With a grunt, Ryder dragged Bane the last few feet to his grandmother’s door.
Wiping the beads of sweat from his brow, he hated to admit it, but he felt a bit woozy. His chest heaved, sweat poured off of him everywhere, and there was a stinging pain in his side. Ugh, Ryder needed to work out more.
The door opened, and his grandmother gave him a very judgmental look. “Took you long enough.”
“Well, excuse me! You could have gotten off your ass and helped.”
She slapped his stomach. “Maybe if you were in better shape you wouldn’t have struggled.”
Gasping in outrage, he snapped, “I’m four foot and eleven fucking inches tall! Losing a little weight will not change that or make Prince Bane any less of a damn giant!” 
“You shouldn’t swear dear,” She tsked.  
“Whatever! Help me get him inside.”
“If you insist,” his grandmother sighed, sounding put out.
Should have just left the man in the middle of the forest and let her figure out how to bring him back, Ryder thought grumpily.
Together they dragged Bane into the dining room, where Ryder promptly collapsed on a chair with the plan to not move for an extended period of time.
“So now what?” Ryder asked once he caught his breath.
Her head tilted, and an odd glint entered her eyes. One that caused the hair on the back of his neck to rise. “That is none of your concern. I’ll take care of the plague myself. You are free to leave.”
His grandmother knew him well enough to know he wouldn’t just leave, so he wasn’t sure why she’d even suggest it.
“The hell it’s not. I am not leaving here without the cure in hand. Or without seeing sleeping beauty there…” He nodded to Bane. “…leaving in one piece.”
“Then we are at an impasse.” Her eyes shined bright, but this time Ryder recognized it for what it was—glee. It was a look that usually led to something unpleasant.
What happened next, Ryder should have seen coming.
His grandmother grabbed his arm, and a shooting electric pain ran through him. Gasping, he tried to pull away, but her grasp was like an iron claw. The surging pain was her calling to his powers.
She was taking the steps that one would if they were trying to steal another’s magic. However, a sorcerer’s powers could not be taken unless near death. Something even novelist sorcerers and sorceress knew, which meant she had another outcome in mind.
Since he was at full health, his magic was fighting back, and it was using his energy to do so. That energy would quickly run out and with it his strength.
“What do you think you are doing?” He managed to ask through clenched teeth.
“You are perfect, so ripe for the taking. Unfortunately, even I do not have it in me to just kill and eat you.” With her free hand, she caressed his face. “So, I’ll leave it to the werewolf prince. Even digested your magic will still be there.”
Holy shit, his grandmother was completely insane, was Ryder’s last thought as he passed out.

Chapter 4
Keeping up the ploy of unconsciousness had been a feat. The only thing that had stopped Bane from laughing as the little redhead struggled to drag him was the pain of his back scraping against the ground.  He sure as hell had heard Joffrey cracking up in the distance—bastard.
It had been torturous doing nothing while the crazy ass bitch had attacked her own grandson. But it did not compare to the skin-crawling experience of being stripped and dragged naked across the floor and down some stairs.
However, Bane had managed. And when he felt a small, very naked body bump against his, he had to force himself to wait patiently for Mora to leave.
Eyes snapping open the minute she left, he peered around the room. It was made of stone and had the feel of a dungeon. The only light came from a small barred window high on the far wall. The spells on the stones would make escaping a bit difficult. Sadly, as long as the magic wasn’t directed at him, it would hold up.
Ryder was curled up next to him, most likely reacting to the chill in the air. Being a werewolf, Bane’s body exuded heat, so the cold didn’t bother him.
He knew it was wrong, but couldn’t help but oogle a bit. Bane loved a man with a little meat on his bones, and his cock stirred as he examined Ryder.
From what Bane could see, Ryder was plump in all the right places. His stomach slightly rounded with an amazing bubble butt that would be perfect to grab onto as Bane pounded into him.
When Ryder shuddered and tried to curl up more, Bane pulled him into his arms. Once this mess was over, Bane would do his damnedest to get a taste of the sorcerer. But right now, he had more important things to consider. Like the fact that Ryder’s grandma wanted to eat both of them. Well, she intended to eat Bane after he ate Ryder. Either way, it was disturbing.
 How insane was Mora to actually believe werewolves ate people? 
Bane grimaced—they had, but that was in the early days. Considering what she was planning to do, she really had no room to judge.
He peered back down at Ryder. Should he wait for the man to wake up to escape or just leave now? If Bane had assumed correctly, what Mora had done to Ryder would keep him from stirring for hours.
Or not, he thought as Ryder began to groan and shift in his arms.
“Well, now, it appears Mora has made more than one miscalculation,” Bane mused. 
Ryder blinked and gazed hazily up at him. His eyes quickly widened, and a lovely flush spread over the man’s skin. Wiggling, Ryder broke out of his grasp and slid away. When the man sat up, he covered himself.  Bane didn’t do the same, shifting meant he spent a lot of time around people naked.
“Uh, hi?” Ryder croaked. He was shaking a bit, probably more from weakness now than the cold. And it appeared that Ryder was doing his best not to look at him.
Bane grinned—how adorable! “We are in quite a predicament, aren’t we?”
 Ryder was starting to think his grandmother was right. Bane sure as hell looked like he wanted to eat him. Considering Ryder's physical shape he was almost positive it wasn’t sexual.
“Um…sorry for kidnapping you.” Once the words were out, Ryder felt like smacking himself.
Yes, Ryder, a simple apology really makes up for drugging a guy and dragging him to your crazy ass cannibal grandmother, he thought sarcastically.
Bane smirked, “We can discuss that later. Let’s worry about escaping right now.”
A bout of dizziness hit causing Ryder to sway. Bane was there to stop his fall, and he found himself sitting on the man’s lap. He hadn’t even seen Bane move.
“Woah, careful there. I suppose you don’t have access to your magic.”
Trembling, Ryder ignored his embarrassment at being exposed and clung to Bane. “I can feel it, but I am too weak to break the spells around the room.”
“Guess we will have to break them the old fashion way.” Bane set him off his lap and stood.
Brows wrinkling, Ryder asked, “What is the old fashion way?”
Banes brown eyes glowed red. “Brute strength.” The words came out in a growl as Bane fell to all fours, his body beginning to ripple.
The sound of bones snapping and skin tearing sent a sense of dread through Ryder. The noises were unnatural, the groans and growls inhuman. When it was all over, the creature let out an ear-piercing howl.
In the short time it took for Bane’s features to change, and for his massive body to become that of a wolf taller than Ryder in height, he was reminded of why werewolves were feared. They had claws that could easily slice through skin, razor sharp fangs and a bite with enough force behind it to crush a skull like a twig.
Ryder gulped as the fully transformed Bane looked at him.
“Don’t worry Little Red Ryder. I don’t eat cute as a button sorcerers,” the wolf growled before jumping and charging at the barred window.
The room shook as Bane clashed against the magical barricade. After the fourth hit, Ryder felt a crack form in the invisible barrier. It caused enough of a disturbance that it drew his grandmother to them.
Rushing down the stairs, Mora began to cast a spell, but Ryder was faster. And using his anger to fuel him, he cast the most formidable protection spell he knew. Unfortunately, Ryder failed to solidify it and the wall that would have usually held steady needed to be continually fueled by his magic—magic that was burning through the little energy he had left.
Forcing himself to keep going, the thundering noise created by Bane slamming into the barriers and his grandmother’s shrieks echoed in his ears. Ryder’s arms shook more and more with each spell she threw against his wall.
Ryder knew he couldn’t keep this up forever. While he had never reached the limit of his magic, use had nothing to do with that limit. Strong magic was worthless if you didn’t have the strength to wield and maintain it. Stamina mattered. Ryder knew how much his body could handle and he had already past his breaking point.
An explosion rocked the room. Bane had broken his grandmother's spell, the magical backlash flinging her back. Debris flew over his head, and dust rained down on him, but besides his ears ringing, he hadn’t been harmed.
Shaking from exhaustion, Ryder flopped to the floor. Back in human form, Bane came over to Ryder, gathered him in his arms and jumped through the hole in the wall.
He listened to Bane’s speeding heartbeat as the man carried him off into the forest. Ryder did not know where they were going, or what was going to happen, but he knew this was far from over.
Okay, it is not really the end, but if you are interested in finding out what happens to Ryder and Bane keep an eye out for the full story. I plan to release it later this year.

Stephan’s Monster

Jayden knows he’s a monster. The people he killed were horrible, but it didn’t change what he was. And being taken in by Stephan Everwood at fifteen hadn’t changed his homicidal tendencies. Yet ten years later he finds himself struggling to be someone he's not. Then, despite thinking he lost most of his emotions years ago, Jayden discovers that not only is he not as empty inside as he thought, but that his monster is more present than ever before.

Stephan freely admits he has some issues. His self-doubts could be unrelenting and Stephan’s need to fix things tended to go too far. It blinded him to Jayden’s struggles. In the end his refusal to listen to what Jayden was trying to tell him has unfortunate results. When Stephan finally accepts who Jayden is, he must also face all that he had locked away inside.

Their difficulties brought them together. Their love healed them. And when the past tries to tear them apart, their darkness saved them.

Clutching tightly, the man pulled him back around. “Let me help!” His voice was rushed, higher than before, and slightly panicked. “We can turn him over to the authorities, the Zaytari. Evidence! We can find evidence and turn it in. You’ve been in his head, haven’t you?”
Jayden scowled at the hand on his arm—he wasn’t a fan of being grabbed, and Stephan seemed to be doing it a lot. “I have.”
“Then we’ll know where to find proof,” he insisted, completely ignoring Jayden’s irritation.
“Stephan, if you haven’t noticed, poor Richard here is a little banged up. A bit hard to play it off as nothing, don’t you think?” Jayden nodded toward the bloody man.
Nose wrinkling, Stephan hesitantly said, “I can fix that…the only issue would be his memories. We would need someone to get rid of them.” He nibbled on his bottom lip. “I may be able to hire someone. I just need time.”
“I can do it.”
“You can?” Stephan sounded surprised.
Running his fingers through his hair, Jayden grimaced. Apparently, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut tonight.
What was wrong with him? Jayden had no intention of letting Richard leave here alive. Ugh, his whole night of murderous fun had been shot to hell.
Who was Stephan anyway? Not to mention, why the hell was he believing everything Jayden said? Was the man really that naïve? It didn’t make sense. He shouldn’t be, not with what he had experienced. Was this a trap?
It would have been nice if Jayden had a way to find out. Unfortunately, the man’s mental walls were solidly back in place.
Eyeing him suspiciously, he asked, “Who are you?”
Jayden stalked closer and invaded the man’s personal space, brushing up against him. “Who are you, Stephan? What are you doing here?”
Stephan released his arm and staggered a few steps back. “I own this building. A construction crew is coming to tear it down in a few days. I wanted to make sure no one was living here. As for who I am? I’m not sure how to answer that.”
Stephan’s words were a mixture of truths and deceptions. “I don’t like being lied to, Stephan. I would suggest…” Jayden trailed off when something clicked into place.
He hissed, jerking as the walls and floors of the warehouse were suddenly drenched in blood with bodies scattered on the floor all around him.
It wasn’t real, just a phantom hiding what was actually there. A vision brought on by a memory—one that faded away moments later.
Jayden hated having these visions. They left him defenseless and unaware of his surroundings. While this one had been short, others had lasted hours. When he was locked into a memory, someone could stab him, and he wouldn’t even notice—until he pulled free, that is. And he knew that for a fact, as it had happened.
God, why couldn’t Jayden have been born just a little bit more normal? He was almost positive that the average vampire didn’t have to deal with shit like that. At least he didn’t think they did—Jayden didn’t really have any friends.
“This is where it happened, where they hurt you, where you killed them…”
“How could you afford to buy it?”
The man laughed bitterly. “My parents were rich.”
“I see.” He struggled to find something else to say.
Stephan’s shoulders slumped and his bottom lip began to tremble. The man seemed so sad, and for some reason that angered him.
Jayden glared down at the ground. Why was he angry? He shouldn’t be feeling anything. Was it the man’s past? Jayden rubbed his chest at the uncomfortable feelings running through him. He had the strongest urge to run away.
Maybe if he humored the man, he would leave—no harm in that, right?
Jayden gave Stephan a tight smile. “Let’s try it your way…however, if it doesn’t work, I will kill him. Though with how much blood Richard has lost, it’s probably too late anyway.”
“I can do it.”
Jayden stepped back and gave a mocking bow. “If you say so.”
Arms hanging loose, Stephan closed his eyes. He tilted his head back and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes again, his pupils had been replaced by solid pools of lilac.
Jayden gasped, a cold shiver running through him as power swirled around the room. There was so much of it, and all of it was coming from Stephan. The very air was shifting—he had never felt anything like it. Hair standing on end, Jayden felt he should run away—to not trust the force around him.
Suddenly the air settled. The power hadn’t vanished, though. It was still thickening the air. His lungs stuttered as he struggled to draw in a full breath under its weight. Whoever Stephan was, he was dangerous.

Adult Excerpt:
Jayden was just going to go for it. He wanted Stephan to feel pleasure, and he wanted the little man to feel comfortable with his needs—to not fear them.
At a small nod, Jayden wasted no time. He picked Stephan up and set him on the edge of the tub. Squawking, Stephan tried to cover his erection.
“You’re beautiful. Please don’t hide from me.”
Trembling hands slowly slid away. He licked his lips. The view in front of him had his dick throbbing. Jayden found his gaze following water droplets and bubble suds as they traveled down the man’s smooth skin. Stephan’s legs were slim, his waist trim, and his stomach perfectly flat.
Besides what was on his head, the only hair on the man’s body was a neatly trimmed patch of curls at the base of his five-inch cock. Stephan’s prick twitched ever so slightly as pre-cum dripped from its tip. The view was mouthwatering.
He grabbed a bathing poof and lathered it up with a bodywash that smelled of lilies. Running the sponge up and down Stephan’s neck, Jayden used swirling motions to spread the sweet-scented foam over the man’s collarbone. Lower down, he gently brushed against Stephan’s erect pink buds.
The little man’s eyes dilated and his lips parted as the textured poof rasped against his nipples—small tremors ran through him. Stephan’s breathing grew heavy, and the scent of his lust thickened.
The man looked so beautiful in his arousal, but Jayden would have to watch him closely. He didn’t want to draw out Stephan’s fear again.
As Jayden washed Stephan, he soon found out how very sensitive the man’s body was. Stephan shifted and whimpered, his breath hitching each time Jayden found a spot.
Not wishing to scare him, Jayden was quick as he slid between the man’s rounded cheeks. Continuing on, he covered every delectable inch of him with suds until all that was left was Stephan’s swollen prick and tight sack.
Sweat dripped down Jayden’s face as he looked at the last bit left untouched—he felt almost light-headed. The heat from the water and that his arousal left him dizzy. The only clear thought in his mind was that he wished to possess the man in front of him—Jayden wanted to make Stephan his.
After dropping the poof, hand completely soaped up, Jayden wrapped it around Stephan’s cock. The man jerked in shock at his touch.
Instead of rubbing the twitching flesh in his grasp, Jayden remained still, waiting to see how Stephan would react.
Swaying, the little man grabbed his shoulder to stabilize himself. “J-Jade,” Stephan whined.
When the stench of fear never came, Jayden ran his hand up and down Stephan’s shaft. Pre-cum and suds mixed together as he pumped the man’s throbbing prick.
The soft moans that drifted past Stephan’s lips strengthened Jayden’s excitement. Each drop of pre-cum he drew from the man had his own leaking out.
Jayden’s gaze kept flitting between what his hand was doing and his lover’s face. Either view was worth dying for. He cupped the man’s balls with his other hand, then gently squeezed and massaged the tight sack.
“Oh God, Jayden…” Stephan cried.
Jayden focused on the look of pleasure on the man’s face. Stephan’s eyes were hazy, his lips slightly parted. He had his head tilted back, seeing nothing—just feeling and taking in every touch.
But Jayden had no intention of letting the man come this way. He wanted to bring him with his mouth, to have his sweet release on his tongue. To savor Stephan’s first taste of pleasure in years.
Releasing him, Jayden pulled away.
“What…” Stephan muttered in a daze.
“I want to taste you, sweetheart. Will you let me?”
Stephan’s brow furrowed, looking so adorably confused. Chuckling, Jayden slowly ran a finger up the underside of the man’s cock. “I want to suck this.”
The pleasure clouding Stephan’s face faded a bit. “S-suck?” the man sputtered.
Jayden wiggled his eyebrows. “Suck,” he purred.
Stephan nodded stiffly. Permission given, Jayden grabbed the showerhead and sprayed Stephan’s crotch. The man squealed in indignation at the sudden assault of water, shying away.
Hands gripping Stephan’s thighs, Jayden grinned. He slid down into the water until he was eye level with the man’s hard length. “Sorry, I’ve never liked the taste of soap.”
Stephan started to say something, but it ended in a choked gasp as Jayden took his cock fully down his throat. Nuzzling into his trimmed curls, he breathed in the man’s musky, sweet scent—caramel with a hint of pistachio.
Jayden ran his hands up and down Stephan’s trembling thighs. And for just a few moments, he stared into the man’s glazed eyes, savoring the taste of him—then he swallowed.
“Jayden!” Stephan cried out, his hands threaded through Jayden’s hair, gripping the strands tightly. He writhed as Jayden massaged his cock with his throat.
When he pulled off, Stephan let out a whine of protest. But Jayden ignored his pleas and blew a few puffs of cool air on the spit-covered tip before flicking his tongue against Stephan’s slit. The man moaned and arched toward him as he licked the mushroom head and captured every dollop of pre-cum with his tongue.
Only when Stephan’s whimpers and moans echo through the room did Jayden finally take him back into his mouth. Then, hollowing his cheeks, he began to suck, bobbing up and down on Stephan’s cock.

Author’s Bio:

            Books have always been a big part of Shelby Rhodes’ Life. Unfortunately, growing up writing had been a constant struggle for her. So, even with her head filled with stories she never tried to write them down.

            It took two degrees in painting, one a master’s degree, for her to finally gain the confidence to explore writing as a creative outlet. Now writing has become a way for her to dive into new adventures and explore new worlds.

            With confidence she fully intends to explore everything that has been stuck in her head for years. It is her hope that others will join her on her adventures.




  1. Oooo, will have to keep a look out for this full story.

  2. Cliff hanger! Such suspense.......I will be looking forward to this story when it comes out!

  3. ouch... what a cliffhanger!!!~ thank you for the story...

  4. Ugh. I will be looking for the whole story later this year.

  5. No fair in teaser story. Looking forward to the full story.


  6. Tease.
    Now I'll have to look out for the full story later on.
    Mouse63aus at yahoo dot com

  7. loved it,cant wait for the full story. jools61@hotmail.com

  8. Intriguing - will be looking for the rest when it is available prmgunn@gmail.com

  9. Can’t wait for the full story. Thank you

  10. Definitely going to be watching for this book.

  11. I can only assume the werewolves are gonna help with the illness now since grandma clearly won't, look forward to seeing the full story

  12. Oooh Shelby, the stories you provide. sheryl1979.10@gmail.com

  13. I loved it and I liked "The End?" I would love to read more.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  14. Nooooo no fair i wanted to know why he didnt rip grandma's head off whilst yhey had the chance lol xx catherinecooper11@yahoo.com

  15. Not a nice ending!!!! LOL. Thanks for sharing.


  16. Love this story.but now I want to know more..

  17. Me wants my precious! Love it, thanks for sharing!!

  18. I hope the book comes out soon!

  19. Cherri HollingsworthApril 10, 2018 at 4:11 AM

    Love it Cherri_hollingsworth@yahoo.com

  20. Yes,I will be getting this one.

  21. Grandma deserves a butt whooping! Now onto the fun stuff! 😉

  22. OMG I ca n NOT wait for the full story hurry hurry write fast. Wish I was magic I would send it to you for it to be finished now. Thanks much loved it.

  23. I can’t wait to read the full story. Neksis91@gmail.com

  24. So good. Can't wait to read the full story. colby69@verizon.net

  25. Ya tease!!!! Lol can’t wait


  26. That’s just cruel, leaving us hanging like that👀😳😁. Got to get the full book now!

  27. wow that's looking good hopefully won't have to wait too long for the full story


  28. Will be waiting Bobbi

  29. Definitely need to read the full book! :)

  30. Fabulous story. Looking forward to reading what you have in store for Prince Bane and Little Red Ryder.
    j dot stonewright at gmail dot com

  31. Great story, looking forward to reading the full book.


  32. Omg, can't wait for the full story. That was awesome!

  33. Can’t wait for the full story.

  34. I'm looking forward to the fleshed out story!
    jlshannon74 at gmail.com

  35. Later can't come soon enough, I need the rest of the story.


  36. Can't wait for the book to come out!


  37. interesting part
    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  38. Really looking forward to the full book!


  39. I will be on the lookout for this book

  40. Oh wow can't wait to read the whole story thanks for the ride...

  41. Wow! I can't wait to read the rest of the book when it comes out.

  42. Oh, can't wait for more.

  43. "Crazy Ass Cannibal Grandmother" !! LMAO ... This is so good and I can't wait for the whole story to come out. I love variations on the theme of Red Riding Hood and this one is by far, the most unique one in a long time. Great job teasing us .. mksublett47@gmail.com



As we bring this ManLove Fantasies Contest to a close, I would like to thank all the readers who left such wonderful, uplifting messages...