Voted by readers as Pepper’s best work to date.
THE BOY & HIS RIBBON (Ribbon Duet Book #1)
THE GIRL & HER REN (Ribbon Duet Book #2)
“What do you do when you meet your soul mate? No wait…that’s too easy. What do you do when you meet your soul mate and have to spend a lifetime loving him in secret?
I’ll tell you what you do.
Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn’t exist—that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.
His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.
But then…he ran.
He thought he’d run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.
I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.
My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.
At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.
For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.
But by the end…he loved me.
The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.
And slowly, my secret drove us apart.
THE BOY & HIS RIBBON, Book 1
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2p0pKQ3
“What do you do when you write down all your secrets? No…that’s not enough. What do you do when you write down all your secrets and the one person who should never read them does?
I’ll tell you what you do.
Ren didn’t know the meaning of love until he took Della for his own.
To begin with, he hated her, but as the months bled into years, he learned the opposite of hate, dedicating his life to giving her everything.
Every sacrifice, every gift, he gave wholeheartedly.
But then love turned to lust and ruined everything.
I was stupid to write down my secrets, but I’d been stupid before, so it was nothing new.
I couldn’t blame him, hate him, fix him.
I tried to move on without him.
But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to delete the secrets I’d written.
Until something happened.
Until he came back and read my stupid secrets.
And nothing was the same after that.
THE GIRL & HER REN, Book 2
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2FHfB4g
Your Questions Answered:
- Is this a Standalone?
No. It’s two books.
Now, let me explain why.
I never meant to write this book. I was having a little writer’s block with THE BODY PAINTER, and Ren and Della sprang into my head in a moment of weakness. I thought I’d write one chapter to appease them and be done with it. However, they held me hostage until I’d typed and typed and fell madly in love with them. Unlike my other books with a carefully plotted outline, this was entirely by the ‘seat of my pants’ and I followed where the characters took me. I didn’t try to rush their story. I didn’t try to make it longer to extend one book into two. I literally had no idea if it would be a novella, standalone, duet, or trilogy. I know waiting on a cliffhanger is highly frustrating BUT what I can promise you is…it’s worth it. I know that sounds rather odd to say, but I fully believe this is one of the best books I’ve written and I wouldn’t ask you to trust me and purchase the first book if I didn’t truly believe that. This book is chock full of angst, need, unrequited love, heart-breaking suspense, and that delicious anticipation that comes from two characters who belong together so desperately but take their sweet time seeing it. I didn’t want to rush that magic by condensing it into one book and promise you it’s not a marketing ploy or dragging out a story that could’ve been just one book.
2. How would you classify this book?
I would say it’s a quintessential romance. It’s the star-crossed feeling of first love, teenage desire, and all that magical intensity we all enjoyed when we were young, foolish, and head over heels. I’ve said it’s a Coming of Age novel as it truly is. There are no embellishments, no over the top personality disorders, no billionaires or unrealistic scenarios (which I will happily admit I’ve used in the past with my other books–what isn’t great about a bad boy tortured billionaire? :)). But like I said, THE BOY & HIS RIBBON is a COMPLETELY different story to what I usually write. It’s sweet, it’s sad, it’s NORMAL. It’s life in its complexity, simplicity, and frustrating self where growing up brings different trials each year for each person. I can’t explain it any better than that. IT IS REAL LIFE with farmhouses, animals, sickness, health, struggles, friendship, generous people, kind neighbours, and understanding friends. It’s a book I’m incredibly proud of and hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Anymore questions, feel free to ask me!
ADVANCE REVIEWS ON THE BOY & HIS RIBBON
Pepper Winters has penned the novel of the century with this masterpiece!
I’d even go so far as to say it’s her best work ever! There is no real way of describing this book! Other than it’s breathtaking, gut-wrenchingly beautiful, superbly poetic, and brutally raw! –Heather Pollock
This book has all the feels. Sadness, anger, gut wrenching heart ache, relief, hope and happiness, I felt it all. This book will forever be one of my all time favourite books, definitely one I’ll never forget and it’s left me desperate for more from Ren and Della. –Vickie Leaf
Pepper Winters I am sitting here with tears in my eyes and my heart utterly, irrevocably destroyed by your beautiful words and vision. You have written a masterpiece of unrequited love, a soul destroyer like no other. I don’t want to say too much, but this tale is not like anything I’ve read before. It will be one of my favourite stories for years to come.– Effie
FIRST CHAPTER TEASER
* * * * * *
“STOP! WILLEM, SHOOT him. Don’t let him get away!”
Bolting from the farmhouse with its broken paint-chipped shutters and rotten veranda, I swung the large backpack straps higher on my shoulders and leapt the small distance from hell to earth.
The weight on my back wasn’t balanced, sending me tripping forward.
I stumbled; my ankle threatened to roll. My useless ten-year-old legs already screamed it wasn’t possible to outrun a bullet from the wife of a killer and slaver, especially with such a cumbersome burden.
Even if it wasn’t possible, I had to try.
“Come back here, boy, and I won’t cut off another finger!” Mr. Mclary’s boom cut through the humidity of the night, chasing me with snapping teeth as I darted into the thicket of leaves and stalks, weaving like a worm around maize twice as tall as me.
My tiny fists clenched at the thought of living through that pain again.
His threat only gave me more incentive to escape—regardless if a bullet lodged in my spine and I died in the middle of their cornfield. At least this excruciating nightmare would be over.
“Kill him, Willem!” Mrs Mclary’s voice screeched like the crows she liked to shoot with her dirty rifle from the kitchen window. “Who knows what he’s got pilfered in that bag of his!”
A noise sounded behind me; a sudden cry jerked into silence.
An animal perhaps?
I didn’t care.
I ran faster, putting my head down and using every remaining drop of energy, pain, and hope in my wasted, skinny body. The bulky backpack dragged me down. The weight far heavier than I remembered when I’d slung it over my shoulders during a test attempt two nights ago.
I’d planned this for weeks. I’d scratched my escape route into the dusty floorboards beneath my cot and memorised the location of canned beans and farmhouse churned cheese so I could grab it in the dark.
I’d been so careful. I’d believed I could vanish from this rank place I’d been sold to.
But I wasn’t careful enough, and I hadn’t vanished.
Corn stalks shivered in front of me, cracking in place where a bullet wedged at head height. The cry came again, short and sharp and close.
Gulping air, I leaned into the soupy skies and kicked my burning legs into a sprint. The backpack bounced and dug into my shoulders, whispering that I should just drop my supplies and run.
But unless I didn’t want to survive past a day or two of freedom, I needed it.
I had nowhere to go. No one to help me. No money. No direction. I needed the food and scant water I’d stolen so I didn’t perish a few measly miles away from the very farmhouse I’d flown from.
An ear of corn exploded in front of my face. Mr. Mclary’s voice warbled words with out-of-breath growls, giving chase in his precious field. My ears rang, blocking out another cry, amplifying my rapid heartbeat.
Just a little farther and I’d pop out on the road.
I’d find quicker escape on the sealed surface and hopefully flag down aid from some oblivious passer-by.
Perhaps one of the same people who drove past daily and smiled at the quaint rustic farmhouse and cooed at the diligent hardworking children would finally open their eyes to the rotten slave trade occurring in their very midst.
I ducked and fell to my knees.
The backpack crushed me to the earth with sharp edges and sloshing belongings, yet another noise chasing me. I was strong for my age, so why did I find such a thing exhausting to carry?
Shoving away such delays, I sprang up again, wheezing as my stupid little lungs failed to grant enough oxygen. My limbs burned and seized. My hope quickly dwindled. But I’d become well acquainted with pain and threw myself head first into it.
This was my one chance.
It was life or death.
And I chose life.
* * * * *
Dawn crested on the horizon, its pink and gold daring to creep under the bush where I’d slid a few hours ago.
The gunshots had stopped. The shouts had ceased. The sounds of vehicles or people long since vanished.
I shouldn’t have turned off the road and entered the forest. I knew that. I’d known it the minute I’d leapt off manmade pathways and traded it for dirt, but Mr. Mclary had chased longer than I’d expected, and I was starved, beaten, and not prepared to give up my life by running in full sight of his rifle scope.
Instead, I’d scrambled into the bushes of private, untended land and fought exhaustion until the hairs on the back of my neck no longer stood up in terror, and the thought of earning a bullet in the back of my head was no longer enough to keep me awake.
The bush had offered sanctuary, and I’d fallen asleep the moment I’d burrowed beneath it, but it wasn’t the dawn that had awoken me.
It was my backpack.
A mewling, muffled cry came again, sounding alive and not at all like water and cheese.
The noise was familiar. I’d heard it as I’d run, but I’d been too focused on living to notice it came from the very thing I’d stolen.
The heavy rucksack was ex-army canvas with faded green stitching and buckets of room for bed rolls, ammunition, and anything else a solider might need.
I’d barely used any of the available space with my meagre supplies, yet it sat squat and full in the dirt.
Another wail sent me scrambling into a squatting position, ready to bolt.
Leaning forward with shaking hands, I tore the zipper open and fell backward.
Two huge blue eyes stared up at me.
Familiar blue eyes.
Eyes I never wanted to see again.
The infant bit her lip, studying my face with a furious flicker of attention. She didn’t cry louder. She didn’t squawk or squirm; she merely sat in my backpack amongst canned beans and squished cheese and waited for…something.
How the hell did she get into my bag?
I hadn’t put her there. I definitely wouldn’t steal the natural born daughter of Mr. and Mrs Mclary. They had sixteen children working their farm and only the girl in front of me was theirs by blood. The rest of us had been bought like cattle, branded like a herd, and forced to work until we were begging for the abattoir.
The baby wriggled uncomfortably, sticking her thumb in her mouth and never taking her eyes off me.
“Why are you in my bag?” My voice was far too loud for my ears. Something small scurried off on tiny feet. Bending closer to her, she leaned back, wariness and fear clouding her inquisitive gaze. “What the hell am I supposed to do with you?”
A stream gurgled not far in the undergrowth. My thirst made my mouth water while merciless practicality made me think up other uses for the river.
I couldn’t take her back, and I couldn’t take her with me.
That gave me no option.
I could leave her unattended for a wild animal to make a meal of, or I could dispatch her humanely by drowning her just like her parents had drowned a boy three weeks ago for not latching the gate and letting three sheep escape.
She twirled a faded blue ribbon around her teeny fist as if going over the conclusions herself. Did she know I contemplated killing her to make my escape easier? Did she understand that I would treat her no better than her parents treated me?
Slouching in the bracken beneath my chosen bush, I sighed heavily.
Who was I kidding?
I couldn’t kill her.
I couldn’t even kill the rats who shared the barn with us.
Somehow, she’d crawled into my backpack, I’d stupidly ran with her even though I’d known something was wrong, and now my impossible task at staying alive just got even harder.
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