The Girl & Her Ren Page 1

Author: Pepper Winters

Series: The Ribbon Duet #2

Genres: Romance



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FIRST, I WANT to say thank you.

Thank you for falling in love with Ren just as much as me. Thank you for allowing me to share our journey. Thank you for forgiving my youth, my jealousy, my possessiveness; but most of all, thank you for understanding what our story has always been about.

It wasn’t about two children falling for each other.

It wasn’t about sex or hunger or selfishness or want.

It was about love.

True love.

Love that spans decades, infects souls, and turns you immortal because, when you love that deeply, nothing can ever die.

It transcends time, space, distance, universes.

A love like this isn’t confined to pages or photos or memories—it’s forever alive and wild and free.


That is what our story is about.

Romance comes and goes, lust flickers and smoulders, trials appear and test, life gets in the way and educates, pain can derail happiness, joy can delete sadness, togetherness is more than just a fairy-tale…it’s a choice.

A choice to love, cherish, honour, trust, and adore.

A choice to be there when arguments occur, and agony arrives, and fate seems determined to rip you apart.

A choice to choose love, all the while knowing it has the power to break you.

A choice, dear friend, to give someone your entire heart.

It’s not easy.

No one ever said it was.

Some days, you want it back, and others, you wish you had more than just one heart to give.

Love is the hardest thing we’ll ever have to do because love, as miraculous and wonderful as it is, is also cursed and soul-breaking.

Because of love, life is a war of moments and time and bargaining for more of everything.

But in the end, love is what life is about.

And love is the purpose of everything.

So, thank you.

Thank you for sharing our love.

Thank you for living, for choosing, for being brave enough to fall.



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WHEN I RAN from the Mclary’s, took a baby that wasn’t mine, and chose to keep her against all odds, I never stopped to wonder…how.

How did we survive all those years?

How did I keep myself alive, let alone baby Della?

How did one choice change my entire world—not only giving me a family of my own, but teaching me, before it was too late, that not everyone was evil.

Della Mclary successfully stopped me from going down a very dark and lonely path by forcing me to know the opposite of hate. I supposed, if someone were to judge the kid I was against the man I became, they’d say she saved me.

They’d say, without her, I would be a very different person.

Probably one a lot less forgiving, understanding, and most likely violent, angry, and dangerous.

They’d be right.

Those tendencies were still there, born from being abused and unwanted, forever a part of me whether I wanted to admit it or not. But I was also so much more, and those parts, the better parts, were stronger.

I chose kindness over cruelty, honour over disgrace, and propriety over indecency.

And it was the last one that made me leave.

The last one causing my current state of unhappiness.

It also made all those previous wonderings of how, completely irrelevant. Because who cared how it happened? Only that it did, and it was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me.

But now I had nothing, and I couldn’t stop scratching at the scars, wondering what caused me to deserve seventeen years of heaven with a girl I’d give everything for, only to endure the worst thing I’d ever imagined by giving the greatest sacrifice I could.


She was my greatest sacrifice.

And I did it to protect her from so many, many things.

But the question was back. Taunting me. Tormenting me.


How did she get into that backpack in the first place?

It was night. She was a baby. I didn’t know where she slept, but surely, she had a crib with bars or a room with a door. The backpack was discarded where it always was by the door. It wasn’t a plaything for a child and it wasn’t sanitary for a baby.

But somehow, she’d ended up in it.

How had Della been in that bag at the exact same time I decided to run?

Was it purely coincidence? Did fate know far more than we did, understanding that Della wasn’t born for the Mclary’s but for me? For me to learn how to love. For me to have someone to hold. For me to protect and treasure and focus on rather than spiral into a place I shouldn’t go?

Or…had Mrs Mclary put her there?

Had she seen my test run the night before, watched me steal the meagre rations I’d managed, and somehow put her darling daughter in the stuffy, weathered ex-army bag?

And if she did, that changed my question from how to why.

Why did she give up her only blood?