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Fable of Happiness Book Two

Pepper Winters




  Book Two


  New York Times Bestseller

  Pepper Winters

  Fable of Happiness (Book Two)

  Copyright © 2021 Pepper Winters

  Published by Pepper Winters

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Libraries are exempt and permitted to share their in-house copies with their members and have full thanks for stocking this book. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  Published: Pepper Winters 2021: [email protected]

  Photo: Chris Lawton from Unsplash

  Cover Design: Ari @ Cover it! Designs

  Editing by: Editing 4 Indies (Jenny Sims)


  Pepper currently has over thirty books released in nine languages. She’s hit best-seller lists (USA Today, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal) almost forty times. She dabbles in multiple genres, ranging from Dark Romance to Coming of Age. She lives on a farm with six horses, one rabbit, and one very obliging husband.

  For more information, please visit:


  Goddess Isles Series – 5 x USA Today Bestseller

  First book, Once a Myth, is free. Click Here.

  Monsters in the Dark Trilogy – New York Times Bestseller

  First book, Tears of Tess, is free. Click Here.

  Indebted Series – New York Times Bestseller

  First book, Debt Inheritance, is free. Click Here.

  Dollar Series – 6 x USA Today Bestseller

  First book, Pennies, is free. Click Here.


  The Master of Trickery Duet

  Blurbs & Buylinks

  Truth & Lies Duet – 4 x USA Today Bestseller

  Blurbs & Buylinks


  The Ribbon Duet – USA Today Bestseller

  Blurbs & Buylinks

  Standalone Spinoff

  The Son & His Hope

  Blurbs & Buylinks


  Destroyed – USA Today Bestseller. Grey Romance

  Blurbs & Buylinks

  Unseen Messages – USA Today Bestseller. Survival Romance

  Blurbs & Buylinks


  Pure Corruption Duet – 2 x USA Today Bestseller

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  Can’t Touch This

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  For 2021 titles please visit


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  Fable of Happiness Blurb


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chpter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chater Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chatper Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chatper Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty





  Fable of Happiness Blurb

  From New York Times Bestseller, Pepper Winters, comes the second book in Kas and Gem’s twisted romance.

  A valley full of secrets.

  A history full of nightmares.

  A man who cannot be saved.

  And a woman who holds his very life in her hands.

  Strange how the villain of a story can so easily become the victim.

  Utter lunacy to think the captive might now become the caregiver.

  Gemma has a decision to make.

  Her life or his.

  Follow her heart, even when it’s screaming at her to run? Or turn her back on the man who could become her everything?

  “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distance days into your answers.”

  Rainer Maria Rilke


  WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED that the victim could become the villain?

  That one choice could derail not just one life but two. And not just derail but cause a catastrophic annihilation—an annihilation neither party could survive.

  All I wanted was to go home.

  I’d fought for that. Schemed for that.

  And when I’d finally earned it...I had to make the hardest choice imaginable.

  I was the reason he fell off that cliff.

  He was the reason I turned my back on my freedom.


  SOMEONE, ONCE UPON A time, said life flashed before the eyes of a person about to die.

  I had news for that guy.

  It didn’t.

  My life never flashed before my eyes when I’d been denied oxygen in some sick sex game. It never flashed when I’d been beaten into unconsciousness by Storymaker.

  And it didn’t flash with my fondest moments as I lost my footing and fell off the cliff.

  Maybe it was because I had no fond memories.

  Perhaps I’d spent too long erasing my life that it honored my wishes to remain forgotten in my final seconds.

  Or maybe...maybe, I was never meant to have a life at all.

  Death had shadowed me since I was born.

  It’d been the reason I had no childhood, why I’d been a slave, and w
hy, when I’d finally found someone who had the power to affect me, I was about to die.

  The Grim Reaper had finally found me.




  Trees whacked me, rocks pummelled me, air carried me to the end.

  Twisting, turning, a rag doll with no direction.

  I didn’t fight it. I stayed limp, accepting, ready.

  I let pain explode and bruises bloom.

  I closed my eyes on the falling blur.

  Three things I thought of before the ground caught me.

  One, I’d honored my promise and kept my Fable family safe.

  Two, I was glad, glad I no longer had to fight.

  And three...

  Well, three was the only wince in my entire death experience.

  It was about her.


  Brave, tenacious, beautiful, and strong.

  She was the reason my end had come.

  She’d cursed me, and now she was free.

  Hatred existed between us, lust and need, confusion and fear.

  But the simple fact was if life had been kinder, if I had been less of what I was and more of what she deserved, things might have worked out differently.

  If I was braver.

  If I was saner.

  If I hadn’t trapped her or used her or thought I could own her like I’d been owned by others, she might have stayed.

  She might have cared.

  And I might’ve fallen hopelessly in love with her.



  Blank shock numbed me. My mind couldn’t decipher what’d just happened. An awful kind of hissing erupted in my ears. A static white noise that trickled into my bloodstream and made every bone twitch.


  I shook my head. My mouth parted. My heart raced.

  He can’’s not possible.

  I blinked, expecting him to still be there. Smirking that mocking grin, long hair touching his shoulders, eyes so dark with history they defied common color.

  But he didn’t appear.

  There was nothing.

  Just me and the fading energy of a man who’d imprisoned me.

  A man I just killed.

  Oh, God.

  My heart cramped as I wedged fists into my belly.

  No one can survive a fall like that.

  What have I done?

  Yes, he’d taken my body and my freedom, but I’d done something a million times worse....I’d taken his life.


  My horrified shock suddenly gave way to coldhearted analytics.

  Wait, he could survive.

  He might—

  Scrambling to my feet, I grabbed a branch and looked down.


  I tried to see him.

  I guessed the height of such a plummet.

  A thousand feet perhaps?

  More? Less?

  I don’t know.

  You have to know.

  The buzzing turned vicious in my ears and marrow.

  He might be alive.

  It’s possible—

  Panic fought with calm as I edged from the drop-off and dug both hands into my mud-dirty hair.

  You have to find out, Gem.

  You can’t leave him.

  Images of him in pieces at the bottom of the cliff made me sick. Shattered bones, vacant eyes, a scarred body that was no longer alive.


  I ground the heels of my palms into my eyes, trying to rub such images away.

  I swallowed hard.

  I’d done this. He was down there because of me.

  If I hadn’t jumped on him, he would still be whole.

  There wasn’t even the question of leaving. Not yet. I would never be able to live with myself if I turned my back on someone in agony.

  Someone crippled and bleeding and—

  “Just focus. Stay strong.”

  It didn’t matter how he’d treated me. I didn’t care that I was trading my last chance at freedom to go after him. If he was dead, I would bury him. I would ignore the awful pang in my soul and would honor his remains as any loved one would.

  It was the least I could do.

  He had no one.

  He deserves to have someone.

  God, he deserved so much more than what he had.

  And if he’s alive?

  I couldn’t answer that question.

  Because if he was alive. If he was okay. It meant I’d chosen his survival over my own. I would never get another chance. I was turning my back on my family for a man, and I didn’t even know his name. I was admitting to myself that for all my bluster and bravery, something had blossomed inside me.

  Something I couldn’t even acknowledge without cursing my stupid, stupid heart.


  I exploded into action.

  Leaping to my feet, I grabbed my overstuffed backpack from where it’d waited patiently by the tree and shrugged it on. Securing the straps tight and buckling additional ones around my waist, I stepped off the edge and descended.

  If he’d survived, I’d need supplies. I’d need every tool and trick I had to fix him.

  My backpack upset my balance as I climbed faster than I’d ever climbed before. I shut off every thought and focused.

  Toe hold, traverse, hand grab, drop.


  I yelled at my panic-pounding heart the entire way down, forcing myself not to think about him, not to second-guess or fret. Not to worry about anything until my feet touched earth safely.

  If I fell too, then we would both die.

  Side by side, entombed in his valley forever.

  My knees threatened to buckle as the distance to the valley floor decreased. Sweat poured down my back, and my hands slipped on a few rocks.

  Don’t rush!

  I made the mistake of looking down. There, obscured by leaf matter and lower crisscrossed branches, a foot existed.

  A man’s dirty, leathered foot, splayed to the side and not moving.

  Oh, God.

  My stomach lurched.

  My hand latched around a branch, and I kept climbing.

  I climbed until I reached the valley floor and then I ran.

  I ran to his side, shoved off my bag, and crashed to my knees.

  I pressed my fingers against his throat.

  And waited.

  Come on.

  Come on!

  My fingers burned against his skin. I willed every power in the twisted universe for him to open his eyes and reveal that sinful sneer. That arrogant cruelty that hid so much inside.


  I slumped over him.

  I pressed my ear to his naked, scarred chest.

  I listened.

  My own heart thundered in my ears, pounding without pause.


  Was that—?

  Holding my breath, I shouted at my nervous system to shut the hell up. I pressed my ear harder to his sternum. I dug my fingers deeper into his jugular.

  And there...

  Faint and almost unwilling, the soft thud of his heart.

  Rearing back, I shook him. “Hey. Can you hear me?” I tapped his filthy cheek, brushing aside leaf-tangled hair. “Open your eyes.”

  God, what is his name?

  I needed his name so I could scream it. So I could yell it into his ears and force him to stay alive.

  As I shook him, my temper spiked. “Come on, Simon, Andrew, Colin, whoever you your damn eyes.”


  Not even a twitch.

  I kept trying. I pinched his cheek. I punched his chest. I listened again for a pulse to see if it was stronger or weaker.

  Still faint.

  Still unwilling.

  But still there.

  Late afternoon sun hid behind clouds as I sat back and surveyed his body.

  With the mess of last night and the wounds I’d given him in my key att
ack, it was hard to tell what was dirt and what was old blood. Fresh cuts spilled crimson along his side, a few good lacerations but nothing to suspect broken ribs or internal hemorrhaging.

  No black bruises hinted at pooling blood beneath the skin.

  His lips weren’t turning blue.

  His face was blank and serene.

  If I didn’t continuously check his pulse, I would’ve been convinced he was dead.

  He lay like a corpse. Legs splayed and arms palms up, flat on his back as if he hadn’t fought the fall at all. As if he’d stayed lax and limp, accepting the end in a way no happy person ever could.

  The backpack—

  I glanced around for it. He’d been wearing my spare when he went over. It must’ve fallen off—


  A few feet away, covered in leaves, rested the bag he’d stolen from my Jeep. Full of treats and sugar from a society he no longer belonged to. He was just a wild man, with nothing and no one, forgotten on the forest floor.

  My heart broke all over again.

  What if he’d wanted this?

  What if, in those final few seconds, he’d chosen not to fight and let the ground catch him in whatever cradle it wanted.

  In a way, he’d saved his own life.

  Survivalists all said that the best way to fall was to do it without any tension or anticipation of the crash. The harder you braced, the harder you broke. And in his case, he hadn’t braced at all.

  Tears shot up my spine, tingling and hot as they pooled in my eyes.

  I didn’t know why, but that simple fact told me so many soul-shattering things. It revealed more complexities and vulnerabilities than he ever could’ve shown me while awake.

  And I hated him all the more because it meant I couldn’t leave.

  Not now.

  Not until he either woke up or died.

  And if he woke up, how could I look him in the eyes, knowing things about him that painted him not as the villain but a victim who’d never had a chance?

  I checked his pulse again before running my hands along every inch of his body. His hands, wrists, and arms. His neck, chest, and hips. His legs, knees, and ankles. Some areas were blazing hot, swelling rapidly from the blunt force trauma. I couldn’t tell what was broken or sprained. I wasn’t a doctor or qualified in any way past my first-aid training in field wounds.

  He needs a hospital.

  Peeling open his left eyelid, I observed his blank stare. His pupil constricted, but that was it. No other sign of alertness.

  Brain damage?