Home > Second Debt (Indebted #3)(6)

Second Debt (Indebted #3)(6)
Author: Pepper Winters

I really shouldn’t have chosen that part of my body—especially if running with her became a frequent occurrence. I’d have to find a new place in which to fix myself. The soles of my feet had been used for years—when I needed the extra buffer. No one could see the marks, no one would know, and the pain was constant whenever I moved.

A perfect place for secrets.

“Do you run?” Nila asked. Her breathing was heavy but even, her fitness level higher than mine.

I shook my head. “No. I prefer exercise where a horse does the hard work, or perhaps a punching bag that takes my fists.”

“You do that often?”

“What, ride?”

“No, assault an innocent punching bag.” Her dark eyes landed on mine, diving deep into my complexities before I slammed up my walls and prevented her from seeing any more.

“No more than usual,” I said, pulling ahead of her.

With a small grunt, she matched me, not letting me disappear. “I know you have issues, Jethro. But I’ll keep my speculations to myself…for now.” Running for a while, she finally asked, “What time did you wake up today?”

I frowned, gritting my teeth against the pounding pain in my feet. “What?”

“It’s dawn, yet you’ve already been for a ride. Are you an early riser?”

I snorted. You could say that. “I’m not good at sleeping. Wings is used to me.”


“My gelding.” I threw her a glance. “The horse I was riding when I tracked you. Remember?”

Nila’s face shadowed. No doubt thinking of the hunt and the consequential amazing blowjob.

Sexual tension sprang harder between us, itching my skin, making my cock swell.

My voice turned gruff as I added, “Ever since he was broken in, Wings has been used to me sneaking into the stables and going for a ride in the dead of night. He got a small sleep in today. I didn’t saddle him up until four a.m.”

Nila nodded, soaking up my confession as if I’d announced the epicentre of why I was fucked up.

“You didn’t have any shipments to take care of?”

I narrowed my eyes. “How do you—” I cut myself off. Kestrel. Of course. The weeks they’d spent together meant she would probably have a good idea of the sort of wealth we smuggled and the amount of shipments completed since she’d arrived at Hawksridge.

“Why can’t you sleep?” she asked. We ran side-by-side, leaving the gloom of the forest and trading mud for the gravel of a pathway.

I looked up. My heart clamoured.

Shit, we’re on the wrong track.

I didn’t want her to see what was up ahead. Not yet. I was sure my father had some sick agenda to show her when she fell out of his good graces, but I didn’t want to break her again. Not so soon.

I’d avoided the place most of my life. It held only terror. So, why the fuck were we running toward it? It was almost as if she’d been summoned by forces outside my comprehension.

A chill darted down my back at the thought. I slowed my pace.

Nila looked back, decreasing her steps to match mine. “Are you going to answer me?”

What, why can’t I sleep?


I had no intention of answering. There was no easy response, and she knew far too much about me already. Trying to distract her, I said, “Why do you have to run?”

She ran a hand over her forehead, wiping away glistening sweat. “To re-centre myself. At home, it was the only time I had to calm my mind. The deadlines, the demands—it all stole something that I only found again when I was alone with just my frantic heartbeat to keep me company.”


Her answer was fucking perfect.

I swallowed hard as a glow of more than just lust washed over me.

She understood. She dealt with the same pressures, the same expectations. Only her flaws were visible to everyone, while I hid mine as best I could.

Admit it. The moment you saw her on the catwalk in Milan, you knew.

I fisted my hands, trying to stop the conclusion from forming.

But it was no use. My mind delivered the crushing knowledge with fanfare and barely hidden relief.

She’s the same as you. You could tell her.

No fucking way would I ever tell her.

I didn’t want to feel anything for her, but I did care. Enough to stop her from seeing what existed ahead. I might not want her in my brain, but I didn’t want her in pieces, either.

I slammed to a halt. “Nila. Stop.”

Locking her knees, she bounced in place and turned to face me. Her chest rose quickly, panting for breath. “What? Why?”

My eyes involuntarily went to the break in the trees up ahead. Damn sunshine broke through the fog at the exact same moment, spotlighting the one place I didn’t want her to see.

Nila followed my gaze. Her shoulders hunched, feeding off my nerves. “What’s up there, Jethro?”


“If it’s nothing, then why are you determined not to let me see?”

My temper fed off her nervousness, creating a sick sensation in my gut. “Because it’s time to get back. You’ve wasted enough of the day doing something as pointless as running.” I snapped my fingers. “Let’s go. Now.”

Her eyes filled with rebellion. She looked back to the hill, chewing her lip.

I moved forward, ready to pounce and drag her back to the Hall. “Ms. Weaver—” I inched closer.

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