Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sample Sunday Excerpt: An Unassigned Life -- Never Kick a Gift Horse in the Head (Chapter 3)

The complete novel, An Unassigned Life, will be available on February 17, 2011, at Amazon and Smashwords. Today, I'm happy to present the third chapter here on my blog. If you'd like a look at the cover, visit Inknbeans Press. If you enjoy this excerpt, please tweet or post on Facebook. Thanks for reading!

“This is truly a diamond in the rough,” Helene said as she pushed open the door, which scraped loudly against the scarred wooden floor of the entryway.

Nick goosed Cynthia impatiently when she didn’t immediately follow the perky platinum blonde across the threshold.

“Hey!” she stage-whispered, slapping blindly at his hand, but stepped into the house.

“All it needs,” Helene was saying, “are the floors redone and the walls painted. The previous owner redid the kitchen and bathroom, so they are completely updated.”

“Why didn’t the owner do the rest of the house?” Cynthia asked. “I mean, kitchens and bathrooms take the most time…”

“Very shrewd of you, Mrs. Kenyon,” the agent said with a tight smile. “I guess he just hadn’t decided what he wanted to do. His loss is your gain, though!”

“Isn’t this amazing?” he enthused.

Cynthia knew this was exactly what Nick was looking for: a traditional bungalow in one of the older neighborhoods. Without uncrossing her arms, Cynthia said, “An amazing amount of work.”

“Come on, Cyn! This home is a piece of history! When was it built, Helene?”

“Oh, uh, just a sec.” She flipped through some papers on her clipboard and said, “Nineteen-fifteen.”

“Incredible! It’s nearly a hundred years old and still sturdy as a rock. Not like those modern crackerjack boxes they build now. This house will still be standing when those have disintegrated into dust.”

“That may be true, Nick, but new houses don’t need renovation.”

“This home is a virtual steal,” Helene interjected. “Plus, everything in the place comes with it.”

“You hear that? It’s a bargain, love. This may be the only chance we ever have to own a home in this part of town with this kind of history.”

Seeing the pleading in his eyes, Cynthia grimaced. “How are we going to finish the renovation? You’re working sixty hours a week—”

“I’ll spend every single day off working on the house. Even holidays.”

She took in the living room with its big front window and had to admit she could see the home’s charm. The arch from the living room to the dining room was a fantastic detail. She looked up and noticed the painted tin ceiling for the first time.

“This home really is an incredible deal, Mrs. Kenyon. This is the only house within a mile that is currently priced below a hundred and fifty thousand.”

Cynthia shrugged. “Show us the rest of the place.”

Helene led them through the three smallish bedrooms, the all-white bathroom, and the refurbished kitchen, which was directly behind the dining room. “It’s an excellent layout for dinner parties,” Helene pointed out.

“We’re not really very social,” Cynthia commented.

“We’d be more social if we had a space like this. Our flat is the main reason we don’t entertain.”

Cynthia would have argued, but didn’t want to make a fuss in front of the agent, who was leading them out into the backyard and toward the free-standing garage with a loft.

“Obviously, the backyard needs some TLC. The garage is a real gem, though. The loft is just waiting to be renovated. It would make a fantastic art studio, writer’s garret, or guest suite.”

“There’s plumbing?” Nick asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, there is.”

“What’s the catch?” Cynthia asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Let’s see…a bungalow with three bedrooms, a garage with a loft, and a remodeled kitchen and bathroom for less than one-fifty? What aren’t we seeing here?”

“Don’t knock a gift horse in the head, Cynthia.”

Cynthia sighed. “It’s ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.’”

“Why would you ever want to do that? Horses have bad breath.”

“Why would you knock…never mind. What’s the catch?” Cynthia asked again.

Helene glanced through the paperwork. “There’s no catch.”

“How long has the home been on the market?”

“Six weeks,” Helene read. Her brow furrowed. “Why don’t you go ahead and take a look at the garage? I’ll just…review the information a little more thoroughly.”

As Cynthia disappeared into the garage she heard Helene dialing the listing agent on her cell phone. “Hi, Vince? I’m at the home on Willow Street with some potential buyers…”

Nick was already ogling the two-story space. “I think this is a tandem garage. Does this look long enough for two cars?”

Cynthia agreed. She looked up at the rafters above her. A previous occupant had created a makeshift loft over half of the garage, leaving exposed beams over the other half. “This would be a great place for a Halloween party,” she commented. “Look, Nick – you could hang your decorations from those.”

Nick was already climbing the ladder that led to the loft. “Whoa! This is what I’m talking about!”


“This is perfect for your art studio. Come on up!”

That’s what she loved about Nick: she hadn’t picked up a brush in more than two years, but he still thought of her as an artist. She followed him up the ladder. Light streamed in from the windows across the back wall of the room. Someone had left an old table and chairs up there, but otherwise the space was empty. She easily imagined her easel next to the table and the room completed to fill the entire top floor of the barn. “This is amazing,” she said, agreeing with Nick for the first time.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kenyon?” the real estate agent called from below.

Finally in agreement, they looked over the loft railing and said in unison, “We’ll take it.”

Nick and Cynthia met the seller briefly when they went to sign the papers at the title company a few weeks later. Helene introduced them to Vince, the listing agent, and Mrs. Strentham, the owner. Or rather, the inheritor. As Helene had told them after they’d decided to buy the home, the previous owner died on the property a few months before.

Mrs. Strentham had taken her lawyer’s advice and underpriced the home from the outset, but the Kenyons represented the only bid her agent had received on it after six weeks. Even though their offer was low, she had decided to accept it rather than wait for another one.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Mrs. Strentham said warmly. “I hope you’ll be very happy in your new home.”

“Thank you,” Cynthia responded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Mrs. Strentham waved the condolences away like a bothersome fly. “We weren’t very close, my brother and I. I’m sure if he’d realized I’d be inheriting his estate sans will, he would have taken the time to write one. Then again,” she laughed, “he hadn’t written much of anything recently.” When the couple appeared confused, she said, “My brother was a writer by trade. You may have heard of him – Timothy Chase.”

“I’m afraid not.”

“He wasn’t that good of a writer, unfortunately. He had one good idea and – pffft – he was as deflated as an old rubber balloon.”

They shook hands all around and Helene led the Kenyons away to sign the necessary paperwork.

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