#SampleSunday – Nerissa Keeps House

I’m doing the final edit on BARGAIN WITH FATE, BOOK 2 OF SAGE, and this is where I am in the process.

Nerissa Keeps House
Bargain With Fate, Book 2 of SAGE – excerpt

The day Nerissa began keeping “house” for Tartarus, he woke her soon after dawn with a nudge of his grubby foot. The lean-to door was open and Nerissa could see the painful glinting of the sea, though the shed was still in shadow.

Tartarus loomed above her, bare from the waist up, tall, thick, hook-nosed. “You look like a fright in the morning, young runaway. Ever hear of a comb?”

“I could ask you the same.” She glared at the stringy black tangles streaming from his head and face like dirty water.

“Pert talk for a little girl.”

“I told you last night – I’m ten. Maybe eleven.”

“Look more like eight. Of course, you look like a plucked chicken, yet you claim to be human, so can I trust your claims?”

Nerissa thrust herself out of the tattered blankets Tartarus had thrown to her the night before, pointedly ignoring him.

Tartarus went back to his own nest of rags and rummaged in them. He fished out a sleeveless shirt and drew it on and left it unbuttoned. He scratched at whatever of his grayish-brown skin he could reach.

“Start the day with a little fruit.” His guttural voice sounded immensely smug, as if he had invented this precept. He dug a small, hard, wrinkled apple out of a dirty canvas bag and tossed it to Nerissa.

She bit into it. It was dry and sour, with only a faint hint of sweetness. She ate it, though.

“Tasty?” Tartarus asked.

“No. Hungry.”

“Toss the core in the fireplace,” he said, although he had eaten his apple stem and all. Nerissa had choked a bit at seeing him, afraid he would expect her to do the same.

She had been too tired last night to register much, but this morning – perhaps because of a draft pulled down the chimney and out the open door – she was aware of a familiar scent. Now she recognized it as the smell of old food and rubbish rotting in a mixed pile. The fireplace would be the first thing she cleaned – if she didn’t run away.

“I’m going out to fish, girl. Keep a sharp ear and a sharp eye, and if you see or hear anyone coming – anyone – close and latch the door and don’t open it on any persuasion. Might be a slaver or a slaver’s informer. Understand?”


“An informer might be anyone, even somebody you think you know. Somebody you think is a friend. Understand?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Sometimes slavers even use an animal to hunt out escaped slaves. Like a bird.”

“A bird?”

“I’ve seen men use birds to fish for them, to hunt other birds for them, even hunt rabbits for them. Why not people? You can’t be too careful.”

All the same, Nerissa knew she trusted her bird more than she trusted Tartarus by an immeasurably wide margin.

Book 1, The Fall of Onagros, is not yet available in print, but it’s available electronically at Amazon’s Kindle Stores and at Smashwords.

A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Someone obviously untrustworthy warns a character against someone the warned character trusts.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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