Monday Sampler: Expect Trouble by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

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In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Monday’s Sampler features Expect Trouble by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth.  If you’re looking for an award-winning paranormal romantic thriller, this is the book you want to read. As one reviewer said: Expect Trouble is an intense, fast moving and filled with twists and turns and just when you think you have it figured out, there is more sabotage, espionage and conspiracies…

Expect Trouble was a semi-finalist in the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards contest.

The Story

Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she’s clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVES Lieutenant Livvy wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet.

The First Chapter

JoAnn Smith Ainsworth
JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

Philadelphia, PA, 1943

U.S. WAVES Lieutenant Olivia “Livvy” Delacourt abhorred being late. “It’s my new superior officer who is waiting.”

Tension pressured the nape of her neck. Armed with one week of driver’s training, she gripped the Super Deluxe ‘42 Ford’s steering wheel like she was doing battle with Old Man Winter himself. March had come in like a lion to a country enveloped in a world war and gave no hint of going out like a lamb. A relentless wind whipped up dirty snow from Germantown Avenue’s icy cobblestones to mix with moist flurries that stuck to the windshield. Ice coated the tree branches and hid on snow-blanketed sidewalks. Clutching the steering wheel, Livvy sent a prayer heavenward that she’d get this metal behemoth and herself safely to her new headquarters.

This morning—without warning—the Navy Department jerked her from a challenging assignment in Cryptology, transcribing enemy phone conversations, and reassigned her—of all things—as driver to a naval commander overseeing the formation of the top secret Joint U.S. and Allied Intelligence Project. Livvy hoped there’d be something “intelligent” about her assignment. She preferred working her brain, not her foot on a pedal.

Clank, clank, clank. The snow chains attacked the metal fenders, making her head ache. She scrunched up her eyes and wrinkled her forehead in concentration. She was looking for an estate with a wrought iron gate and a Pennsylvania flagstone fence around its five acres of land.

There.

She guided the heavy ‘42 Ford through the opened gate and onto the unplowed driveway stretching toward the three-story mansion known as Hamilton House. At one time, her family could have afforded a place like this—before the Crash of ‘29.

No smoke rose from the chimneys. No lights beckoned. The grounds under a blanket of snow and ice looked abandoned.

What a welcome.

Livvy followed the tire ruts made by a single car with a lower belly that had scraped off the top layer of snow. When the tracks veered off toward the garages, Livvy stayed on the main drive. She pulled to a stop next to broad steps leading to the multi-columned porch of her new—and impressive—headquarters. She took the car out of gear, set the brake and turned off the engine.

Before pulling on her navy blue wool gloves, Livvy glanced at her wristwatch and her stomach tightened. Fifteen minutes late. She’d get chewed out. Oh, well, there was nothing she could do about that.

An expected blast of bitterly cold air hit her when she stepped out into ankle-deep snow. She leaned into driven snow to mount the steps to the front door. From the corner of her eye, she saw that her bobbed, brunette hair—where it escaped from under her cover—had curled tightly from the damp. Her glasses and wool overcoat had acquired a dusting of snow while crossing the driveway.

Bedraggled. What a first impression.

Inhaling a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and pushed the doorbell. No sound. She pushed the bell again. Nothing.

“I’ll have to get that fixed.”

She knocked loudly.

The door opened with an alacrity that startled her. The rigidity of the uniformed man towering above her made her feel she should click her rubber-booted heels. She tried to see his face, but snowflakes got in her eyes. She blinked and saluted. “Lieutenant Delacourt reporting for duty, sir.”

A disembodied voice growled from the darkened doorway. “You’re late!”

Livvy’s jaw dropped. She recognized that voice, one she hadn’t heard in almost ten years. The voice belonged to her colossal high school crush—Barrington Drew, III—Trey to his friends. Sadly, she wasn’t one of them.

In all the morning’s haste—saying good-byes, moving her things out of her desk in Cryptology and packing her belongings in the barracks—she’d never asked about her new commander. Besides, a war was on. She was trained to accept without question whomever the Navy threw at her and to do her duty as required. Who would’ve guessed the new boss would turn out to be her teenage heartthrob?

Her heart pounded with the remembered agony of unrequited feelings for the handsome and wealthy senior—youthful daydreams not based on reality. It wasn’t as if he’d spare a glance for a plump, impoverished and bespectacled freshman when he was already dating Livvy’s first cousin, the ultra glamorous Gwen.

Peeping through snowy lashes, she could see that the thin-as-a-rail high school playboy had added muscle. Wavy black hair—now cut military style above the ears—framed a wide forehead and laughing eyes that, in the past, seemed continually amused. Right now they didn’t look amused.

“Wait here while I get my overcoat.” He turned abruptly and walked away.

Livvy flushed beet red, humiliated. True, she’d lost some weight since her teen years and a uniform might act as a disguise, but come on. There should be some glimmer of recognition. She’d barely regained her emotional balance when he reappeared with a briefcase clutched tightly in his gloved hand.

“Let’s get going or I’ll be late.”

Trey brushed past her and out the still-opened front door. He rushed down snow-covered steps, leaving it to his lieutenant to close and lock the door. Locking it against what, she didn’t know. The place looked barren of furnishings. She pushed at the bridge of her horn-rimmed glasses to settle them more comfortably on her nose before pulling the mansion door shut and listening until the lock clicked into place.

Darn. She’d expected more courtesy from a man of Trey’s social standing. Then she gave herself a mental slap. Commonplace courtesies weren’t part of a wartime society. Courtesy was extended by rank, not gender or social standing. Her duties as a lowly WAVES lieutenant included opening doors for the male officers, not vice versa.

When she turned around, Trey was already climbing into the back of the sedan, which was layered with snowflakes. She’d need to be quicker in the future. He slammed the door closed before she could make her way down the slippery steps.

Since her former heartthrob hadn’t recognized her, she wondered how to act. After opening the driver’s side door, she lingered overly long. She heard, “What are you waiting for, Lieutenant? You’re letting the warm air out.”

Good grief. Just like her mother.

“We need to get going or I’ll be late for my first assignment.”

She could sympathize with that problem.

Livvy climbed behind the wheel, thankful the Ford still held the heat generated on the trip to Hamilton House. She turned the key, depressed the clutch, got the car into first gear and inched down the snowy driveway toward the street. There were no tire tracks for her to follow on the way out.

“Where to, sir?”

“We’re headed for NAMU.”

“Where?”

“The Naval Aircraft Modification Unit north of Philadelphia in Warminster. It’s the former Brewster Aircraft Factory.”

Livvy had her map out and ready on the front seat. She stopped the car at the gate to study the map.

“Never mind that.” His tone was curt. “I have my own map. I’ll give directions.”

She pursed her lips. How long would he continue to snap at her?

She heard Trey unlock his leather briefcase. In the rearview mirror, she watched as he spread a map across his lap and put a finger on their position.

“Left or right?”

“Right. Keep your eyes on the road. I’ll watch for street signs.”

She pulled out onto Germantown Avenue and headed back toward Johnson Street in the direction she’d come.

Livvy glanced in the rearview mirror. Trey wore a disgruntled expression as if she were the source of every setback he’d ever experienced. Great. Make her more nervous than she already was, why didn’t he?

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  • JoAnnAinsworth

    Amazing to read “award winning.” Makes the long, lonely hours worth it.

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