Read Traci On The Spot Online

Authors: Marie Ferrarella

Traci On The Spot

How I spent my summer vacation by Morgan Brigham, age 29

Traci and I used to spend every summer together. But that was when we were kids, back when our biggest goal was to see who could stuff more spiders down whose back.

I honestly didn’t expect to get stranded with her here today at the old cabin. But now I’m kind of glad. Boy, she sure has changed! This night-alone-in-the-dark is starting to have definite possibilities….

But, of course, I’m not the kind to kiss and tell. And I have a more important mission in mind: I’ve got to convince her not to marry Dr. Dull. She deserves so much more! She deserves someone who will treat her like an equal; someone who will challenge her, who will keep her life exciting—

Hey! Why does that sound like someone I know?

Dear Reader

Boy, did Marie Ferrarella’s
Traci on the Spot
bring back a few memories for me. Her heroine is a cartoonist, and she works out the daily dilemmas of her life via her character’s escapades. I once dated a cartoonist However, his character was of the animated-vegetablesaving-the-world variety, and no way would I have wanted to be involved in any of his escapades. Of course, maybe if we’d managed to share a night alone in a romantic cabin, I might have changed my mind.

Our second book this month is
First Date: Honeymoon,
by Diane Pershing. Mix together one handsome hero and one waiting-for-Mr.-Right heroine, then add a sham marriage proposal and an equally ersatz honeymoon, and voilà You’ve got just the right ingredients for the perfect travel guide to honeymoon bliss, not to mention passion hot enough to melt granite and a couple whose next honeymoon is going to be the very,
very
real variety.

Enjoy both stories, and remember to come back next month for more adventures in meeting, dating—and marrying—Mr. Right.

Yours truly,

Leslie Wainger

Senior Editor and Editorial Coordinator

Please address questions and book requests to:

Silhouette Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont L2A 5X3

Traci on the Spot
Marie Ferrarella

To all the writers
of the comics
and comic strips
that have fueled my imagination,
brightened my day,
or made me laugh.
Thank you.

About the Author

Dearest person who has picked up this book,

All right, I admit it. I’m a cartoonaholic. Cartoons have always fit prominently into my life. I learned how to read by reading wonderful comic books like “Little Lulu” and “Nancy & Sluggo.” I progressed to “Superman” (in every single publication that bore his name) and could have majored in super heroes (ask me a question, any question, I dare you). By the time I got my master’s degree in Shakespeare (yes, I read comic books through college), I could not only intelligently discuss the bard’s plays, but I could also tell you all of the people who figured into Superman’s life whose initials were L.L. Even now I feel my day is incomplete without opening the paper and reading the funnies. I love to smile, and if a laugh can be tucked into it, all the better.

That was why writing
Traci on the Spot
was such a kick for me. I could imagine writing a daily comic strip that reflected my life. (Hey, I can deal with pressure—I have two kids, a husband and a German shepherd who thinks she’s a lap dog.) I hope Traci (and I) manage to entertain you for a little while.

With love and gratitude,

Marie Ferrarella

Books by Marle Ferrarella

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Books by Marle Ferrarella writing as Marie Nicole

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Prologue

M
organ Brigham slowly set down his coffee cup on the kitchen table and stared at the comic strip in the center of his paper. It was nestled in among approximately twenty others that were spread out across two pages. But this was the only one he
made a point of reading faithfully each morning at breakfast.

This was the only one that mirrored her life.

He read each panel twice, as if he couldn’t trust his own eyes. But he could. It was there, in blackand-white.

Morgan folded the paper slowly, thoughtfully, his mind not on his task. So Traci was getting engaged.

The realization gnawed at the lining of his stomach. He hadn’t a clue as to why.

He had even less of a clue why he did what he did next.

Abandoning his coffee, now cooling, and the newspaper, and ignoring the fact that this was going to make him late for the office, Morgan went to get a sheet of stationery from the den.

He didn’t have much time.

1

T
raci Richardson stared at the last frame she had just drawn. She ran her teeth thoughtfully over her lower lip. Debating, she glanced toward the creature sprawled out on the kitchen floor.

“What do you think, Jeremiah? Too blunt?”

The dog, part bloodhound,’ part mutt, idly looked up from his rawhide bone at the sound of his name. Jeremiah gave her a look that she felt free to interpret as ambivalent.

“Fine help you are. What if Daniel actually reads this and puts two and two together?”

Not that there was all that much chance that the man who had proposed to her, the very prosperous and busy Dr. Daniel Thane, would actually see the comic strip she drew for a living. Not unless the strip was taped to a bicuspid he was examining.

It wasn’t that Daniel belittled the cartoon figure that had begun as a drawing on the bottom of a Christmas card to a childhood friend and evolved into a morning staple that held regular meetings with people over cereal and milk every day in thousands of houses across America. After all,
Traci on the Spot
could be viewed as her alter ego, which, at times, was exactly what she was.

Like now.

But lately, Daniel had gotten so busy he’d stopped reading anything but the morning headlines of the
Times.
His thriving practice had almost doubled in the past year and he was talking about taking on yet another partner.

Still, you never knew. Murphy’s Law being what it was, he just might be feeling guilty and make a point of reading her strip.

“I don’t want to hurt his feelings,” Traci continued, using the dog she had saved from certain execution more than six years ago as a sounding
board. She turned in the swivel chair to face the animal. “It’s just that Traci is overwhelmed by Donald’s proposal and, see, she thinks the ring is going to swallow her up.” To prove her point, Traci held up the drawing for the dog to view.

This time, Jeremiah didn’t even bother to lift his head.

He was probably used to the sound of her voice droning on in the background, she thought with a sigh.

The advantage of working out of her house was that she wasn’t chained to a desk or a clock. She could come and go as she pleased, and if she felt like getting up in the middle of the night and working on a strip in her pajamas, there was no one to tell her not to. The downside was that there wasn’t anyone to talk to, to use as a
real
sounding board for her ideas.

Oh, sure, she could always call into the office and talk to Matthew.or Jill in the art department. But having to listen to a metallic voice offer her selections from a menu before she could get through to either of them took away some of the spontaneity from the situation.

And she was nothing if not spontaneous.

So why didn’t she just jump at this chance to become Mrs. Daniel Thane?

Traci stared moodily at the small velvet box on the corner of her kitchen counter, where it had sat since Daniel had asked her to marry him last Sunday.

She blew out a breath and leaned back so far
in her chair it almost toppled over. Grabbing the edge of the drawing board, she steadied herself, but not before her pens went flying to the floor, a pointed rainbow scattering all over.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw that the sudden commotion had caught the dog’s attention. Jeremiah came trotting over to investigate. And to sample.

Traci made a dive for the floor and got to the pens first. “Back. You don’t help with the strip, you can’t eat a pen.”

Gathering them together, she deposited the pens back into the tray. And then studied the last frame again. The Traci character’s query fit her quirky nature.

That settled it, she decided. It was going into the paper.

“Daniel isn’t going to see it,” she told the disinterested dog, more to convince herself than anything else. “He probably won’t have time to see any of them.”

But Daniel was going to suspect something eventually, she mused.

The very fact that she hadn’t grabbed the ring from his hand and slid it onto her finger should have given him a clue that she had doubts about their union.

Traci sighed, dragging both hands through her hair. The blond strands curled around her fingers, momentarily straightening before springing back. What was the matter with her? Daniel Thane was a catch by any definition. A wonderful, kind, loving
man who was a doctor, for heaven’s sake. Okay, a dentist, but that was almost as good.

So what was her problem?

Her problem, if she were honest with herself, was that she wanted a combination. A mixture of Daniel’s stability and kindness and Rory’s charm. Rory Conway was an unemployed actor who had been in and out of her life before Daniel had ever entered it.

“Not unemployed,” Rory had maintained with alacrity. “Just between jobs.” He’d been between jobs for a long while. Longer than they had been together. Rory’s main attribute, other than being tall, dark and deadly handsome, was that he could make a woman feel every inch a female in flaming capital letters, from the very tips of her frosted hair down to the edge of her pearl pink polished toes.

And he didn’t have a nesting bone in his body.

But Daniel did. All of Daniel leaned toward nesting. Home, hearth, family, that was all he’d talked about this Sunday as she had sat there, holding the velvet box in her numbed fingers, waiting to be struck by that sunny ray of happiness. And waiting and waiting. Daniel said he wanted to take care of her, to fulfill her every whim. And he was even willing to let her think about it before she gave him her answer.

Guilt nibbled at her. She should be dancing up and down, not wavering like a weather vane in a gale. After all, she did love him. Who wouldn’t?
But maybe, just maybe, she didn’t love him enough.

Still, he was generous, loving and patient. “Can a man get any better than that?” Traci asked aloud.

Jeremiah, having denuded the rawhide bone of its tan color, moaned mournfully in reply.

She waved her hand at him and huffed. “What do you know?”

Pronouncing the strip completed, Traci scribbled her signature in the corner of the last frame and then sighed. Another week’s work put to bed. Though she was completely scattered about everything else in her life, when it came to the strip, that was a different matter. There she adhered to schedules and deadlines as if her life, and not just her livelihood, depended on it. It was, at times, as if
Traci on the Spot
reflected her very soul.

“Beats lying on a couch one hour a week,” she assured Jeremiah, who couldn’t care less. He was settling in for a nice nap in the middle of a warm sunspot pooling on the tile floor.

Very carefully, she slid the strip into her portfolio along with the others she’d completed. That done, she glanced at the pile of mail on the counter. She’d been bringing it in steadily from the mailbox since Monday, but the stack had gotten no farther than her kitchen. She hadn’t opened any of it. Most of the envelopes probably contained bills, anyway. Those she allowed to marinate.

The rest were undoubtedly ads and would only
go into the recycle bin. No hurry for that, either. But since she was finished with her work, she thought she might as well make a stab at cleaning, and sorting letters was the least heinous of the annoying chores that faced her.

Traci slid onto the kitchen stool and picked up a handful of mail. She began sorting, tossing envelopes into piles like a dealer at an Atlantic City gambling table.

“Bill, bill,” she read, tossing, “ad, petition, pleas for contributions, catalog, bill.” It was sad how the bills seemed to outnumber everything else. She shook her head as she continued tossing envelopes onto the uneven piles. “Letter.”

Traci paused as she turned the long envelope over. The return address was embossed and in script. Morgan Brigham. Why would Morgan be writing to her? It wasn’t Christmas.

Curious, Traci tore open the envelope and quickly scanned the short note inside.

Dear Traci,

I’m putting the summerhouse up for sale. Thought you might want to come up and see it one more time before it goes up on the block. Or make a bid on it yourself. If memory serves, you once said you wanted to buy it. Either way, let me know. My number’s on the card.

Take care, Morgan

P.S. Got a kick out of
Traci on the Spot
this week.

Traci folded the letter, then looked down at the card in her hand. He read her strip. She hadn’t known that A feeling of pride silently coaxed a smile to her lips. She always got that happy-shy reaction when she found out people read
Traci on the Spot.

After a beat, the rest of his note seeped into her consciousness. He was selling the house.

The summerhouse. A faded white building with brick trim. Suddenly, memories flooded her mind.

Skinny-dipping in the lake when she was five until her mother and her aunt had ordered her and her cousin Adam out of the water. Morgan had told on them. She got even by putting a spider in his bed. He absolutely hated spiders.

Long, lazy afternoons that shone through bright green leaves and felt as if they would never end.

Morgan—his long, lanky body covered with red bumps—biting his lower lip as she applied globs of calamine lotion to his arms and back.

Other memories winked in and out of her mind like fireflies with a mission.

He was going to sell it. Or his parents were. Traci wondered why her mother hadn’t told her anything about this. Julia Richardson still remained in touch with Eva Brigham. Friends for thirty years, they lunched together once a month. Talk of the sale must have come up. Why hadn’t her mother said anything?

Probably because she’d been screening her
calls and avoiding her mother ever since she’d told her about the engagement ring on Sunday, she thought ruefully.

Traci looked at the far wall in the family room. Part of it was covered with framed photographs from the past. There was a large one of her and Morgan standing before the summerhouse. She couldn’t remember which of their mothers had insisted on taking it. She only remembered that both she and Morgan had trouble standing still beside each other long enough for the shot to be taken.

Traci and Morgan. Morgan and Traci. Back then, it seemed their lives had been permanently intertwined. A bittersweet feeling of loss passed over her.

Picking up the card, Traci pulled the telephone over to her on the counter and tapped out the number on the keypad.

“Law Offices,” a crisp voice announced after only one ring.

Either business was bad for the firm or someone was awfully efficient, she mused. Who woulda thunk it? Morgan Brigham, a criminal lawyer. “Mr. Morgan Brigham, please.”

“Is he expecting this call?” the voice on the other end asked primly.

Traci wound her index finger around the cord as she rocked on the stool. “Absolutely.”

It was obvious that the secretary was unconvinced and determined to remain an obstacle. “Whom shall I say is calling?”

She wanted to surprise him. “Why don’t you let me tell him that?” Traci suggested stubbornly.

“Madam, this is highly irregular.”

Traci wondered if Morgan knew how offputting his receptionist was. Probably. “I’m nobody’s madam, and trust me, he wants this call.”

“Well, I—”

The woman abruptly stopped talking. There was the sound of a hand being passed over the receiver and then a muffled exchange of voices in the background. Cradling the receiver between her shoulder and ear, Traci wandered over to the coffeemaker and poured herself a mug. This was going to take a while.

“Hello?” The voice was deep, rich, like the black coffee in her mug.

Startled, Traci paused at the refrigerator, the door opened. “Morgan?”

“Yes?”

She didn’t remember his voice being so resonant. It took her a second to collect her thoughts. “This is a voice from your past.” Taking out the container of milk, she closed the door with her hip.

“Traci.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement.

She was a little disappointed that Morgan could guess so easily. It wasn’t as if she called him all the time. Or ever.

Pouring, she watched the milk swirl into the darkness. “Yes, how did you know?”

He laughed and the sound seemed to surround her. “You’re the only person out of my past who
could give my secretary the beginnings of a migraine.”

Traci had no idea why that made her smile. “You shouldn’t hire such delicate help and you should definitely get yourself a more exciting past.”

Obviously, some things never changed, Morgan thought. Traci still had a convoluted way of looking at things. “In order to do that, it would mean that I’d have to work on my present.”

Her grin grew. “Yes, it would.”

“Still think you know it all, don’t you?”

Was that a fond note in his voice or just her imagination? “No, now I know I do. But let’s not get into that. I’m holding your note in my hand.”

“I was beginning to think you weren’t interested. I sent the note out last Friday.”

Traci looked at the stack of mail and then at the engagement ring box. She ran the tip of her finger along the lid, then pushed the box back.

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