Acting on Impulse

By: Vicki Lewis Thompson

Prologue



Okay, so all her cherished plans were in the dumper. Trudy Baxter grabbed another plastic glass of wedding reception champagne and vowed to make the best of it. Obviously she and her best friend Meg wouldn't be single girls sharing a New York flat this coming January, after all. Trudy would have to experience that long-awaited lifestyle change solo.

For six months she'd secretly and selfishly hoped Meg's wedding would be canceled. But nearly everyone in Virtue, Kansas, had crowded into the Baptist church this morning to watch Meg marry her "city slicker" Tom Hennessy. Then they'd all hurried to the Grange Hall for the reception.Now that it was a done deal, Trudy realized how right this move was for Meg. Brilliant and bossy, she'd always been a redhead with an attitude. She couldn't have made a better choice than a mellow, funny guy like Tom, someone who could tone her down a little.

Of course Meg had assured Trudy that she'd still be there for her when Trudy arrived in New York. But Trudy knew it wouldn't be the way they'd planned it in junior high when they'd decided to be career girls together. That wasn't Meg's fault. Meg had left this one-horse town three and a half years ago, right on schedule, ready to experience big-city living and big-city men. Trudy was the slowpoke, tied down by family obligations she hadn't had the heart to ignore.

While Trudy had struggled to finish her college correspondence courses and help out at home, Meg had met Tom during a Christmas shopping trip to Saks. And despite his well-tailored tux and Manhattan address, he was anything but slick. Two nights ago Trudy had watched him chugalug a pitcher of beer at the Pizza Palace and then line up with everybody else to dance the bunny-hop. Trudy figured Meg had fallen in love with his goofy side. The fact that he was a talented securities trader was a bonus.

Still, he was a securities trader, not a hayseed, and Trudy wondered what he really thought of this reception in the Grange Hall with disposable tablecloths and crepe paper streamers. According to Meg, he'd wanted the guests to be comfortable.

As a result, they'd served Jell-O salad and pink champagne instead of caviar and Dom Pérignon. They were using a tape deck instead of hiring a live band out of Kansas City, and the favors were tulle bags filled with M&M's instead of gold boxes of Godiva. By all appearances Tom didn't seem to object to any of it.

Trudy objected. She was cringing inside wondering how Tom truly must be viewing all this. His parents came from a small town in Indiana, so they were probably cool with it. But Trudy was glad Tom's best man, also a securities trader, hadn't made it. She hated to think of anybody getting chicken pox at the age of thirty-one, and Tom must miss having his best buddy at such an important moment in his life, but a guy like Linc Faulkner wouldn't fit in. From what Tom said, Linc's family was loaded.

"Hey, Trudy, Irish jig time!" Tom called across the dance floor. "You ready?"

Her brother Kenny laughed. "Who said she could dance an Irish jig?"

Because it was a wedding and she was all dressed up, Trudy gave him only a light punch on the arm. "I did." She vaguely remembered making the boast at the Pizza Palace after she'd had a fair share of beer, herself.

But she could do this. She'd watched her Riverdance video at least a hundred times. While doing chores in the barn she'd worked off some of her frustration, sexual and otherwise, by kicking and stomping up and down the wooden aisle. Her dance step, sounded exactly like Michael Flatley's, if she did say so herself.

"Look, sis, watching a video isn't the same as—"

"Hold this." She handed her glass to Kenny. "And prepare to be amazed." She'd had just enough champagne to be confident and not enough to affect her balance. She adjusted her flowered headpiece, which insisted on slipping down over one eye.

Kenny thought he was such a hotshot because at the last minute he'd had to fill in as best man. With a safety pin here and there, he'd been able to wear the tux meant for Linc. A seventeen-year-old wearing his first tux could be a real pain in the ass.

Her little sister Sue Ellen, barely three, clapped wildly. "You go, girl!"

"I will!" Trudy had taught her to say that. It was so damned cute. She loved the little tyke, loved her to pieces, even if Sue Ellen was the anchor that had kept her in Virtue those extra years. Without Trudy around, her mom wouldn't have made it after Sue Ellen was born, not with five other kids under fourteen and a husband who had his hands full earning enough to feed them all.

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