Leslie Westcott’s journey to love has a few bumps but a lot of jewelry and wedding dresses. And it isn’t everyone who is lucky enough to have an aunt in the wedding dress business who wants to hold a charity auction. The end result is a lot of old memories Leslie must deal with as she cleans out her closet and tries not to give up on love forever.
When her fiancé, Jordan, dies in an accident shortly before their wedding, Leslie is devastated and soon learns that must go to the family jeweler and return the diamond from her engagement ring as well as half the house she’d shared with her fiancé to a greedy mother-in-law. As for the dress, it is the first of several to gather dust in Leslie’s closet.
Charlie Sauveterre from Sauveterre Jewelers has had a crush on Leslie since she used to come into the store with her mother. Charlie, who is now a gorgeous man, bears a striking resemblance to the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. He wasn’t as fortunate in the looks department as a child. Leslie always perceived his lack of friendliness to be a perceived slight, and she grew up never liking him.
Now, he is in her life again, usually anytime she has a broken engagement. Unfortunately for her, she never questions why fate seems to push her back again and again in Charlie Sauveterre’s path.
Leslie second fiancé plays on her grief to get close to her. Realtor King Jack Ward even proposes using a ring he’d given to a previous wife, which is a fact Leslie learns from Charlie. A hastily purchased replacement ring soothes her wrinkled feathers. But it isn’t until Leslie finds Jack wearing a black leather dog collar and being whipped by paid for S & M “friends,” who resemble adult Barbies that she calls off the engagement.
As a prosperous Realtor in her own right, she tries to throw herself into her work to ignore her disastrous love life. Unfortunately for her, she ends up partnering with Shane McPhee, a developer of a large condominium project.
Meanwhile, Charlie needs a model for his new line of aquamarine jewelry. Shane and Charlie persuade Leslie to be the model for Charlie. She is dubbed “The Aqua Lady” in all the advertising and finds the experience to be a bit erotic as her feelings for Charlie become complicated.
When the condo project’s client trust accounts are full, Shane cleans them out and skips town, leaving Leslie to clean up the mess. It is only then that she visits Charlie who gives her the news that her engagement ring, the one Shane had given her only a month earlier, is a fake.
Lawyer Sam Ulysses Wade steps in to clear her name and help her pick up the shards of her life. Not only does he help her keep her real estate license, but he also offers her a place to live and gives her life a bit of much-needed direction. One day, he turns the tables and asks her for a favor of a very personal kind. His grandfather has died and put unique caveats in his will. He wants each of his heirs to do something unique to inherit his fortune. Sam must be married and asks Leslie to marry him. A whirlwind trip to Sauveterre Jewelers and her Aunt Trudel’s wedding shop gives her everything she needs to make a quick Vegas wedding happen, but she realizes she doesn’t love Sam and stops the madness just in the nick of time.
Sam is disappointed, but when he admits that he is gay, he and Leslie find a loop-hole in his grandfather’s will that allows him to marry his secret boyfriend, Milan.
After licking her wounds yet again, Leslie trips over Mitch, her father and stepmother’s recently divorced neighbor. Like several of her other fiancés, he proclaims his love for her early on in their relationship. Leslie is unsure and puts him off as she gets to know his spoiled six-year-old daughter, Roma who doesn’t like Leslie or her dog, Daisy. When Mitch gives her an ultimatum with his proposal, she refuses him and finds herself single again.
A year of soul searching passes as Leslie settles into her home, makes a life for herself and her dog. Her cousin drags her to a bridal show in New York, where Leslie wins not only the top raffle prize, a designer wedding gown in her size, but she also runs into Charlie presenting his aquamarine jewelry. He and Leslie end up having a passionate date that ends up uncovering their true feels for each other.
Charlie is now making a name for himself with his exotic aquamarine jewelry and traveling the world. Leslie isn’t sure when she will see him again, and she is heartbroken in a way like she has never been.
Meanwhile, Leslie’s aunt continues to pressure her to place all the wedding dresses she has accumulated into her upcoming Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction. Leslie eventually places all her dresses in the auction, including the one she had just won in New York. It is her favorite and the only one she truly regrets. All the dresses are listed as being donated by “The Aqua Lady”.
It isn’t until Leslie is attending the Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction, when Charlie buys Leslie’s favorite dress, drops to one knee and proposes that Leslie realizes that Charlie is and always has been her true love.
2017 – Five days before the Auction
“Now, with a sweet story of happy endings, let’s go to Hannah who is shopping until she drops at the Portland landmark, Trudel’s Wedding Boutique. Hannah, take it away!” the news announcer with the too bright teeth said as he set up the story for his reporter in the field.
“Thank you, Jeff. I’m so excited to be here so bright and early to bring you this story that is bound to have fifty happy endings!”
“Well Hannah, that is a pretty tall order,” Jeff replied with a wink.
“Jeff, it is all but guaranteed,” Hannah announced with a big toothy grin. “On Saturday night, Trudel’s Wedding Boutique will be hosting a wedding dress auction in the ballroom at the Portland Art Museum like nothing ever seen before in our city. Benefiting Rachel’s House the local battered women’s shelter, this large wedding dress auction will be raising money for a great cause. Before I show you a couple of the dresses up for grabs, I want to introduce someone special.
“We are here with Trudel herself. We are surrounded by the most beautiful wedding gowns you’ve ever seen,” the reporter said, turning to Trudel, a small statured woman who was dressed as usual in a black dress and large pearls. “Trudel, I want to thank you for getting up so early to meet with us this morning to talk about your first Silver Linings Charity Auction.”
“Thank you, Hannah, I’m happy to be here with you showcasing this fabulous event.”
“Great, great! Now, tell us how you came up with this fabulous idea.”
“Well, you know that love is not a straightforward journey for everyone. And sometimes a beautiful wedding dress is the collateral damage that sometimes gets left behind. A gorgeous gown can become a bride’s arch nemesis after a broken engagement, which is such a waste.”
“Have you seen that happen a lot over the thirty years you’ve been running your boutique here in downtown Portland?”
“Most of the time, everything goes off without a hitch. But there are those times when everything that can go wrong does go wrong. That is how I came to have such a glut of beautiful inventory. And in some cases, people have beautiful gowns they will never wear again or give to another family member to wear. Well, the gowns aren’t doing anyone any good just hanging in the closet! But they could! That’s when I got to thinking that an auction could help those who aren’t lucky in love and end up in situations where they don’t have a place to go. Rachel’s House was the natural choice. These dresses should go to helping out other women who find themselves in unfortunate positions.”
“That’s so great,” Hannah said as she smiled at the camera.
“That’s right. I have several dresses I will be putting in our sale for a lady who hasn’t made it down the aisle yet!” Trudel confirmed.
“Wow, now that sounds like a good story.”
Trudel shook her head, her smile turning to a grimace. “She is a very sweet person, but she has been engaged many times…And she is like a niece to me, so she knows the importance of ordering a dress at least six months in advance. Unfortunately for her, several times, just when the dress was ready for the first fitting the engagement was a thing of the past.”
“So it was this reluctant bride that gave you the idea?”
“She gets a lot of men to close the deal by proposing, but it is never the right one. On some level, she was my motivation for the Silver Linings Wedding Dress Auction. It is just so sad to see all those wedding dresses hanging in her closet. It isn’t like I can resell all of her dresses because they’ve been altered to fit her. But she is curvy, with generous curves,” she admits as if she is divulging a dirty little secret, “So her dresses could fit a lot of smaller women who aren’t as curvy.”
“I’m curious, just how many dresses does she have in her closet?”
“I think she has at least a half dozen!” Trudel exclaims with a laugh.
“My goodness, what does she do that she meets so many men who propose to her?”
“She is a Realtor, they just meet everyone,” Trudel says with a sarcastic laugh. “I can tell you she has a Mark Zunino, and several Monique Lhuillier’s, who I think is her favorite designer. We are excited to have nearly fifty dresses from almost every major name in bridal fashion.”
“They should raise a lot of money for Rachel’s House.”
“That’s what we are hoping!”
The reporter looked into the camera and said, “Now if you have a dress you don’t want, it doesn’t need to be a Mark Zunino, but you know who to call. They should call you, shouldn’t they, Trudel?” she asks turning back to Trudel.
“Yes, or they can just bring the dress by the shop. We are known for our designer gowns, but as long as the dress is in good shape and only worn once or not at all, we will take it. We are hoping to have enough gowns for a second auction next spring.”
“So, if you have a story similar to Trudel’s honorary niece, I’m sorry her name escapes me,” the reporter said.
“Leslie Westcott,” Trudel blurted out, and looking only into the camera with large, frightened eyes as the realization hit much like a cornered rabbit looking up the long barrel of a hunter’s gun.
“Yes, if you have a story like Leslie Westcott’s, Trudel of Trudel’s Wedding Boutique would love to hear from you. Okay, thank you, Trudel, again for getting up with us so early in the morning. Now, in our next half hour, you’re going to see me in one of the dresses from the Silver Linings Auction. Who knows? Maybe it will be one of Leslie Westcott’s cast offs. Okay, see you in a bit. I’ll send it back to you Jeff in the studio.”
“Thank you, Hannah, great story,” Jeff said. “Let’s hope Leslie Westcott’s dresses bring a lot of money for a great cause. Now, we’ll turn to Rhonda for the latest in traffic.”
Leslie Westcott stood naked in the bathroom doorway with a towel wrapped around her wet hair and a toothbrush dangling out of her mouth as she watched the morning news in horror. First, she was Trudel’s niece, but since Leslie’s mother had died, Trudel always treated her like a second daughter. That honorary stuff was crap. This woman, who had just blurted out her name on the morning news, was her blood relative.
Second, they had all agreed that if Leslie decided to participate her dresses would go into the auction anonymously. She knew when she’d mentioned this last, important detail that Trudel hadn’t been listening or as the family liked to think of it, she was projecting, but not receiving.
Aunt Trouble strikes again!
Had Leslie believed this whole charity auction wouldn’t come back to bite her in the ass? No. She just hoped it wouldn’t be so personal. Aunt Trudel had been so crazed with auction details it had been hard to be around her.
Leslie stepped back into the bathroom and rinsed her mouth. She held onto the edge of the granite counter and counted to ten, reminding herself to breathe. As the words Aunt Trudel had said repeated again and again in her mind, Leslie cringed, her stomach doing flip flops.
This was going to be trouble. She couldn’t murder Aunt Trudel. She didn’t need the hassle with the police, but then she had connections in the police department and a good lawyer, but still, it wasn’t worth it. And it wasn’t like Trudel meant any harm. She was a very sweet person with an open heart and the attention span of a gnat.
Her cell phone began buzzing as a number she didn’t recognize registered on the display, and then there was a chirp and a second number appeared, and this time her caller id snared the caller, the news station that had just interviewed Trudel. No doubt they wanted Leslie for a follow-up story. Not going to happen.
And, just to be clear, she had not yet agreed to put any of her wedding dresses in Aunt Trudel’s Silver Linings Dress Auction. No, all the garment bags holding clues to her torrid, tumultuous, and controversial past were still in the guest room closet like white encased corpses. And she was quite content to have them stay there.
Leslie’s sweet Vizsla dog, Daisy raised her head off the bed, her amber eyes big and tender, as Leslie dressed. If she could talk, she’d no doubt be saying, “Are you mad at my Aunt Trudel? Is she coming for a visit? She gives me treats even when you tell her to stop. Where are you going? How can you leave me like this?”
“You sweet girl,” she said as she placed a kiss on her dog’s head. “Be good while I’m gone. I’ll try to be home early. Got to run, got a closing. Got to keep you in doggy biscuits. Take care of the house.”