Silenced In Sequins – The First Chapter

Well, talk about being overwhelmed! In a good way. 🙂 I asked you, my reader, to add SILENCED IN SEQUINS to your to-be read shelf over at Goodreads. You did and now SILENCED IN SEQUINS has been added to over 1,400 shelves! Way more than I initially expected. So I thought I’d share the first chapter with you. Let you have an sneak peek.

It’s the holiday time in Lucky Cove, NY. Kelly Quinn is getting in the flow of things as the owner of a consignment shop and she’s just landed an amazing consignment from a reality television star. Things are looking up. Until things start heading south with her and her boutique right smack in the middle of all the drama. Reality divas, conniving producer and a long buried secret of her grandmother’s that jeopardizes her new life.

As a thank you for helping this writer out, I’m sharing the first chapter with you. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Chapter One

 

It’s so beautiful.

It wasn’t every day a gal from Lucky Cove, New York, was in the presence of a Gucci dress.

When Kelly Quinn first laid eyes on the halter-neckline black cocktail dress, her breath caught. The body-conscious garment was expertly constructed, and its faux tortoiseshell ring at the back of the neck was elegant.

She swiped the dress one last time with a lint roller to prepare for its photo session. She then gave the dress a gentle tug, and it draped perfectly on the mannequin.

Exquisite.

Of course it was. It was an authentic Gucci cocktail dress that would’ve cost her a month’s rent back in New York City. Now it was consigned to her boutique, the Lucky Cove Resale Boutique, for sale.

She set the lint roller down and picked up her camera and snapped a flurry of photographs. She wanted shots from all angles of the dress, including a close-up of the Made in Italy label.

The windfall of the Gucci dress, plus seven other designer garments consigned last week, prompted her to give herself a crash course in not only photography but also how to set up an account on MineNowYours.com, a mega resale website where she could sell the dresses and earn a decent commission.

The “oh my god, finally a designer dress” moment she’d been dreaming of since taking over the business had come to a grinding halt when she checked the label. The dress was a size two. All the dresses were a size two. In the two months she’d been running the boutique, she’d learned the number of customers who frequented the store that were a size two were few.

She did her best to hide her disappointment. She seriously couldn’t believe she was looking at a Gucci and feeling disappointed. It made no sense to her. The consignor, Wendy Johnson, couldn’t help if she was a svelte size two, thanks to her excessive exercising, constant dieting, and many trips to New York’s premier plastic surgeon.

Kelly didn’t know such intimate details of the lives of her other consignment clients. But every week her new employee, Breena Collins, gave her updates on Wendy’s life, thanks to the latest episode of Long Island Ladies.

In some office building in midtown Manhattan, a group of television people got together and whipped up a reality show about a half-dozen spoiled, pampered, and wealthy housewives on Long Island.

How could it not be a hit?

Long Island had it all—mansions, expensive toys like yachts, endless stretches of beach, and the biggest playground for the most wealthy, the Hamptons.

Lucky Cove was tucked along the coast and attracted weary summer weekenders from the city looking for a charming main street, quiet roads, and a stretch of undisturbed beach. The quaintness of the town was what Long Island getaways used to be for city dwellers. Before the rise of cell phone videos, selfies gone wild, and reality television.

Kelly had enough drama in her life, thank you very much. So when the fashion gods gave her the designer dresses she’d been praying for she, needed to laser focus and decide how she’d sell the garments for the best price. She couldn’t get sidetracked by Wendy’s detailed description of each dress.

Yes, it was lovely that Wendy’s personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman knew her tastes. It was spectacular that her husband made reservations at the most exclusive restaurant on the island. And how grand it was that she wore one of the dresses the night she tossed a drink into the face of a fellow Long Island Lady.

None of which affected the price of the dress. The labels dictated the price, followed by the condition of the garment. Hence, Kelly’s eagle eye as she inspected each one.

Kelly knew designer fashions, thanks to her previous job as an assistant fashion buyer. What she didn’t know was how to authenticate designer items, and if she wanted to pursue designer fashions and accessories, she needed to learn how to spot the fakes. She couldn’t hope to consign and sell a Hermès bag if she couldn’t prove beyond any doubt that it was the real deal.

Not too many designer items were coming into the boutique at the moment, but she hoped to change that, and with these new acquisitions, she could be actively consigning luxury items soon.

Kelly set down her camera. She turned the mannequin to get photographs of the back of the dress. She smoothed the dress one more time and picked up her camera.

She yawned.

Between setting up the Mine Now Yours account and sending out newsletters, there was Thanksgiving, and last night she’d stayed way too late at her sister’s house and eaten way too much. She yawned again. It seemed the turkey coma carried over to the next day.

Up an hour earlier than normal, she wanted to photograph all the cocktail dresses before she opened the boutique. Black Friday for brick-and-mortar stores wasn’t what it used to be, but she had no idea of what the day looked like for a consignment shop.

As her granny used to say, “You live and learn.”

The advice wasn’t very reassuring, but it was all she had at the moment.

She bought advertising in local newspapers; pulled out every visual display trick she’d learned in fashion school and at Bishop’s and dressed up the window; and e-mailed her anemic mailing list. She then said a prayer to the fashion gods.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Breena Collins appeared in the doorway holding a tray of coffees and pastries from Doug’s Variety Store, where she also worked part-time.

Kelly lowered her camera and turned toward Breena’s voice, then stared at the sight of her friend and coworker. She was still getting used to her former high-school classmate’s bright new hair color.

The petite redhead bustled into the photography studio. It sounded so much more professional than it was.

On a tight budget, Kelly had purchased three umbrella lights online and a vintage floor vinyl backdrop to make the photos look as good as possible. Yes, the dresses were designer, and while they didn’t carry their four-figure price tags any longer, they wouldn’t be cheap either.

“I wish I could afford one of her dresses. It would be so cool to own a dress from Wendy Johnson.”

Kelly arched an eyebrow. She wondered just how much weight Wendy’s named carried. While she couldn’t reveal the consignor when she put the items up for sale, maybe someone would recognize the floral, sleeveless Zac Posen dress from the infamous drink-toss-in-the-face episode of LIL, everyone’s shorthand for Long Island Ladies.

“Too bad we don’t have a layaway plan, huh?” Kelly set her camera down on the small round table, where she had collected a basket of tools of the trade—lint roller, binder clips, seam ripper, and small scissors. She took a coffee from the tray.

Breena nodded. “How was your Thanksgiving?”

“Good. Caroline’s fiancé was there with his family.” It was the first holiday Kelly had spent with her estranged sister in years. After a tragic accident ten years earlier, Kelly and her sister had drifted apart. The divide between them got wider and deeper, to the point where they eventually just became little more than acquaintances. The bright side to Kelly’s unforeseen inheritance was the chance to rebuild her relationship with Caroline.

“Good to hear. My parents had a houseful too. I’d like to know when my adult brothers will grow up.” Breena set the tray on the table and then drifted to the rolling rack, where the rest of Wendy Johnson’s consigned dresses hung.

“I don’t think they ever grow up.” Kelly took a drink of coffee. Unofficially, the autumn season was over, and all things were turning festive. Doug’s Variety Store now served its annual Holly Jolly coffee brew. The aroma was robust, and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg mingled together in every sip.

Breena pulled a sequined gown from the rack and dashed over to the narrow full-length mirror. She held it up against herself and gazed at her reflection.

“Va va boom!” She had the full bust to work the deep V-neck of the gown. In fact, she had all the right curves to work the dress. What Breena didn’t have was the height. Wendy Johnson was at least five-feet-seven, give an inch or two.

“I don’t remember her wearing this dress on the show.” Breena spun around, still holding the dress against her body, and faced Kelly. “I love it. I can see me entering the party now; all eyes turn on me as I strut in, leaving all the guys drooling.”

“Yes, they would be.” Kelly walked to Breena and held out her hand. “How about envisioning yourself straightening up the displays?”

Breena frowned. “Buzzkill.” She handed the dress to Kelly, swooped up the tray of coffee and pastries, and dashed out of the photography studio.

Kelly extended her arm to look at the dress. It wasn’t designer like the other dresses. Actually, it looked more prom than posh. While it wouldn’t fetch a high three-figure price, it would sell fast if she priced it right. She gathered the other hanging dresses, along with the silver-sequined gown, and hauled them out to the sales counter, where she attached price tags. She’d come back for the Gucci dress. She still had to figure out its price.

Kelly carried an armful of Wendy’s dresses out of the photo studio. Pepper Donovan, not only a longtime employee of the boutique but also Kelly’s grandmother’s best friend, stood behind the counter, reviewing the weekend’s marketing plan.

Kelly realized putting together an official marketing plan was a bit fussy for a small consignment shop, but the document helped her stay organized and focused. She had a lot to juggle. She was gaining inventory, tackling minor remodeling in the upstairs apartment where she now lived, working the sales floor, and writing articles for the fashion website BudgetChic.com.

As she approached the counter, Pepper lifted her chin and, over her reading glasses, gave Kelly the “Pepper glare.” Kelly had been on the receiving end of that look since the day she took over the business and implemented her changes.

One change Kelly made had her butting heads with Pepper for days. When Kelly’s granny converted the first floor of her colonial-style house into a retail shop, she was working on a shoestring budget, so she didn’t have money to take down walls, resulting in a choppy layout for her shop. Over time, she got the funds for an addition to sell home accents, which Kelly liquidated, due to the low turnover of the merchandise, expanding the accessory and shoe inventory into that space. Pepper had fought to keep the home accents but eventually saw Kelly’s vision.

Her acceptance of the changes wasn’t limited to the shop. She’d given herself a makeover a few weeks earlier. Pepper’s color-treated, shoulder-length blond hair was styled in soft waves, and she’d expertly applied a smoky eye and added just the right amount of rose-colored gloss to her thinning lips. For what would hopefully be a busy day, she chose a pair of olive-colored velvet pants and a white button-down shirt topped with a cream pullover sweater. Peeking out from under the collar of the shirt was a sparkly necklace. Pepper managed to make all the right fashion choices for a woman in her mid-sixties. She looked neither too young nor too desperate to hang onto her youth. She just looked great.

Except for the Pepper glare.

“What? It’s only one page.” Kelly dropped the dresses onto the counter. The mini snowmen lined up along the counter didn’t escape her notice. On Wednesday afternoon, there had been mini pumpkins. She was impressed with how quickly Pepper had changed out the decorations and how serious she was about holiday themes.

“Seems a little formal, don’t you think?” Pepper sorted through the dresses. “Are these in the computer?”

Kelly nodded. One of her first tasks was to update the inventory system. Granny and Pepper had been manually tracking inventory. Over the past few years, the system had become too chaotic to manage, and it left Kelly with a big mess. She sourced a new inventory system and had it installed in time for the kickoff of the busiest shopping season of the year.

Well, she hoped it was the busiest shopping season for consignment stores because she needed an infusion of cash to keep the business afloat.

“Yes, they’ve been added to the inventory. Can you print out the price tags and put these dresses out on the floor? I think this silvery sequin dress should be on a mannequin. There’s a pair of shoes and clutch I think will look great with the dress.”

“Okay. I’ll take care of that now while you unlock the door. It’s time to open.” Pepper shifted over to the new computer that had been added to the sales counter area and preceded to print out the price tags.

Kelly passed Breena, who was busy refolding a stack of sweaters. Her stride to the front door was purposeful. She’d been looking forward to Black Friday for weeks. Back in the city, the day was a blur of activity. She’d spent as much time as she could on the sales floor at Bishop’s to help out the staff.

She unlocked the door and flipped over the closed sign to open while wondering if she’d get the same rush of excitement from her own clothing boutique this Black Friday.

She pulled open the door and greeted the woman standing out in the cold. Their first customer of the day.

“Good morning. Welcome to the Lucky Cove Resale Boutique.” Kelly stepped aside, and the customer entered.

Throughout the day, business was steady, but not the retail frenzy she was accustomed to. With both Breena and Pepper working, she could duck into the staff room, a combination kitchen, break room, and office, and work on a new article for Budget Chic. Her editor had assigned her the topic of holiday looks under a hundred dollars. The article was due in less than a week. No pressure.

The first draft of the article was complete, with three inspirational outfits and links to budget-friendly websites when Liv Moretti appeared at the back door with lunch.

“How’s business?” Liv set the tray of sandwiches and chips on the counter by the sink. She’d texted earlier and said she’d stop by because she needed a break from her family’s bakery. Kelly had asked if she’d pick up some food at the deli. She wanted to treat Pepper and Breena to lunch since they’d worked hard getting the boutique ready for Black Friday.

Kelly couldn’t believe it was lunchtime already. Where had the morning gone?

“Steady.” Kelly eyed the bag of chips. Given her overeating yesterday and her need to wear leggings because of their elastic waistband, maybe she should pass on the chips. “How’s it going at the bakery?”

Kelly stretched. After a week of moving all the merchandise and displays in what used to be the dining room in order to paint, sitting too long hunched over her laptop made her feel stiff. She’d love to go to a Pilates session; it always worked out her kinks, but the only studio in town was owned by her uncle’s third wife, Summer. So she’d keep her kinks.

“Quiet, which is a good thing after the craziness of Wednesday. I’m officially sick of pumpkin pie.” Liv picked up a wrapped sandwich and a bag of chips and walked to Kelly’s desk. Her lip twitched. “Not really. I love pumpkin pie. It’s just that we baked so many of them. Now it’s on to Christmas cookies.”

Kelly took her sandwich and chips. “Thank you.”

“No problem. It’s nice to get out for a bit. Are you working on your article for Budget Chic?”

Before Kelly could respond, the door to the staff room swung open, and Breena burst in.

“Oh. My. God. You won’t believe who just bought a dress! She was right here! And me too! I was here when she was here!” Breena’s words were rushed, and her arms flailed.

“Wow. Calm down.” Kelly stood and walked over to her employee. “Who was here?”

“Yeah, who has you so flustered?” Liv moved back to the counter. “When you get a grip, your lunch is here.”

Liv plucked out her sandwich and a bag of chips, which earned her a sideways look from Kelly. Liv worked in a bakery and had enjoyed a large Italian Thanksgiving the day before and thought nothing of eating chips. More proof that life wasn’t fair.

“Diana Delacourte!” Breena shared after taking a deep breath.

Kelly and Liv shared a look and both asked, “Who?”

Breena rolled her eyes. “You two really don’t watch Long Island Ladies? She’s one of them. Or she was. The show fired her.”

Kelly didn’t care if Diana Delacourte was on television. What she cared about was the fact that she had purchased a dress and might have clothing to consign.

“What dress did she buy?” Liv asked, but before Breena could answer, Pepper appeared at the doorway.

“Great. Lunch is here. I’m starving. But it’ll have to wait. A bunch of customers just came through the front door. I need some help out there.” With that, Pepper disappeared.

Kelly’s mood brightened. Maybe her marketing blitz was paying off.

“Do you mind putting our sandwiches in the fridge?’ she asked Liv.

“No. Go on. I’ll finish my lunch before heading back to the bakery. I see you have a new magazine here.” She patted the glossy edition.

“Enjoy. And thanks again.” Kelly walked out of the staff room with Breena.

“Don’t forget, I’m picking you up tomorrow night for the party,” Liv called out.

And just as fast as Kelly’s mood had brightened, it dimmed.

Her uncle Ralph’s annual holiday party was always held on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving, and since she was back in Lucky Cove, she had no good excuse not to attend.

“Fancy schmancy,” Breena cooed.

“Not really.” As Kelly urged Breena forward, she glanced over her shoulder at Liv.

“I know what you’re thinking, Kell, and no, you can’t get out of the party. You’ve already RSVP’d, and do you really want to deal with Summer? You know how she gets.” Liv smiled and then picked up the magazine, flipped it open, and munched on a chip.

Kelly hated it when her best friend was right. If she bailed on the party, Summer would never let her hear the end of it. She stepped into the main sales area of the boutique and accepted the cold, hard fact that, while coming back home had its share of bright spots, there were also her uncle and aunt.

She glanced at the cocktail dresses Pepper had hung up earlier. Maybe there was a bright side to the party. She had a shimmering gold dress she’d gotten at a sample sale before losing her job at Bishop’s, and it would be perfect to wear to her uncle’s party.

Anyone who was anyone would attend the party, and those “anyones” had closets she’d love to get inside. She could fit a stack of business cards into her clutch.

Her mood brightened again.

The party could be fun. She’d have a little champagne and a few appetizers and network with the posh society of Lucky Cove. What could go wrong?

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