Bess may have married into royalty, but she wasn’t the sort to sit around doing nothing while spending someone else’s money. So she took some of her own savings and invested them into a new business. Her masters degree in Art History meant that she was good at dating and valuating old furniture and décor, so she decided to put her skill to good use and open an antiques store. Her contacts told her the most exclusive commercial area was in the French Quarter in Newcrest and she found a pretty and spacious building next to the park.
When Bess arrived promptly to start setting up she was happy to find that her carefully chosen furniture had already arrived. The delivery company had even left her a complementary bottle of champagne! How thoughtful of them, she would certainly recommend them to her friends. It was worth paying the extra money to feel reassured that her precious cargo wouldn’t get knocked and bashed by clumsy delivery drivers.
Bess had taken a lot of time to choose the best pieces she could find. They had been expensive, and almost blown her budget, but her plan was to aim for quality over quantity. Anyone could fill a store full of cheap junk, but Bess believed that if she offered her clients only the finest examples, they would trust her more in the long term. After spending most of the day carefully arranging the few items of furniture, Bess finally opened the shop.
Nobody seemed to be coming in. After half an hour of smiling warmly at the door, Bess realised she would have to do a little more work to drum up interest. She ventured outside and tried to engage some passers-by.
‘Good afternoon,’ she sang confidently, blocking another lady’s path, ‘Can I interest you in some of the finest examples of furniture from the Court of Versimmes?’
The woman returned her greeting but her wide smile seemed at odds with her narrowed eyes. ‘I would love to but I really don’t have time, I have a spa appointment at three.’
But Bess was more accustomed to giving people the brush-off than being on the receiving end. She gave a dismissive laugh, ‘Important people are never on time for spa appointments. They can wait for you, dear.’
Astor Dixon, who was always happy to receive a compliment, found herself caught in a social trap. She couldn’t insist on her spa appointment because that would be admitting she wasn’t important! ‘I suppose they can wait a little while,’ she contested gracefully, ‘did you say Versimmes?’
‘Oh yes,’ Bess enthused, ‘I had the pleasure of staying at the palace while I was visiting the Duke. When I heard he was selling some of the furniture I simply had to offer to take it, we can’t let it fall into the hands of any old riff-raff now, can we?’
‘Of course not!’ Astor agreed, her ego flushing at the thought of owning a piece of furniture from the Palace of Versimmes. Her social survival instincts were kicking in too, she had been having trouble trying to make the right kind of friends to help her husband’s political career, and here was an opportunity to befriend someone with the most elite contacts.
‘You would be doing me the greatest favour if you would take a look around,’ Bess purred. She knew she had the woman hooked!
What could Astor do!? Refusing to make a purchase would make her appear like she couldn’t afford it (and she most certainly could!), but by buying something she was both investing in a new contact and she would own a great item to boast about at dinner parties! Of course she bought something!