contempt for Nazi sympathizers. Still, she was a practical woman, and Chloe knew that her mother saw no sense in sending Eva Peron's money, no matter how ill-gained, from the rue de la Paix to the avenue Montaigne, where the house of Dior reigned supreme.

After that, Chloe clipped photographs of Eva Peron from the newspapers and pasted them in a scrapbook with a red cover. Whenever Nita's criticisms became especially biting, Chloe looked at the pictures, leaving an occasional chocolate smudge on the pages as she remembered how Eva Peron had said she would be a great beauty someday.

The winter she was fourteen her fat miraculously disappeared along with her sweet tooth, and the legendary Serritella bones were finally brought into definition. She began spending hours gazing into the mirror, entranced by the reed-slim image before her. Now, she told herself, everything would be different. For as long as she could remember, she had felt like an outcast at school, but suddenly she found herself part of the inner circle. She didn't understand that the other girls were more attracted to her newfound air of self-confidence than to her twenty-two- inch waist. For Chloe Serritella, beauty meant acceptance.

Nita seemed pleased with her weight loss, so when Chloe went home to Paris for her summer holiday, she found the courage to show her mother sketches of some dresses she'd designed with the hope of someday becoming a couturiere herself. Nita laid out the sketches on her worktable, lit a cigarette, and dissected each one with the critical eye that had made her a great designer.

'This line is ridiculous. And the proportion is all wrong here. See how you ruined this one with too much detail? Where is your eye, Chloe? Where is your eye?'

Chloe snatched the sketches from the table and never tried to design again.

When she returned to school, Chloe dedicated herself to becoming prettier, wittier, and more popular than any of her classmates, determined that no one would ever suspect that an awkward fat girl still lived inside her. She learned to dramatize the most trivial events of her day with grand gestures and extravagant sighs until everything she did seemed more important than anything the others could possibly do. Gradually even the most mundane occurrence in Chloe Serritella's life became fraught with high drama.

At sixteen, she gave her virginity to the brother of a friend in a gazebo facing Lake Lucerne. The experience was awkward and uncomfortable, but sex made Chloe feel slim. She quickly made up her mind to try the whole thing again with someone more experienced.

In the spring of 1953, when Chloe was eighteen, Nita died unexpectedly from a ruptured appendix. Chloe sat stunned and silent through her mother's funeral, too numb to understand that the intensity of her grief sprang not so much from her mother's death as from the feeling that she'd never had a mother at all. Afraid to be alone, she stumbled into the bed of a wealthy Polish count many years her senior. He provided her with a temporary refuge from her fears and six months later helped her sell Nita's salon for a staggering amount of money.

The count eventually returned to his wife and Chloe set about living on her inheritance. Being young, rich, and without family, she quickly attracted the indolent young men who wove themselves like gilded threads through the fabric of international society. She became something of a collector, dabbling with one after another as she searched for the man who would give her the unconditional love she'd never received from her mother, the man who would make her stop feeling like an unhappy fat girl.

Jonathan 'Black Jack' Day entered her life on the opposite side of a roulette wheel in a Berkeley Square gambling club. Black Jack Day had received his name not from his looks but from his penchant for games of risk. At twenty-five, he had already destroyed three high-performance sports cars and a significantly larger number of women. A wickedly handsome American playboy from Chicago, he had chestnut hair that fell in an unruly lock over his forehead, a roguish mustache, and a seven-goal handicap in polo. In many ways he was no different from the other young hedonists who had become so much a part of Chloe's life; he drank gin, wore exquisitely tailored suits, and changed playgrounds with the seasons. But the other men lacked Jack Day's reckless streak, his ability to risk everything-even the fortune he had inherited in American railroads-on a single spin of the wheel.

Fully conscious of his eyes upon her over the spinning roulette wheel, Chloe watched the small ivory ball jostle from rouge to noir and back again before finally coming to rest on black 17. She permitted herself to look up and found Jack Day gazing at her over the table. He smiled, crinkling his mustache. She smiled back, confident that she looked her very best in a silver-gray Jacques Fath confection of satin and tulle that emphasized the highlights in her dark hair, the paleness of her skin, and the green depths in her eyes. 'You can't seem to lose tonight,' she said. 'Are you always this lucky?'

'Not always,' he replied. 'Are you?'

'Me?' She emitted one of her long, dramatic sighs. 'I've lost at everything tonight. Je suis miserable.

I'm never lucky.'

He withdrew a cigarette from a silver case while his eyes trailed a reckless path down her body. 'Of course you're lucky. You've just met me, haven't you? And I'm going to take you home tonight.'

Chloe was both intrigued and aroused by his boldness, and her hand closed instinctively around the edge of the table for support. She felt as if his tarnished silver eyes were melting through her gown and burning into the deepest recesses of her body. Without being able to define exactly what it was that set Black Jack apart from the rest, she sensed that only the most exceptional woman could win the heart of this supremely self-confident man, and if she was that woman, she could forever stop worrying about the fat girl inside.

But as much as she wanted him, Chloe held herself back. In the year since her mother's death, she had grown more perceptive about men than about herself. She had observed the reckless glitter in his eyes as the ivory ball clattered through the compartments of the spinning roulette wheel, and she suspected that he would not highly value what he could obtain too easily. 'I'm sorry,' she replied coolly. 'I have other plans.' Before he could respond, she picked up her evening bag and left the room.

He telephoned the next day, but she gave her maid orders to say she was out. She spotted him at a different gambling club a week later and after giving him a tantalizing glimpse of herself, she slipped out the back before he could approach. The days passed, and she found she could think of nothing else but the handsome young playboy from Chicago. Once again he telephoned; once again she refused the call. Later that same night she saw him at the theater and gave him a casual nod, a hint of a smile, before she moved away to her box.

The third time he telephoned, she took the call but pretended not to remember who he was. He chuckled dryly and told her, 'I'm coming for you in half an hour, Chloe Serritella. If you're not ready, I'll never see you again.'

'Half an hour? I can't possibly-' But he had already hung up.

Her hand began to tremble as she replaced the receiver on the cradle. In her mind she saw a spinning roulette wheel, the ivory ball skipping from rouge to noir, noir to rouge, in this game they were playing. With trembling hands, she dressed in a white wool sheath with ocelot cuffs, then added a small hat topped by an illusion veil. She answered the door chimes herself exactly half an hour later.

He led her down the walk to a sporty red Isotta-Fraschini, which he proceeded to drive through the streets of Knightsbridge at breathtaking speed using only the fingers of his right hand on the steering wheel. She gazed at him out of the corner of her eye, adoring the lock of chestnut hair that fell so carelessly over his forehead as much as the fact that he was a hot-blooded American instead of someone predictably European.

Eventually he stopped at an out-of-the-way restaurant where he brushed his hand against hers whenever she reached for her wineglass. She felt herself aching with desire for him. Under the intensity of those restless silver eyes, she felt wildly beautiful and as thin inside as she was outside. Everything about him stirred her senses-the way he walked, the sound of his voice, the scent of tobacco on his breath. Jack Day was the ultimate trophy, the final affirmation of her own beauty.

As they left the restaurant, he pressed her against the trunk of a sycamore tree and gave her a dark, seductive kiss. Slipping his hands behind her, he cupped her buttocks. 'I want you,' he murmured into her open mouth.

Her body was so replete with desire that it caused her actual pain to let him go. 'You're too fast for me, Jack. I need time.'

He laughed and tweaked her chin, as if he were especially pleased with how well she played his game; then he squeezed her breasts just as an elderly couple came out of the restaurant and looked their way. On the drive home, he kept her amused with lively anecdotes and said nothing about seeing her again.

Two days later when her maid announced he was on the telephone, Chloe shook her head, refusing to take the call. Then she ran to her room and indulged in a passionate fit of weeping, fearing she was pushing him too far but afraid to risk losing his interest by doing anything else. The next time she saw him at a gallery opening, he wore a

Вы читаете Fancy Pants
wmg-logo
Добавить отзыв
ВСЕ ОТЗЫВЫ О КНИГЕ В ИЗБРАННОЕ

0

Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату