Chloe's outrageous sense of style and spendthrift ways contributed to her reputation on the international social circuit as an amusing companion and highly entertaining houseguest, someone who could always be counted upon to enliven even the most tedious occasion. It was Chloe who dictated that the last two weeks of February must always be spent on the crescent-shaped beaches of Rio de Janeiro; Chloe who enlivened the leaden hours at Deauville, when everyone had grown bored with polo, by staging elaborate treasure hunts that sent all of them out racing through the French countryside in small sleek cars searching for bald-headed priests, uncut emeralds, or a perfectly chilled bottle of Cheval Blanc '19; Chloe who insisted one Christmas that they abandon Saint-Moritz for a Moorish villa in the Algarve where they were entertained by a group of amusingly dissolute rock stars and a bottomless supply of hashish.

More frequently than not, Chloe brought her daughter with her, along with a nanny and whatever tutor was currently in charge of Francesca's slipshod education. These caretakers generally kept Francesca separated from the adults during the daytime, but at night Chloe sometimes offered her up to the jaded jet-setters as if the child were a particularly clever card trick.

'Here she is, everyone!' Chloe announced on one particular occasion as she led Francesca onto the afterdeck of Aristotle Onassis's yacht Christina, which was anchored for the night off the coast of Trinidad. A green canopy covered the spacious lounge at the stern, and the guests reclined in comfortable chairs at the edge of a mosaic reproduction of the Cretan Bull of Minos set into the teak deck. The mosaic had served as a dance floor barely an hour before and later would be lowered nine feet and filled with water for those who wished to take a swim before retiring.

'Come here, my pretty princess,' Onassis said, holding out his arms. 'Come give Uncle Ari a kiss.'

Francesca rubbed the sleep from her eyes and stepped forward, an exquisite baby doll of a little girl. Her perfect little mouth formed a gentle Cupid's bow, and her green eyes opened and closed as if the lids were delicately weighted. Froths of Belgian lace at the throat of her long white nightgown fluttered in the night breeze, and her bare feet peeked out from beneath the hem, revealing toenails polished the same delicate shade of pink as the inside of a rabbit's ear. Despite the fact that she was only nine years old and had been awakened at two o'clock in the morning, her senses gradually grew alert. All day she had been abandoned to the care of servants, and now she was eager for a chance to garner the attention of the grown-ups. Maybe if she was especially good tonight, they would let her sit on the afterdeck with them tomorrow.

Onassis, with his beaklike nose and narrow eyes, covered even at night with sinister wraparound sunglasses, frightened her, but she obediently stepped into his embrace. He had given her a pretty necklace shaped like a starfish the night before, and she didn't want to risk sacrificing any other presents that might come her way.

As he lifted her onto his lap, she glanced over at Chloe, who had cuddled next to her current lover, Giancarlo Morandi, the Italian Formula One driver. Francesca knew all about lovers because Chloe had explained them to her. Lovers were fascinating men who took care of women and made them feel beautiful. Francesca couldn't wait to be grown up enough to have a lover of her own. Not Giancarlo, though. Sometimes he went off with other women and made her mummy cry. Instead, Francesca wanted a lover who would read books to her and take her to the circus and smoke a pipe like some of the men she had seen walking with their little girls along the Serpentine.

'Attention everyone!' Chloe sat up and clapped her hands in the air above her head, like one of the flamenco dancers Francesca had seen perform the last time they were in Torremolinos. 'My beautiful daughter will now illustrate what abysmally ignorant peasants all of you are.' Derisive hoots greeted this announcement, and Francesca heard Onassis chuckle in her ear.

Chloe snuggled close to Giancarlo again, rubbing one leg of her white Courreges hip-huggers against his calf while she tilted her head in Francesca's direction. 'Pay no attention to them, my sweet,' she declared loftily. 'They're riffraff of the very worst sort. I can't think why I bother with them.' The couturier giggled. As Chloe pointed to a low mahogany table, the wedge-shaped front of her new Sassoon haircut swept forward over her cheek, forming a hard, straight edge. 'Educate them, will you, Francesca? No one except your uncle Ari is the slightest bit discriminating.'

Francesca slid off Onassis's knee and walked toward the table. She could feel everyone's eyes on her and she deliberately prolonged the moment, taking slow steps, keeping her shoulders back, pretending she was a tiny princess on the way to her throne. As she reached the table and saw the six small gold-rimmed porcelain bowls, she smiled and flipped her hair away from her face. Kneeling on the rug in front of the table, she regarded the bowls thoughtfully.

The contents shone against the white porcelain of the bowls, six mounds of glistening wet caviar in various shades of red, gray, and beige. Her hand touched the end bowl, which held a generous heap of pearly red eggs. 'Salmon roe,' she said, pushing it away. 'Not worth considering. True caviar comes only from the sturgeon of the Caspian Sea.'

Onassis laughed and one of the movie stars applauded. Francesca quickly disposed of two other bowls. 'These are both lumpfish caviar, so we can't consider them either.'

The decorator leaned toward Chloe. 'Information gleaned at the breast,' he inquired, 'or through osmosis?'

Chloe gave him a wicked leer. 'At the breast, of course.'

'And what glorious ones they are, cara.' Giancarlo ran his hand over the front of Chloe's bare-midriff top.

'This is beluga,' Francesca announced, not pleased at having the attention slip from herself, especially after she'd spent the entire day with a governess who kept muttering terrible things just because Francesca refused to do her boring multiplication tables. She placed the tip of her finger on the edge of the center bowl. 'You'll notice that beluga has the largest grains.' Shifting her hand to the next bowl, she declared, 'This is sevruga. The color is the same, but the grains are smaller. And this is osetra, my very favorite. The eggs are almost as large as the beluga, but the color is more golden.'

She heard a satisfying chorus of laughter mixed with applause, and then everyone began congratulating Chloe on her clever child. At first Francesca smiled at the compliments, but then her happiness began to fade as she realized that everyone was looking at Chloe instead of at her. Why was her mother getting all the attention when she wasn't the one who'd done the trick? Clearly, the grown-ups would never let her sit on the afterdeck with them tomorrow. Angry and frustrated, Francesca jumped to her feet and swept her arm across the table, sending the porcelain bowls flying and smearing caviar all over Aristotle Onassis's polished teak deck.

'Francesca!' Chloe exclaimed. 'What's wrong, my darling?'

Onassis scowled and muttered something in Greek that sounded vaguely threatening to Francesca. She puffed out her bottom lip and tried to think how to recover from her mistake. Her small problem with temper tantrums was supposed to be a secret-something that, under no circumstances, could ever be displayed in front of Chloe's friends. 'I'm sorry, Mummy,' she said. 'It was an accident.'

'Of course it was, pet,' Chloe replied. 'Everyone knows that.'

Onassis's expression of displeasure did not ease, however, and Franceses knew stronger action was called for. With a dramatic cry of anguish, she fled across the deck to his side and flung herself in his lap. 'I'm sorry, Uncle Ari,' she sobbed, her eyes instantly filling with tears-one of her very best tricks. 'It was an accident, really it was!' The tears leaked over her bottom lids and trickled down her cheeks as she concentrated very hard on not flinching from the gaze of those black wraparound sunglasses.

'I love you, Uncle Ari,' she sighed, turning the full force of her pitiful tear-streaked face upward in an expression she had gleaned from an old Shirley Temple movie. 'I love you, and I wish you were my very own daddy.'

Onassis chuckled and said he hoped he never had to face her over a bargaining table.

After Francesca was dismissed, she returned to her suite, passing by the children's room where she took her lessons during the day at a bright yellow table positioned directly in front of a Parisian mural painted by Ludwig Bemelmans. The mural made her feel as if she'd stepped into one of his Madeline books-except better dressed, of course. The room had been designed for Onassis's two children, but since neither was on board, Francesca had it all to herself. Although it was a pretty place, she actually preferred the bar, where once a day she was permitted to enjoy ginger ale served in a champagne glass along with a paper parasol and a maraschino cherry.

Whenever she sat at the bar, she took tiny sips from her drink to make it last while she gazed down through the glass top at a lighted replica of the sea complete with little ships she could move with magnets. The footrests of the bar stools were polished whales' teeth, which she could just touch with the toes of her tiny handmade Italian

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