sandals, and the upholstery of the seats felt silky soft on the backs of her thighs. She remembered one time when her mother had screamed with laughter because Uncle Ari had told her they were all sitting on the foreskin of a whale's penis. Francesca had laughed, too, and told Uncle Ari that he was silly- didn't he mean an elephant's peanuts?

The Christina held nine suites, each with its own elaborately decorated living and bedroom areas as well as a pink marble bath that Chloe pronounced 'so opulent it borders on the tacky.' The suites were all named after different Greek islands, the shapes of which were outlined in gold leaf on a medallion fastened to the door. Sir Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine, frequent visitors on board the Christina, had already retired for the night in their suite, Corfu. Francesca passed it, then looked for the outline of her particular island-Lesbos. Chloe had laughed when they were put in Lesbos, telling Francesca that several dozen men would most definitely disagree with the choice. When Francesca had asked why, Chloe had said she was too young to understand.

Francesca hated it when Chloe answered her questions like that, so she had hidden the blue plastic case containing her mother's diaphragm, an object Chloe had once told her was her most precious possession, although Francesca couldn't really see why. She hadn't given it back, either-at least not until Giancarlo Morandi had pulled her from her lessons when Chloe wasn't watching and threatened to throw her overboard and let the sharks eat out her eyeballs unless she told him what she'd done with it… Francesca hated Giancarlo Morandi now and tried to stay far away from him.

Just as she reached Lesbos, Francesca heard the door of Rhodes opening. She looked up to see Evan Varian walk out into the corridor, and she smiled in his direction, letting him see her pretty, straight teeth and the matching pair of dimples that indented her cheeks.

'Hello, princess,' he said, speaking in the full, liquid tones he used whether playing the rogue counterintelligence officer John Bullett in the recently released and phenomenally successful Bullett spy film, or appearing as Hamlet at the Old Vic. Despite his background as the son of an Irish schoolteacher and a Welsh bricklayer, Varian had the sharp features of an English aristocrat and the casually long haircut of an Oxford don. He wore a lavender polo shirt with a paisley ascot and white duck trousers.

But most important to Francesca, he carried a pipe-a wonderful brown daddy's pipe with a marbled wooden bowl. 'Aren't you up a little late?' he inquired.

'I stay up this late all the time,' she replied, with a small shake of her curls and all the self-importance she could muster. 'Only babies go to bed early.'

'Oh, I see. And you most definitely aren't a baby. Are you sneaking out to meet a gentleman admirer, perhaps?'

'No, silly. Mummy woke me up to do the caviar trick.'

'Ah, yes, the caviar trick.' He tamped the tobacco in the bowl of his pipe with his thumb. 'Did she blindfold you for the taste test this time, or was it a simple sight identification?'

'Just by sight. She doesn't ask me to do the blindfold trick anymore because the last time we did it, I started to gag.' She saw that he was getting ready to move on, and she acted quickly. 'Don't vou think Mummy's looking awfully pretty tonight?'

'Your mummy always looks pretty.' He cupped a match in his palm and held it over the bowl.

'Cecil Beaton says that she's one of the most beautiful women in Europe. Her figure's nearly perfect, and of course she's a wonderful hostess.' Francesca cast about for an example that would impress him. 'Do you know that Mummy did curry before absolutely anyone else thought of it?'

'A legendary coup, princess, but before you exert yourself any further in extolling your mother's virtues, don't forget that the two of us despise each other.'

'Pooh, she'll like you if I tell her to. Mummy does everything I want.'

'I've noticed,' he observed dryly. 'However, even if you managed to change your mummy's opinion, which I think highly unlikely, you won't change mine, so I'm afraid you're going to have to cast your net elsewhere for a father. I must tell you that even the thought of being permanently shackled with Chloe's neuroses makes me shudder.'

Nothing was going right for Francesca that evening, and she spoke pettishly. 'But I'm afraid she's going to marry Giancarlo, and if she does, it'll all be your fault! He's a terrible shit, and I hate him.'

'God, Francesca, you use the most awful language for a child. Chloe should spank you.'

The storm clouds gathered in her eyes. 'What a beastly thing to say! I think you're a shit, too!'

Varian tugged on the legs of his trousers so he wouldn't crease them as he knelt down beside her. 'Francesca, my cherub, you should consider yourself lucky that I'm not your daddy, because if I were, I'd lock you up in the back of a dark closet and leave you there until you mummified.'

Genuine tears stung Francesca's eyes. 'I hate you,' she cried as she kicked him hard in the shin. Varian jumped up with a yelp.

The door of Corfu swung open. 'Is it too much to request that an old man be allowed to sleep in peace!' Sir Winston Churchill's growl filled the passageway. 'Could you conduct your business elsewhere, Mr. Varian? And you, missy, get to bed at once or our card game is off for tomorrow!'

Francesca scampered into Lesbos without a word of protest. If she couldn't have a daddy, at least she could have a granddaddy.

* * *

As the years passed, Chloe's romantic entanglements grew so complex that even Francesca accepted the fact that her mother would never settle on one man long enough to marry him. She forced herself to look upon her lack of a father as an advantage. She had enough adults to cope with in her life, she reasoned, and she certainly didn't need any more of them telling her what she should or shouldn't do, especially as she began to catch the attention of a bevy of adolescent boys. They stumbled over their feet whenever she was near, and their voices cracked when they tried to talk to her. She gave them soft, wicked smiles just so she could watch them blush, and she practiced all the flirtatious tricks she had seen Chloe use- the generous laughter, the graceful tilt of the head, the sidelong glances. Every one of them worked.

The Age of Aquarius had found its princess. Francesca's little-girl clothes gave way to peasant dresses with fringed paisley shawls and multicolored love beads strung on silken thread. She frizzed her hair, pierced her ears, and expertly applied makeup to enlarge her eyes until they seemed to fill her face. The top of her head had barely passed her mother's eyebrows when, much to her disappointment, she stopped growing. But unlike Chloe, who still held the remnants of a pudgy child deep inside her, Francesca never had any reason to doubt her own beauty. It simply existed, that was all-just like air and light and water. Just like Mary Quant, for goodness' sake! By the time she was seventeen, Black Jack Day's daughter had become a legend.

Evan Varian reentered her life in the disco at Annabel's. She and her date were leaving to go to the

White Tower for baklava, and they had just walked past the glass partition that separated the disco from Annabel's dining room. Even in the determinedly fashionable atmosphere of London's most popular club, Francesca's scarlet velvet trouser suit with its padded shoulders gathered more than its share of attention, especially since she had neglected to wear a blouse beneath the deep open V of the wasp-waisted jacket, and the insides of her seventeen-year-old breasts curved enticingly above the spot where the lapels joined. The effect became all the more alluring because of her short Twiggy hairstyle, which made her look rather like London's most erotic schoolboy.

'Well, if it isn't my little princess.' The sonorous voice rang out in perfect pear-shaped tones designed to be heard in the far reaches of the National Theatre. 'It appears she's all grown up and ready to take on the world.'

Except for watching him in the Bullett spy films, she had not seen Evan Varian for years. Now, as she spun around to face him, she felt as if she were confronting his on-screen presence. He wore the same immaculately fitted Savile Row suit, the same pale blue silk shirt and handmade Italian shoes. Silver had threaded his temples since their last encounter on board the Christina, but now his hair lay conservatively tamed to his head by an expert razor cut.

Her date for the evening, a baronet home on holiday from Eton, suddenly seemed as young as milk-fed veal. 'Hello, Evan,' she said, giving Varian a smile that managed to be both haughty and bewitching.

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