Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume 1

By: Rachel Kramer Bussel


“I saw you in the wings tonight.”

I froze. I’d been subtle, and he’d been so into his role I couldn’t imagine how he’d seen me.

“You know I see you there, right? Mouthing the lines, both mine and Ophelia’s.”

He clasped my hand in his and a fire sparked deep in my belly. Had the bourbon gone to his head?

Had it gone to mine?

“I’m convinced my best moments on stage are with you watching.”

“That’s silly,” I said, but Philip nodded enthusiastically.

“You should have been Ophelia. You’re perfect for the part. Your hair, your face. Everything about you, Nat—so charming and lovely.”

I trembled in his grasp. Like Ophelia, I had to be going mad. Philip brushed back my curls, lifting the hair on the nape of my neck.

“Let’s run lines for you.”

“Why? Tammy is Ophelia, and she’s never going to miss a performance. Remember?”

“Tammy is a terrible Ophelia. And one night, she will.” He tapped my nose. “Come on. Let’s practice.”

“I need a script.”

“No you don’t,” he said. He shoved back the table and crawled to his knees, ushering his husky off to his bed along the wall.

And then he started running lines, beginning with Act III, Scene 1, right when Ophelia meets Hamlet. He said his first line seriously, as if we were actually on stage, and I shook my head at him.

“You’re crazy.”

Philip frowned. “I’m trying to prove a point. You’re an actress, let’s go. Play along.”

I’d been on the stage many times. I’d graduated with a theater degree, after all, but my parts at Esquire had been minimal, with Tammy being the star she was. Sometimes, her rants backstage and constant insults made it easy to forget that I was once a big part of productions, too.

“Well?” Philip nudged my leg and took my hand again, and I tried to ignore the peal of my heart.

“Fine,” I said.

We ran through this scene, Philip’s hand clasped around my shaking fingers the entire time. He was theatrical and gorgeous, his brow furrowing and his nostrils flaring at all the appropriate moments. When he peered into my face, I witnessed the same brooding depth he cast over the audience each night, except this time, it was directed at me.

This time, he was Hamlet—and I was Ophelia.

It was easy to fall into the part. I knew the lines, and he was brilliant, drawing emotion and depth into my voice that I never could when I practiced on my own in my apartment. Not without someone acting against me, getting as into the role as he did. He was magnificent. When we finished the scene, he stroked his fingertips across my palm with an encouraging nod. Then his lips turned up to form the incredibly charming grin the audience never got to see.

“Lady, shall I lie in your lap?”

I giggled. “Okay, I get it. Great scene. We can stop, though, I know the lines.”

“See,” he said. “You are the perfect Ophelia.”

I rolled my eyes and Philip leaned closer, the movement catching my breath in my throat. Both of us were quiet as he crouched on the carpet. For some reason, the way he’d touched my cheek at his front door crossed my mind. Then the way he’d grinned at me at intermission, and all the times we’d hung out backstage when he’d told me he loved talking to me. My pulse raced a little quicker.

Had I missed something in my Ophelia obsession?

Philip curved his hands around my knees, increasing the pace of my heartbeat.

“And what a fair thought to lie between this maid’s legs.”

“That’s not the line,” I whispered. The look on his face was different—not Hamlet. Not Philip. It was sweet and smitten, like the one I’d seen him wear as Romeo last year. I swallowed the lump in my throat as he inched his mouth closer to mine.

“You’re right. It’s not.”

I’d never seen him more handsome.

“You’re perfect, Nat.”

This had to be a dream—an Ophelia-inspired daydream that I had somehow wandered into.

But then Philip kissed me.

His lips, like his hands, were soft on my skin, and I surrendered to the press of his mouth. When I parted my lips, the tip of his tongue grazed mine and sent tingles down my spine. I opened wider, letting him in, and then we were kissing with all the passion I imagined Ophelia would have shared with Hamlet if she’d had the chance.

“God, I’ve wanted to kiss you for months,” he whispered between kisses.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. Philip climbed onto the couch, taking me into his arms.

“But more, I’ve wanted to be alone with you. Really alone with you, Nat—no drama, no Esquire chaos…”

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