Best Women's Erotica of the Year Volume 1

By: Rachel Kramer Bussel

The carriage stops in front of the Wentworths’ Fifth Avenue mansion. Upon entering I see the Wentworths’ drawing room has been transformed into a proper spirit parlor with long, plum-colored drapes hanging from the walls, and creamy tapers flickering in the candelabras. Eight women and three bewhiskered older gentlemen surround a circular table. The hearth is unlit, I notice. How odd on a January night.

“Ladies, gentlemen.”

He enters. Twenty-five years or so, with longish brown hair and a smile that is like the sun rising over the trees. So handsome yet so innocent he looks, as if unaware of his charm. Which is how I know he’s a rake.

“I am Theobald Moore,” he says. “Your master of ceremonies tonight while we await Madame Morgana.”

Clearly he is the lure to bring in the ladies. His beautiful smile, his animal vitality, are the only sparks of life in this sepulchral room.

Ora is fairly wriggling in her seat. Theo kisses her hand. He asks who she would like to hear from and she mentions a former teacher from her finishing school. Then his hazel eyes connect with mine. I forbid myself to smile but I can’t help it, and he laughs.

“I had a feeling you and I would meet,” he says, taking my hand. A true dandy, he smells faintly of bergamot and lavender. “I had a vision of a young raven-haired beauty who would grace our séance.”

Some of the women look quite impressed with this. But Lady Wentworth sniffs; she’s disliked me since I spurned the hand of her nephew several years ago.

“And who have you lost, Miss…?”

“Mrs. Pond. I am here only for my cousin.”

“Elizabeth has lost her husband,” Ora says, for she can never be quiet. “Six years now.”

“A widow,” he says. “Six years. Such a long time.” And though he looks suitably sympathetic, his eyes hold mine in a way that says he understands just how long I’ve been waiting—and what I’ve been waiting for.

Madame Morgana sweeps into the room. She’s dressed primly in black calico and a lace collar fasted by an ivory brooch, but her pale eyes regard us disdainfully.

“My dear friends,” she begins. “Tonight is a celebration of the gifts of the sages of the ages. Clairvoyance, crystal-gazing, mesmerism, chiromancy and above all, spiritualism. I was born with the ability to communicate with departed souls. Today, trained by the masters of alchemy, divination and magic, I will humbly serve as your conduit to your loved ones in the beyond.”

I glance at Theobald. He smiles winsomely.

“Now I must ask you to place both hands on the table,” Madame Morgana says.

An array of hands circle the velvet-covered table—veined, smooth, puffy, jeweled—just before Theo extinguishes the flames. The drawing room is plunged into blackness.

Ora’s hand gropes for mine in the eerie atmosphere. “Something brushed the back of my neck!” gasps Mrs. Rutledge. A moment later another woman cries, “It touched my hand!” There does seem to be a chill in the drawing room, but is it a ghostly presence or simply a cold room with no fire?

Something trails across my shoulder. But these aren’t the ephemeral hands of a spirit. These fingers are hot and dry and purposeful as they stroke my neck.

A shivery thrill shoots through me.

Theo’s fingers gently circle my ears. An odd thing, but it awakens my nerves and reminds me that I have not been touched by a man in years. Next his hands slide down my throat and over my collarbone. There they hesitate, perhaps waiting for my protest, but at my silence, his fingertips continue their descent into my décolletage.

My face flames, yet I arch my back, signaling him to continue. Inside the velvet bodice of my dress his fingers go. Into my corset and chemise until he cups my breasts. My skin prickles with heat. I can’t be allowing this, a stranger touching me in a dark room even as I’m surrounded by matrons who could ruin me.

His mouth brushes my neck. He rolls my nipples back and forth until they’re stiff, then pulls on them lightly. I begin to shake.

“Spirit, if you are here, speak to us!” Madame Morgana cries.

My petticoats rustle as his hands move lower.

Madame Morgana says again, warningly, “Spirit, are you here?”

The hands withdraw. An odd moan fills the other end of the room, followed by a rustle, and a small, veiled white form moves into the room. Ora squeezes my hand as the spectral figure moves closer, almost glowing in the dark.

“Spirit” speaks in a feminine, childlike voice, with predictions for us all. Various loved ones send wishes from the beyond. Ora will marry a rich gentleman from Chicago. And me, well, I am going to go on a great adventure in a world that is both nearby and faraway.

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