“What No One Else Has” by Theda Hudson from Best Lesbian Romance 2012 (Cleis Press). Edited by Radclyffe.

I was pleasantly surprised by this story. The way it starts out, I was hesitant. I thought I wouldn’t be able to relate well enough to it to make any kind of commentary and would be forced to skip reviewing it, but things took an unexpected turn about halfway through. It became a much different—and much more interesting, to me personally—examination of the human psyche than the one I was anticipating.

Main character Lucy works as a demonstrator at shows catering to the BDSM set, modeling articles of clothing, equipment and toys. Mickey is a mysterious stranger in the crowd. There is an instant attraction between them. It soon becomes clear, however, that Lucy’s behavior is informed by self-esteem issues. She isn’t aware of it, just as most of us are ignorant of our own motivations, but Mickey sees what’s really going on. She’s determined to get control of the situation and steer it to her advantage. She’s playing a long game, and I found that to be a much more fascinating story.