Ooh, "Little Black Dress" was a surprise. The seventh story from Spicy Slipstream Stories opens with a grieving high-end prostitute locking her pain away into her heart and attending an exclusive party where her next client will be. Shirl, our prostitute, took those memories which caused her such pain and compressed "them into a hard little gem that lived in the middle of her heart" (pg 124).
My first thought was that this "hard little gem" was simply the analogy Carrie Vaughn chose to describe how Shirl compartmentalized her emotions so she could do what she had to do, but soon we learn that there is more to it. Like Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that, but the gem is more important than its utility as analogy.
Shirl herself is not a terribly engaging character, nor her is personal pain (sorry to say), but somehow the story works in spite of this. The character who ends up being the antagonist is no more compelling as a villain than Shirl as protagonist. What works is what I did not want to talk about so as to not spoil the story. What works is how Shirl's personal pain is a major part of the story. Not the pain, but the interaction.
That's very vague. I don't know how to talk about that better without giving away every detail of the story.
Having read four of Carrie Vaughn's six Kitty Norville novels, and a small handful of her short stories, I can say that "Little Black Dress" isn't Vaughn's most compelling work. It's got an interesting concept that is stronger than the rest of the story and that's enough to get by, but Carrie can and has done better (and I'm a fan, for what it is worth).