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Read the First Chapter of THE LOVE CON by Seressia Glass

Seressia Glass author

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Read the First Chapter of THE LOVE CON by Seressia Glass

What do you get when you combine a beautiful plus-size nerdy protagonist that loves to cosplay with a reality tv competition? You a get a fake romance wrapped up in the angst of what it is like to cosplay competitively. Seressia Glass who is a self-proclaimed nerd herself is serving fandom and romance in her upcoming title The Love Con out Dec. 14th. We are giving you the opportunity to read the first chapter of this wholesome romance novel that is guaranteed to inspire you and make you miss all those conventions.

Chapter One

“Welcome back to Cosplay or No Way. Our three remaining contestants are fighting for
the opportunity to make it to the final round where one of them will win $100,000 and the
chance to work in costuming for a major motion picture!”


Kenya stared at Mark as the host recapped the competition so far. Being in the final three
had her mentally bouncing with excitement. She’d read enough online comments after last week’s
show, the first to broadcast live, to know that a lot of people thought she was there simply to
mark a diversity checkbox. Please. She’d worked her ass off to stay in the competition.


“As you know, this round’s theme is cosplay mashups. Kenya, tell the judges about your
cosplay.”


Kenya smiled as she stepped forward, buoyed by the audience’s applause. “For my
cosplay mashup, I chose Dora the Milaje Explorer. In my vision for this, Dora’s mother is a
powerful warrior who instilled in her daughter all her skills and a desire to explore, learn, and
grow. Dora’s prized possessions are her digital helper Boots, her mother’s gauntlets, and a map to
Wakanda.”


Based on the audience’s reaction, she’d done an excellent job on her mashup. Using the
fabrication skills her best friend Cam had shown her, she’d recreated Shuri’s panther-headed
gauntlets, complete with blue glow lights to simulate energy beams. She’d sewn her battle
costume in General Okoye’s style but with Dora’s pink and yellow colors. A black panther-
shaped backpack holding a map of Wakanda and Dora’s signature brown bob completed her
look. Everyone had instantly known what she’d done. When you don’t have to explain your
cosplay, you were already a step ahead. That didn’t stop the anxiety fluttering in her stomach.

“Thank you, Kenya.” Mark turned his good looks to the panel. “Judges, do you have any
comments you’d like to make about Kenya’s cosplay?”


Kenya balled her hand in her gauntlets, resisting the urge to bite her nails. This was the
part she hated most, facing the judges. Not because she didn’t want their opinions—they were
some of the best in their fields—but because one judge seemed to have it out for her.


On cue, Rebecca leaned forward, concern drenching her features. “Kenya, do you really
feel that you embodied the blending of Dora the Explorer and a Dora Milaje?”
She bristled at Becky’s use of the word “embodied.” Throughout the competition,
Rebecca had taken issue with her size, her race, and her assertiveness, but Kenya hadn’t made it
anywhere in life by being anything other than true to herself. Today was not the day to change.

“It’s plural, not singular.”

“Excuse me?”


“It’s the Dora Milaje, not a Dora Milaje. They are a group, a sisterhood, never alone. Like
Dora, who has many adventures and discoveries with the help of her friends. Neither Dora nor
the Dora Milaje apologize for who they are or what they do. They simply are, and people accept
that and move or they will be moved.”


Applause washed over her. She lifted her chin. She’d refused at the start of the
competition to wear the Angry Black Woman mantle, and she wasn’t about to cosplay that
caricature now. That didn’t mean that she wasn’t going to stand up for herself.


“You’ve been a dark horse this entire competition,” Rebecca said. A murmur rose from
the audience. Rebecca had made herself the judge people loved to hate, with good reason. “Your
cosplay choices have been extremely risky, considering your limitations.”


Dark horse? Limitations? Kenya fixed her face in the automatic flat expression that all

black women perfected before puberty. She had no idea if Becky meant her size, her color, or her
skill, but she’d be damned if she would consider any of those limitations. She was fat, black, and
had been cosplaying since she’d first dressed as Sailor Moon for Halloween as a kid. She knew
what she was, but she also knew what she was capable of. Her parents hadn’t raised her to be
ordinary.


Knowing she had nothing to lose at this point, Kenya lifted her chin. “With all due
respect, Rebecca, I don’t know what you mean by limitations. I believe I’ve met every challenge
with grace and ingenuity. I refuse to limit myself so someone else can be comfortable.”
Including you. Especially you.


The crowd applauded in support, and Kenya nodded at them, gratitude welling in her
chest. Their opinions mattered the most, since they could boost her popularity at cons and help
her costuming business get off the ground.


“That’s what I like about you, Kenya,” Leon said, a ghost of a smile curving his lips.
“You don’t allow anything, or anyone, to hold you back. I’ve enjoyed your unique spin on each
of the cosplays you’ve presented to us over the last two months, especially today’s. I know you
have a lot of people who see you as a role model and who are rooting for you. I look forward to
seeing what else you have up your sleeves. You have my vote.”


“Thank you,” she mouthed. One vote in my favor. I only need one more.
All eyes focused on Rebecca. Kenya knew her vote before she opened her mouth. “I’m
sorry,” Rebecca said, her tone declaring she was anything but. “I think Amanda delivered the
better cosplay this week.”


Amanda had chosen the Cat in the Hat Woman for her cosplay. She’d had another
meltdown on set because she’d run out of glue for her glue-gun, as if it was someone else’s fault she didn’t have extra glue sticks in her supply kit. The crying jags had become a daily occurrence; they just didn’t know what would set her off. Kenya hadn’t minded giving the other woman support, but she wasn’t there to help someone else win. The longer she stayed in the competition, the more exposure and publicity she received. During the brief times they’d been
allowed to use their phones, she’d discovered that she’d gained tons of new followers (along
with some new trolls) on all her social media streams, but that wasn’t all she wanted.

The winner would get the chance to work in the costuming department of a big-budget live-action fantasy
film. She hadn’t come to the show to be runner-up, and she sure as hell hadn’t come to be
number three.

Kenya’s stomach bubbled as she focused on the last judge, Caroline. The perky blonde
flailed her hands. “Oh my God, I can’t believe it’s up to me! Both of you have done an amazing
job week after week. I’ve been so impressed with how each of you have risen to every challenge
we’ve thrown your way.”


Mark stepped forward. “Unfortunately, only one can move forward into the Cosplay or
No Way final round. So Caroline, who will it be? Will it be Amanda, or will you choose Kenya?”
Dramatic music swelled as the audience chanted both their names in a muddled cacophony. Caroline looked at them each in turn. Kenya reached out to clasp Amanda’s hand, squeezing the other woman’s trembling fingers in an effort to steady her own. The other woman had already started the deep breaths that presaged tears.

“This is so hard…and I’m really sorry that I have to do this,” Caroline began.
Silence fell, thick enough to choke on.
“Kenya.”
Her eyes flew open as ice raced down her back, her shocked gasp echoed by the audience. Surely that didn’t mean…?
Caroline stared at her for a long moment before finally breaking into a smile. “Welcome
to the final round.”

“Oh God.” Relief nearly buckled her knees as the audience rose in a standing ovation.
She covered her open mouth with her gauntleted hands, smothering the gasp that wanted to
become a scream. She had the presence of mind to turn to hug Amanda before the other woman
sprinted from the stage. Blowing out a breath, she carefully pressed her fingers beneath her eyes
to blot her tears, sucked in a breath, then straightened her shoulders to face the judges.
The host set up a commercial break as Ben, the other finalist, returned to the floor. He
gave her a smile and a hug before joining her in facing the panel.


“And we’re back with our two Cosplay or No Way finalists, Ben and Kenya!”
The audience cheers washed over Kenya. Euphoria zapped through her, nervous energy
making her bounce on her toes as she vacillated between disbelief and elation. The final round!
She was in the final round! She almost pinched herself as the reality of being a finalist began to
settle in. The grand prize was close, so close. Just one more cosplay away.


Mark turned to them with a smile. “Congratulations, top two. You’ve fought long and
hard to make it here, and each of you deserve your place in the finals. However, there’s no time
to rest on your success. In fact, in this final round we want to see how you design and create your
cosplays on your home turf.”


She and Ben exchanged glances. Home turf?
“That’s right. The next part of the competition will follow the two of you as you return
home to make your final round costumes. A production crew will film you in your element. We
want to see how you craft your creations in your personal space!”

Excitement and anxiety faced off in her nerves, ready to duke it out for the top spot. Her
personal space was her bedroom in the apartment she shared with Cam, her best friend. She
couldn’t imagine trying to fit a camera crew in there. Besides, it was her bedroom, and she
tended to be a bit messy during the design phase, creating several sketches as she finalized her
concept. Maybe Cam would agree to let her use their dining area since they usually ate at the
breakfast bar or in front of the television.


“I’m sure everyone is wondering about the final round challenge. For that, we turn to our
judges. Leon?”
Leon regarded them, his smile stuck somewhere on the road between heaven and hell.

“Contestants, you’ve consistently brought your A game for every week of this competition. Now,
we want to see your A-plus work. Your final challenge will be iconic duos.”
Duos? After they’d just finished mashups week? If that’s what they wanted, she wasn’t
going to complain. She could do a gender-bent Two-Face, or one of the gem fusions from Steven
Universe.


“That’s the good news,” Caroline said, “but you know we have to step it up for this final
round. With that in mind, your iconic duo must be a pairs cosplay.”
“What?” Ben whispered, looking as confused as Kenya felt. Did that mean making two
costumes?


“That’s right.” Rebecca surveyed them. “Not only do we want to see how you juggle
cosplaying with your normal life, we want you to create two costumes: one for you, and one for
your cosplaying partner.”


Kenya’s mouth dropped open. Two costumes? Cosplay partner? Her mind raced. Did
they need to create them from scratch or could they source parts? Most importantly, how much time did they have two create two costumes?


Caroline leaned forward. “We all know that cosplayers do everything from making their
own cosplays to commissioning full costumes from someone else. You’re probably wondering
what’s allowed for you in this final round iconic duo cosplay challenge. So here are the
parameters for your final round challenge.


“First of all, both costumes must be at least fifty percent handmade. Of course, the more
handmade the costumes are, the more points you can score. Secondly, we know there’s a lot of
pressure to make two costumes, so you’re allowed to have help from your cosplay partner.
However, seventy-five percent of the work has to be yours. You’ll also need to recap your work
at the end of the day with a video diary entry.”


Rebecca gave them a smile Kenya instantly mistrusted. “This is all about being the best,
which means testing and stressing you. That’s why you and your partner will have four weeks to
complete your costumes before you return here to cosplay for the live audience.”


The shocked murmurs of the audience echoed the shock that swept through Kenya. There
was no way they could expect two costumes to be finished in four weeks, especially with that
fifty percent handmade requirement. And with one person doing the bulk of the work?
She looked at Ben, who looked as floored as she felt. “What?” he whispered. “Are they
serious?”


“We’re very serious,” Leon answered. “Just as you should be, especially about who
you’ll pick as your cosplay partner. Remember, your partner can do up to twenty-five percent of
the build, and they’ll need to cosplay with you in the finale.”
“Who will our finalists pick as their cosplay partners?” Mark asked the audience. “We’ll
find out—right after this.”

Kenya’s mind raced as everyone waited for the commercial break to end, imagining and
discarding all the duos that immediately came to mind. With four weeks to work, it would be
nearly impossible to do any costume with a great deal of detail work, and certainly not two.
Then there was the matter of picking her cosplay partner. Who could she get to help her?
Her mind instantly went to Cam, but her best friend had his hands full running the fabrication
shop, especially since she wasn’t there to handle logistics and order intake. Her parents were
out. Neither one understood her obsession with the geekery of anime and gaming or adults
running around in costumes outside of Halloween, and even then they deployed maximum side-
eye.


Besides, they’d been against her doing the show from the start. They wanted her to “give
up this foolishness” and use her engineering degree they’d paid for. Her brother was off in the
Air Force and her sisters were busy with their families and their careers on opposite sides of the
country. Janelle might have been willing, but her other best friend didn’t even own a sewing kit.
Bringing Janelle onboard meant Kenya would wind up doing one hundred percent of the work.
What was she going to do?


“Welcome back to Cosplay or No Way,” Mark announced as he was counted back in
from the commercial break. “Let’s recap the parameters of the finale round.”
Dramatic music and lighting rolled across the stage as the jumbo screen lit up, bold white
letters spelling out FINAL ROUND RULES on a purple background. “First, conceive of an
iconic duo cosplay that you and your partner will showcase during or live finale. Second, at least
fifty percent of each costume must be handmade. Third, your cosplay partner can help you, but
you must do seventy-five percent of the work. Each of you will have a production crew
following your progress, and of course we want to continue seeing those video diaries. Judges, anything else?”

Leon spoke. “You’re going to have your hands full in this challenging round, but
overcoming challenges is part of what being a Cosplay or No Way champion is all about. I would
suggest you choose your cosplay partner carefully.”


“Ben,” Mark said. “Who will you choose to partner with to help you become the Cosplay or No Way champion?”
Ben, who’d done an excellent mashup of The Stay Puft Michelin Man, smiled. “My husband, John. He’s as into cosplay as I am.”


Crap. She knew from their conversations that Ben’s husband was an active cosplayer and did set design for their local theater. Acid churned in her stomach. The choice gave him a huge advantage. She needed to level the playing field, which mean she needed someone who not only cosplayed, but could help make their costumes without Kenya having to supervise every step. Her thoughts returned to Cam. They’d been best friends for half their lives and had cosplayed together since they first attended Dragon Con during their senior year of high school.


He also knew his way around a 3-D printer and an X-acto knife. But she couldn’t take him away
from the shop. Yes, Mack and Javier were there, but since she ran the project management
software, she knew just how lean the shop ran. Taking her off the schedule was a pain, but
manageable. Taking Cam out of production…


He would do it, she knew. Cam was the reason she’d heard about the competition. He’d
helped her prepare her audition video, sent encouraging texts and a good luck video with their
game night friends. He’d supported her every step of the way. This…this might stretch their
bonds of their friendship to the breaking point.


“Kenya, it’s now your turn,” Mark said, his voice snapping her out of her spiraling thoughts. “Who will be your cosplay partner in the final round? Who will you choose to help you create an iconic duo cosplay that will win you $100,000 and the title of Cosplay or No Way champion?”


The musical tension increased as the audience fell silent. Kenya was sure they could hear
her gut churning. She glanced at the judges, trying not to let Rebecca’s smug expression get to
her. She was pretty sure the snotty judge doubted she had anyone close enough to meet the
qualifications to help her.


“Well, Kenya?” Rebecca raised an eyebrow. “Do you have a significant other who can
help you in this final round, like Ben does?”


Kenya carefully blanked her expression so they wouldn’t notice she was internally
seething. She’d broken up with her last boyfriend months ago for good reasons, but she’d be
damned if she’d give Becky the satisfaction of knowing that. “I do.”

Rebecca tilted her head in surprise. “Really. Who might that be?”

“There’s only one person who’s been with me all through my cosplay journey,” she said,
her voice quavering as nerves stretched tight. “The one who believes in me the most. The one
who helped me get here, who’s cheered me on from the start. The one person who’s encouraged
me to push myself, to be more and do more. My best friend, Cameron Lassiter.”
“Ah.” Rebecca’s expression reminded Kenya of the shark in that movie about the missing
clown fish. “That’s your friend, right? I hope that won’t put you at a disadvantage, considering
Ben is working with his spouse.”


Does this heifer think I can’t get a man? Kenya unzipped a smile. “Cam is my best friend
and my partner. Trust and believe I’m not disadvantaged in the least.”
“You go, girl!” Someone in the audience shouted, causing the crowd to explode with laughter then applause. Vindication swelled in her chest, and she gave them a genuine grin and wave before giving Rebecca the same smug smile she’d received earlier. Take that, Becky.


“There you have it, folks!” Mark boomed. “Two couples going head-to-head to create
iconic cosplay duos. Which team will come out on top to claim $100,000 and a chance to work
on a major movie? We’ll have to wait and see. Tune in next week as our finalists return to their
home turf and begin the build of their lives on Cosplay or No Way!”


Thrills shot through her like fireworks. There really wasn’t anyone else she wanted with
her in the final round. That was the truth. Maybe she’d split hairs on the whole partner thing, but
they really were partners, given her tiny stake in his shop. Their friendship had lasted longer than
a bunch of marriages. Surely it wouldn’t be a problem to fake that their relationship was more
than just friends.

Now all she had to do was convince Cam to be her cosplay partner—and her significant other.

Thank you to Berkley for providing Fabulize with an advanced copy and granting us permission to publish the first chapter.

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