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July 9, 2013
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Thursday

“It’shereit’shereit’shereit’shereit’shere!” Alice screamed, running in the door of her dorm room. She was carrying a heavy package almost as thick as a bookcase. Her roomate, Teresa, raised one eyebrow.
“Stop me if I’m being cliché, but what’s here?” she asked. “And why are you screaming as though Orlando Bloom is eating lunch in the kitchenette?”

Alice dragged the package over to the table, brushing her brown hair out of her eyes. Cutting the multiple layers of paper and tape open, she was confronted by a glimpse of red and black, the item she’d ordered shining in among the packing peanuts.
Once the mess was swept up, the contents of the package were revealed. A bright red, full-body suit was the main item, built with a concealed back zipper. The suit was already wearing its own clothing; it was hard to see what while it was still in the  box, but a lot of it was a wickedly shiny black.

Next to the suit, a folded mask and a choker-style necklace sat on top of an instruction booklet. Alice took a breath and explained, “It’s my costume for the convention! I decided to try something new this year.”
Teresa fished out the manual and began reading through it. The phrase ‘custom-fit’ caught her eye, and she nodded. “So this is why you had me measure you that evening.” She read a bit more, then looked back at the costume.
“Are you going to try it on?”

Alice nodded. “I’m going to need a few batteries— then I’ll be right back!”

=================

When she was in the privacy of her room, Alice closed the blinds. Custom-fit costumes weren’t conducive to wearing clothes underneath. Her next step was to take the batteries, slotting several into a hidden compartment inside the suit’s back. Another pair went into the necklace, which had a large piece that extended out behind it. The manual explained:

This costume, the latest in disguise technology, has several new features for a new standard in realism. The tail of your costume is prehensile! It requires two A23 batteries to function, which must be inserted as shown in Diagram 2.
In order to control your costume’s tail, the four contacts indicated on the diagram must be flush with your skin.


Alice shrugged as she got out of her clothes. She wouldn’t have a problem there. Getting up from her bed, she stepped into the suit, balancing on the high-heeled boots that were a part of it. When her legs were in properly, she slipped her arms through the sleeves of the suit, feeling her fingertips meet the end of the suit’s own. It was a red-skinned hand that pulled up the suit’s zipper.

The costume would have fit Alice like a glove, if it hadn’t been custom-made for her; now, it was though she had (almost) metamorphosed into a new being. The suit was tight to begin with, and as she pulled up the zipper, the costume settled around her, showing off every curve her body had ever had (and a few that never were; the suit was strategically padded.)  It felt like an embrace, a caress, as though the costume was reminding her: You are becoming someone else now.
That was how she wanted it.

She picked up the instruction manual again.

The tail is controlled by a computer-mediated adaptable, self-learning interlink with the transverse neurons in...

Alice stopped reading and shook her her head. The rest of the paragraph descended into technobabble. If she could make anything out of them, it was as though the costume would read your intentions...
She stopped. The barbed, red tail was waving back and forth, uncertainly. She realized something else— she knew where it was, without having to look in the mirror. Carefully, Alice practiced imagining the tail where she wanted to go... and it did, hidden motors and mechanical tendons pulling it left, right, coiling it in and snapping it out.

The next piece of the costume was the necklace, but it was unlike any necklace Alice had ever seen. For one thing, it required batteries; for another, a thick insert was attached behind the front of the thing, where it would cover her entire throat. The manual explained,

This costume includes revolutionary new voice-changing technology...

Alice skipped past the marketing blather.

Once you have inserted batteries into the choker necklace, place it so that the insert rests on your neck, against your throat. There is a slight space at the front of the costume’s neck to allow it to fit. By pressing on the top and bottom of the setting of the gem at the front of the necklace, you may turn on the voice-changing function. Press and hold for several seconds to turn it off. The necklace will vibrate slightly in recognition of the change.

The necklace was a little more fiddly to get in than she’d expected. She could see an indent in the suit, how it would sit at the top of a decorative collar designed to hide the boundary between costume and mask. Getting it into place, though, took a few attempts. After trying to push it on from the top (twice), Alice finally had to unzip the suit a bit, fastening the necklace in place with both hands. Now everything fit. The insert sat snugly against her larynx, ready to transform its sound.
It was time to finish the ensemble.

Alice slid the mask over her head. It fit so snugly she swore she’d be able to have her facial expressions show through the material. Once she’d tucked the edges of the mask under the necklace, she turned on the voice changer and looked in the mirror. It was time to see herself.

Instead of Alice, college student, someone else was in the mirror. A smirking succubus was there, a creature who flipped her shining black hair and grinned at her reflection. This was going to be incredible!

“Wow, that’s some costume.”

Alice jumped. “Gah!” she said, but her voice wasn’t her own. The necklace put a wicked spin on it.
Teresa was standing in the doorway. Alice said, “Oh. Sorry,” in a voice that didn’t sound remorseful. Fumbling at her neck, she switched the voice changer off. “It looks really great!”

Teresa put one hand on her chin for a second, frowning. “It’s a bit of a step up from last year’s. Weren’t you... Princess Apple or something?”
Alice glared at her. “Princess Peach. You’re going to have to play a video game with me one of these days, you know.”
“I know,” Teresa said. “It’s just... I’m kind of curious. You’re not really a risk-taker, as far as I know... so it’s a surprise to find you in a daring ‘sexy’ costume like this.”

Alice had to admit she had a point. Succubus-her was ‘wearing’ knee-high boots, a bustier over a sheer sleeveless top and a rather vivacious skirt. All of it was in black, with dark red accents (contrasting the necklace).
She sighed, shrugging a little.
“You know that music video I showed you the other day?” Alice asked Teresa. “That lyric? ‘I just want to make a change’? It’s... something like that. It’s an opportunity to try something new, something... a bit not quite normal? Different. Or something.”

“I see.” Teresa nodded, one hand on her hip. “And you went this far... you know, it sounds like you feel the need to—“

“And don’t try and psychoanalyze me about it,” Alice said hastily. Living with an overenthusiastic psychology major had some drawbacks.
Teresa raised both eyebrows. “Says the succubus.”
Alice switched on her voice changer again. “That’s right,” not-her said.  “I am Demetra, Lady of the Outer Depths, a goddess among demons! Fear me... or submit.”

Teresa nodded. “Mm-hm...” She shook her head, and muttered something to herself. “Given that it’s getting late, would Ms. Demetra the sexy demon prefer to do the cooking, or the dishes?”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Friday

Everyone in the hall was already getting up by the time the professor said, “We’ll talk about how TV shows reverse the deus ex machina on Tuesday.” Alice hefted her pack, looking around for Matt. He’d sat in the middle of the hall today, so he’d probably be coming down the stairs to get to the exit doors.

He wasn’t. Alice had to run up after him. When he saw her, he waved.
“Hi Alice!” he said. He was grinning, as per usual. Matt was the kind of guy who saw sunshine in everything.
He gestured back at the front of the room. “Do you really think deus ex machinas are coming back in movies?”
Alice shook her head. “Nah... these days stories have characters who work for their dreams. If the writer’s good, anyway.”

As they walked out the lecture hall, Alice was psyching herself up. You can do this. You are friends with Matt. You have a good relationship. You can ask him out to the convention without choking up again. It’s not that embarassing!
“By the way,” she said, looking at Matt. She could feel herself turning red already. “I was— wondering—“
“What?” Matt asked, pushing open the building door.

Alice meant to say, “Would you like to come to the anime convention with me tomorrow?” What came out, muffled and mumbled, was a bit different.

“Would y– like to –e  a–m– – –nve–n with me, tom–row?”
Matt hadn’t heard too well, unsurprisingly. “Sorry? You’d like to go to the movies with me?”
Against her will, Alice heard herself say, “...sure, I’d love to!” She felt flooded with relief. Why?! Nothing she wanted had happened there!
Matt fished around in his pocket, and brought out his phone. “That sounds fun! I’ll invite Angela and Thanh and we can see the new Garry Pierce film.” He made a note on the phone, then pocketed it again. “I can’t do it tomorrow, though. I’m going to the anime convention that day.... how about Tuesday evening?”

Alice nodded. She couldn’t trust herself to speak.
Matt gestured to an intersection in the path. He and Alice had their next classes in different buildings, each in a different direction. “All right. I’ll text you the details. See you then!” Matt waved to Alice, checked his watch, then took off at a jog.

It was only after he was all the way gone that Alice let out her breath, making a fist with her left hand. This always happened, every time. He’d never noticed, never figured it out once. And now it had happened again.

Taking a deep breath, Alice raised her fist, put it in her mouth, and bit down. Hard.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Saturday

After coming home on Friday, Alice got into the costume and practiced. Practiced walking as a succubus. Practiced talking as one. Practiced holding things with her tail. Practiced until Teresa got tired and went to bed, and past that. When she was done, it was late; the only thing left was to pack the suit again and collapse.


In the morning, dressing in the costume seemed ordinary, like putting on a biking suit. Only the tightness of the material reminded her that it was more like stepping into the skin of a myth (albeit a myth wearing a sheer skirt.) After zipping it up, Alice made sure the fastener was sealed under the flap of ‘skin’ that normally hid it. No sense in making it obvious that ‘Demetra’ was a fake.

Pulling on the mask, Alice felt her head encompassed from all sides. Everything sealed neatly; she’d put on the yellow contact lenses before she began, and with the necklace already on there was no trace of Alice any more.
For today, that was how she wanted it.

~=~

When she entered the convention, Alice— no, Demetra took a moment to look around. The hall was filled with people of every description (and appearance). It wouldn’t be accurate to say no one gave her a second glance. A good number of people gave her second, third, and even fourth glances, especially when she walked with her tail waving.

Passing by lines of people waiting for events, Alice realized she felt different as well. No one knew her as a college student. No one knew who she really was. And people expected... different things of a succubus than an ordinary attendee. As long as she stayed in character, she could....!

That was when she spotted Matt.

He was looking at a display of manga, stooping to read something on a low shelf. Matt hadn’t come in costume— and he hadn’t noticed her. Alice found herself smiling. It was a perfect opportunity...

Before she got close, Alice stopped. In character, now. You’re a demoness. He’s a mortal. He’s also not expecting you. Wait for it.... and... go!
Alice shifted into a brisk walk, deliberately not looking at Matt as she headed straight for him. Sensing something, Matt started to get up, turning towards Demetra as—
*BUMP*

—Alice, looking blissfully off to the side, crashed into him. She’d timed it perfectly. Matt wasn’t all the way standing, and his face collided with the costume’s (padded) bust.
“Oh, I’m sorry...!” Alice said, taking a step back. “Are you... all right?”
The voice changer made the words sound like an implication. Matt’s face was a bit redder than usual, but he only stammered a bit as he regained his composure. “Er! I-I’m sorry! I’m fine, thank you. Are you O... K...?... ... wow.”
He’d finally gotten a good look at who he bumped into. It seemed to have stunned him.

Alice looked Matt up and down, making sure he saw her stopping at ‘down’. She smiled. “Oh, I’d say I’m quite well.” Alice would have licked her lips, if the mask made it easy to do. “You may call me Demetra. I’ll let you forgo the ‘Lady of the Outer Depths’ part.”
Matt had one thing going for him: he recovered quickly. He stuck out his hand, saying, “er. Good to meet you, Demetra. My name’s Matt.” In a softer voice, he added, “Nice costume, by the way.”

Time to play with his expectations a little.
Reaching around, Alice neatly wrapped the tip of her tail around Matt’s hand, shaking warmly. With her actual hands, she indicated Demetra’s outfit. “Thank you! I wear it every day.” She changed the subject before he’d have too much time to think about it. “So why are you here? Meeting friends? Viewing the latest in Japanese culture? Seducing innocent virgins?”

Matt must have decided that his best response was to go with the flow. “No, humans don’t do seducing,” he explained. He sounded slightly nervous.
“Oh, really?” said Demetra, counting on her fingers with her tail. “Let’s see.” She waved her free hand at the manga rack. “A good half of those are ‘romance’. Half of those are totally about lovely, lovely sexual mischief. That’s one.” She extended another finger. “Look at romance novels. Contrivances-sex-clothing descriptions-sex-stratagems-sex. Oh, and sex.” Tapping her third finger with her tail, she added, “And then there’s movies. If you humans keep waylaying each other so quickly, how’ll there be anyone left for little ol’ me?”

“Hmph,” said Matt. He didn’t seem happy about being refuted. “That’s pop culture. People don’t fall for that sort of thing in real life.”
The moment she heard that, Alice felt like she was flying. She grinned, inside the mask.
“Oh, really?” her alter ego said, smirking. “How about we have a little bet, then?”
Matt knew he was on shaky ground. “You... you bet you could seduce somebody?” he said.
Demetra nodded, grinning the biggest grin of all. “I bet I could seduce you.”

Matt frantically changed the conversation back to something safer. “OK anyways! You asked why I was here, so... I was actually hoping to meet the makers of Heart Warriors. They’re presenting today!”
Alice was a big fan of the magical-girl series. She hadn’t known Matt was into it, but she carefully suppressed her enthusiasm. “Heart Warriors?” she said instead. “Not a bad show... they did get a lot of things about us wrong, though.” She lashed her tail around a little for emphasis— and snuck a glance at the manga rack. There was something else shelved right next to Heart Warriors, and it looked... promising.

“Oh, so you were looking for the newest volume?” Alice said, putting her hand lightly on his arm and gesturing. When Matt looked, she giggled, hearing the voice changer transmute it into something else. “Or were you looking for... this?”
‘Demetra’ pointed at the latest installment of Magical Pervert Deirdre, right next to where Matt’s face had been as he was getting up. Matt started to turn red, then decided that staying quiet was not going to net any points.
“N-not really!” he said. “I’d never really heard of it before now— but, it sounds to me like you want it all for yourself.”

Now it was Alice’s turn to blush, under her mask. Argh, what would Demetra do in a situation like this...?!
Something came to mind, but only after a few seconds. She moved her hand from his arm to his shoulder, so that she could lean on him and whisper in his ear. “Oh, I’ve had enough theory for a lifetime or two. You look like you could use some... practice, though.”
She knew what was happening. Matt had an argumentative streak that was hard to wake up, but nearly unstoppable once it got going. The next few minutes were going to be fun. Maybe she could get someone to take a photo of them trading zingers.

Matt had one ready. “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve heard that too much practice turns you red, all over.” He looked straight at her.
“Well, you grow horns first!” Demetra explained. “The rest comes later.” With her hand still on his shoulder, Alice moved a step away, to see if Matt would follow her. He did.
“OK, I admit it,” she said. “I was just messing with you when I pulled up that manga.”
“I thought so,” said Matt. “I didn’t—“
Demetra smiled. “You look like the kind of guy that prefers tentacles instead.”

Matt slowly, quietly, placed one palm squarely over his face. “You’re doing it again,” he pointed out, removing his palm and looking at her. “Do you do this to every guy you meet?”
“Hah!” Alice-as-Demetra said. “Only the ones who don’t catch on. As for you... you’ll do just fine.” She smacked Matt on the rear with her tail. He turned red, again.
That’s the third time. I’m getting good at this!
“Come on,” she said, gesturing to him to follow. “How about we—“

And then her voice changer started to die.

She noticed it in the middle of saying ‘we’. The timbre of what she heard changed, and the slight hum of the necklace against her throat wobbled. What was going on?! She tried to think back what she remembered doing with it.
Today, I put it on and turned it... no... no, I didn’t turn it on. But it was on... when did...?...!!
Then Alice realized: She’d left the necklace switched on, changing the sound of nothing at all, since Thursday, when she’d tried on the costume. Now, it was running out of power.

Matt, hearing her stop speaking, asked, “Um, are you all right?”
Nothing but to go for it now. Putting on the most dramatic voice she could, Alice said, “On second thought, how about a break? I’ll be back a little while later!” Letting go of his shoulder, she fiddled with the changer, trying to press it in place. The sound of Demetra’s voice was starting to fade.
It wasn’t a good line, and  Matt’s face creased as he said to himself, “...Wait a minute...”
To her, he asked, “Are you feeling OK? You sound... different...”

“I assure you— I’m lovely.” Despite Alice’s frantic tugging, the changer’s sound continued to fall away. Was it always this hot in the costume?
Matt now had a very strange look on his face. “No. That’s impossible...” he muttered.
Alice was beginning to freak out. Should she turn and run for it? She tried to turn... her body felt nailed to the spot. As far as she could tell, she had one chance to make a good last impression.

“You wait here,” she said, in character as much as she could. The voice changer resurged a little bit, and she felt her confidence return. “I’m off to find someone else, then the two of you can battle over my affections.”
It could have worked, except for one thing: A few seconds after the changer brightened, it died completely. Everything after ‘battle’ was unadorned... and Matt had finally placed “Demetra”’s new voice. His jaw fell open.

“A— ALICE?!”

Alice knew the jig was up, but tried to keep going anyway. “Um– no, I am Demetra! Lady of the Outer Depths!” She had to get out of here!
It was no use. Matt turned towards her, placed his hands on each side of Alice’s face, and gently lifted the mask off of her head.



There was a long silence. Alice tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. The noise of the convention didn’t seem to fill the space between them.

Finally, Matt broke the quiet. “I... I thought she was real,” he said, gesturing to the costume Alice wore.
Alice took a long breath. She hadn’t felt the texture of his hands through the mask, but where he touched still tingled.
“I-I...” Alice said. “She was... for a little while.”
“That’s some costume,” Matt said. He seemed more stunned than anything. Alice looked at him; he stared back.
And then it hit her.
If you do not tell him that you’ve been fond of him— now!— you and he will be friends, and nothing more, forever and ever. Tell him!

Alice opened her mouth to say what she’d tried to ask before, in greater or lesser forms, almost half-a-dozen times. As expected, her breath caught, the words fleeing off to parts unknown.
Then, she had a revelation.
She was still wearing the suit. The tightness of the costume still surrounded her, boots to legs to skirt to body to arms, telling her that she was not who she was. From the neck down, Demetra the succubus held sway. Demetra, who had the confidence to flirt with Matt, make him turn red (three times!), and have him think he was conversing with a real monster.
Losing the mask hadn’t changed her back to Alice... not entirely. If she concentrated, she could put herself back into a frame of mind, one where she didn’t choke when talking with him of love.
Alice didn’t have to be herself or Demetra, she realized. She could have a bit of both. She could be both!

She took a breath, and spoke as though she’d been doing it all her life.
“I... I think I realized something. Were you here last year?”
Matt nodded.
“I was cosplaying as... Princess Peach. This year, I decided on something different.”
“I’ll say,” Matt muttered.
“You aren’t the first to notice,” said Alice. “Teresa was curious, why I’d have such a jump in costume choice. At the time, I figured, ‘I just want a bit of a change’, but... OK, this’ll sound weird.”
Matt listened politely.
“Have you ever had yourself do something, and realized later that your mind was pushing you towards it, just... not on a conscious level?” Alice asked. “I think that’s what happened here. I knew you’d be at the convention this year. You’re always here. And I knew I’d be going, and cosplaying as something. And, some part of me thought, maybe, just maybe...”

Alice took a deep breath, pushed with all her heart, and spilled the secret her own lack of will had been keeping.
“Matt... I’m in love with you.”
Matt first twitched slightly, then his expression changed to one of focus. “...this explains a lot, actually...” he muttered.
“It wasn’t just some silly first sight thing, like in Romeo and Juliet or whatever,” Alice continued. “I– I’ve had this for a couple of years now. But I just wasn’t able to say it, before. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t communicate it to you. I’d always freeze up.”
Matt nodded. “So some part of you decided to force the issue,” he said.
“I guess,” said Alice. “It was a sudden idea, you know... ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if—?’”
“I think I understand,” Matt said, looking at her.

There was another silence.

“So.... what happens now?” Alice said. This was the question she’d been dreading, and she realized it when a hole opened up in her stomach.
Matt thought for a moment, then smiled. “Remember when we first met in class, a few years ago? We got into that big argument in the political theory discussion?”
Alice nodded. They’d become friends afterwards almost immediately, despite the belligerent tension in the air that day.
Matt went on. “I tried to figure out, over the next few weeks. Does she like me? Er. Romantically, I mean. But you never seemed interested, at least in that way.” He didn’t have to finish “and that’s how we became friends”.

“Well, now you know!” said Alice. She stopped herself from breaking out in a phony grin.
This time, the silence was an awkward one.
“Um,” Matt said. “What I’m trying to say, is, I’ve always thought of you for a friend, for a while now, but, well... I like you! We know each other, already, and you obviously like me.” He shot a glance at the costume, then went back to looking Alice right in the eyes. “So... we could try a relationship, and see what happens, and... what do you think?”

It felt like every atom in Alice’s body had surged upward. In one action, she moved forward to hug Matt. The hug started with them looking at each other, and got closer... and closer.
Inches away from his face, Alice whispered to him, “Told you I’d seduce you.”

“We should—“
Matt’s reply was sliced in half by the kiss. Locked together, the two stumbled behind a poster. By accident or design, ‘Demetra’s’ tail was around him, rubbing up and down his spine.
Neither said anything more. Alice could feel his touch, through the costume, warmer and more enervating than she had imagined. They came up for air, kissed, kissed again.
It was heavenly... perhaps even wickedly so.

No one else noticed the two, there behind the poster— but if they had, they’d have taken it for a scene from Grand Dream. The one that ends and begins every volume.
A snapshot of love, come true.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

One Year Later


It was the start of this year’s anime convention. People streamed through the doors in giant numbers, from mere mortals to characters to beings of every description. Among the guests, two figures entered, arm-in-arm. One was an alluring succubus: red skin, curved horns, revealing clothes, and a wicked-looking tail. The other was a gruesome demon, with cracked gray-and-red skin, ugly wings, and a face that would make a statue grimace.

“So,” said Demetra. These days, she always carried some extra batteries. With the voice changer at full power, Alice’s words sounded full of mischief. “What’s the plan today? I seduce ‘em, you loom behind them?”
“Demetra,” Matt said from inside the demon costume. His voice changer turned his words into a warped baritone growl. “You must know that humans do not do seduction.” He was teasing her. She spotted the reference to last year right away.

She decided to respond in character. “Oh?”  Demetra’s spine stiffened, and she snapped her tail into the palm of one hand with a whiplike crack. “May I remind you what happens to those who doubt I can seduce them?” Alice looked straight at Matt, winding her tail around his arm.  
Inside his own mask, he smiled, allowing her to lead him onwards.

“Tell you what,” said Demetra, a sweet tone back in her voice. “If you still don’t believe me, how about we have another little bet? I’m sure it won’t end too badly, for you.”
“No, not this time,” said Matt, gesturing at himself. “Look at what the last one did!”
Demetria grinned. “I’d hardly say it wasn’t an improvement.”
Matt replied, still in character, “Maybe. I would have to think about it. Now, about this plan of yours...”

Chatting together, both continued into the crowds.

The End
The story of a shy girl named Alice, and how she took her romantic fortune into her own hands with the help of a really good costume and a wicked alter ego.

This story is a companion piece to this picture, showing Alice in her costume. The story was produced in collaboration with :iconprinny77:.

EDIT: Link's fixed.
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:iconeuphrosyneunlimited:
EuphrosyneUnlimited Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Aaand the link's back! :D
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:iconcentaurmarines:
centaurmarines Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2013
Great story, (instand favourite,) but the link to the picture's broken. 
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:iconeuphrosyneunlimited:
EuphrosyneUnlimited Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Yeah... Asenfault's account closed down. I'm going to see if Prinny77 has a copy of the pic.
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:iconprinny77:
Prinny77 Featured By Owner Oct 12, 2013
I've reposted the picture in my account :) I am going to repost all the pics with permission.
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:iconchiscringle:
chiscringle Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2013  Professional Writer
This is a really sweet story.  It's so great to see a disguise that aids interpersonal relationships and a mention of what happens later.
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:iconeuphrosyneunlimited:
EuphrosyneUnlimited Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you! It's my first attempt at writing romance, and I think it came off surprisingly well— with the appropriate amount of sizzle. :)
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