Home > Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely #2)

Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely #2)
Author: Melissa Marr



Wicked Lovely series
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Acknowledgments

 

 

The past year plus has seen Wicked Lovely (my first book) go from revision to being on shelves—and Ink Exchange go from concept to completion. This was daunting, but the warm encouragement I've received has made it possible. To everyone at  US and  UK; to my publishers abroad (especially Franziska at Carlsen in Germany); to librarians, booksellers, readers, parents, journalists, teachers, and the folks at the fansite (especially Maria); to my amazing financial manager, Peggy Hileman; and to the innumerable others I've met online and in person: I've been humbled by your kindness and support. Thank you, all.

Special thanks go to Clare Dunkle, who has touched my heart first with her novels and then in the past year with her wisdom. It's been a privilege.

My agent, Rachel Vater, makes chaos look like order. Whether you're talking me down, keeping me company as I wander, or flashing those pretty fangs, I am ever grateful.

My two passionate editors, Anne Hoppe and NickLake, continue to exceed expectations. Your insights, notes, and hours of chatting have made the text clearer and closer to the ideals I strive to reach.

Kelsey Defatte read the very earliest versions of this manuscript. Craig Thrush read through my conflict scenes. I am indebted to you both. And I am extremely indebted to Jeaniene Frost for hours of talking, revision letters to rival editors' letters, and so many epiphany-stirring observations. Thanks, J.

My tattoo artist, Paul Roe, read the tattoo sequences and answered innumerable questions on the minutiae of the art and its history. For this, for decorating my skin, and for all the rest, you have been essential to me.

Some rare people have given me their affection through years of chaos and calm—Dawn Kobel, Carly Chandler, Kelly Kincy, Rachael Morgan, Craig Thrush, and most of all, Cheryl and Dave Lafferty. Thank you for keeping me steady. Words can't cover what you mean to me.

None of the rest of this would've meant a thing if it weren't for the people who enrich every aspect of my life— my parents, children, and spouse. I'm fairly certain I exist only because you are beside me.

 

 

Prologue

 

 

Fall

 

 

Irial watched the girl stroll up the street: she was a bundle of terror and fury. He stayed in the shadows of the alley outside the tattoo parlor, but his gaze didn't waver from her as he finished his cigarette.

He stepped out just as she passed.

Her pulse beat too fast under her skin when she saw him. She straightened her shoulders—not fleeing or backing away, bold despite the shadows that clung to her—and motioned to his arm where his name and lineage were spelled out in an ogham inscription surrounded by spirals and knots that morphed into stylized hounds. "That's gorgeous. Rabbit's work?"

He nodded and walked the remaining few steps to the tattoo parlor. The girl kept pace with him.

"I'm thinking of getting something soon. I just don't know what yet." She looked defiant as she said this. When he didn't reply, she added, "I'm Leslie."

"Irial." He watched her struggle and fail to find more words, to make him want to notice her. She was starving for something. If he took mortals for playthings, she'd be good fun, but he was here for business, not collecting trinkets, so he kept silent as he opened the door of Pins and Needles for her.

Inside the tattoo shop, Leslie wandered away to talk to a dark-haired girl who was watching them warily. There were others in the shop, but only the dark-haired girl mattered. Because he'd made the curse that had bound summer so many centuries ago, Irial knew exactly who she was: the missing Summer Queen, the problem. She would change everything.

And soon.

Irial had felt it the moment Keenan had chosen her, had stolen her mortality. It was why Irial had come to Rabbit: change was coming. Now that the Summer King would be unbound—and able to strike out at those who'd trapped him—true war was a possibility for the first time in centuries. Unfortunately, so was too much order.

"Spare a moment, Rabbit?" Irial asked, but it was a formality more than a question. Rabbit might not be wholly fey, but he wouldn't turn down the king of the Dark Court

, not now, not ever.

"Come on back," Rabbit said.

Irial trailed his hands over one of the steel-framed jewelry cabinets as he passed, well aware that Leslie's attention was still on him. He closed the door and handed Rabbit the brown glass vials—blood and tears of the Dark Court

. "I need the ink exchanges to work sooner than we'd planned. We're out of time."

"The fey might"—Rabbit paused and rephrased it—"it could kill them, and the mortals aren't recovering well."

"So find a way to make it work. Now." Irial tried a smile, softening his expression as he rarely did for the dark fey.

Then he faded to invisibility and followed Rabbit back into the main room of the shop. Unhealthy curiosity made him pause beside Leslie. The others were gone, but she stood looking at the flash on the wall, lesser images than what Rabbit could draw on her skin given a chance.

"Dream of me, Leslie," Irial whispered, letting his wings wrap around them both, enclosing them. Maybe the girl would get strong enough to withstand an ink exchange with one of the chosen faeries. If not, he could always give her to one of the weaker fey. It seemed a shame to waste a lovely broken toy.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Early the following year

 

 

Leslie slipped into her school uniform and got ready as quickly as she could. She closed her bedroom door softly, staying quiet so she could get out of the house before her father woke. Being retired wasn't good for him. He'd been a decent father before—before Mom left, before he'd fallen into a bottle, before he'd started taking trips to Atlantic City and gods knew where else.

She headed to the kitchen, where she found her brother, Ren, at the table, pipe in hand. Wearing nothing but a pair of ratty jeans, his blond hair loose around his face, he seemed relaxed and friendly. Sometimes he even was.

He looked up and offered a cherubic smile. "Want a hit?"

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