Lady Saffron: This is my response having read Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange. Just a splurge of imagination right after reading the novel.

Disclaimer: Ms. M. Marr owns the characters and setting. I own the story.

Cheers!


With held breath, she stepped off the bus and onto the curb. After seven years, the place had changed, but the familiar aura of the city still clung to it like a dirty jacket strung across the shoulders. Slinging her bag closer to her, she held her chin up and walked toward the hotel lobby. She had reservations, though she disliked the idea of having to stay at a hotel of a city she practically spent her childhood in. But she didn't tell that to the receptionist.

She got to her room and settled in. She glanced at the glow face of the digital clock on her night stand. She'd be at the dance studio to meet up with her dancers in two hours. Kicking off her shoes, she rummaged through her work-out clothes and placed them in a smaller bag for her to take out. She peeked out her third-floor window and looked down at the streets. She saw people walking, hunched against the cold. Winter was approaching. Then she saw figures that skipped, hopped, flew, sauntered, crawled, crept, or glided. They seemed to have too many limbs. Their facial features had "extra" eyes, nostrils, long-tipped ears. They moved with feral grace, raw energy, or stalked with a stillness made her think they were floating slabs of stone.

She shivered. Over the years since she was able to see them, she had grown accustomed to the strangeness of the fey, the invisible race, the beautiful, awful, terrible, and somewhat perverse winged people that walked the mortal realm. Accustomed didn't mean she had to like it whenever she saw them. At all costs, she had to reign in her terror, her natural instincts to run and stand her ground as if she didn't see them. Or else not only her mortal companions would think her strange, but the invisible faeries would chase her even more.

Her thoughts turned to her high-school friend who had rendered her these advices. She didn't have to wonder if she was still around. Of course she was. Her friend was a faerie. She was immortal. She was forever. Her mind traveled back to just before she thought she was permanently leaving this wretched town. Oh yes, she remembered where her immortal friend had resided. Maybe she'd pass by.

The hours flew by and before she knew it, she was already warming up at the appointed dance studio with her dancers. She was back in her old town because after graduating in her chosen course, she decided to take a year off and explore her other passion: dancing. One year turned into three, and she'd been part of her dance crew ever since, traveling from city-to-city, performing at gigs and clubs. She did this not only for her love of dance, but it paid the bills as well.

She felt the familiar burn and trickle of sweat down her face and neck as she moved to the sounds of their routine. They had just finished three rounds of non-stop dancing, and her dancers were slowly drifting off for their take-fives or tens. That left the studio all to her. She spun the dial of the sound system and stopped at "Sweet Dreams" by Beyonce. She stretched her arms, spun, felt the momentum and air glide around her, her hair a sticky-sweat mass smacking and pouncing around her head. Her hips shimmied and swayed to the beat, her feet carrying her across the floor. She could feel her spine stretch, coil, her arms and legs in harmony with the rhythm and sway. When the closing tunes came, she stood before the mirror and struck a pose, her lips curled into a grin as she appraised herself. Just then, she made for the sound system to switch to a slower tune when she noticed one of the windows of the dance studio was blocked by something black. At first, she thought it was a long piece of cloth the length of the window, but cloths didn't have should-length hair, broad shoulders, or sinewy muscles that rippled even when motionless.

She stood perfectly still. She noticed the room was absolutely silent. Then the scents pushed against her nose and faint noises in her ears: of musky woods, of sweat-strewn bodies, of low-moans and high sighs. The figure made his way toward her, like a black panther ready to strike. When he was directly in front of her, she thought she was going to faint.

"Welcome home to Huntsdale, Leslie," he crooned, almost a low growl from his throat.

"N-Niall?" she breathed. She felt intoxicated. His presence was pushing her senses to their limits. She felt herself sway, his scent a heady fragrance that reminded her of dark rooms and intimate touching.

"There's a fire in your step, a tease in your sway… enticing," he moved closer. Leslie placed a hand on his chest to stop him. It was a mistake to do so.

"You were watching," she whispered, her fingers curling on his chest. She feebly attempted to pull him closer. He moved into her space, placing his hands on her waist.

"I'm always watching for you, Leslie," he buried his lips into her hair and inhaled. "Always."

"Niall…" she gasped, overcome by him. She leaned her head on his chest, her pent-up emotions swelling to the surface. "I've had to… stay away…" she tried to gather her thoughts, but they drifted away faster than she could form the words on her lips.

"I missed you," and with that he drew her into an embrace. Leslie had often dreamed of a moment like this, if ever the possibility of her returning to Huntsdale ever came up. Reality was always better than dreams.

"Me too," she barely formed the words when she felt herself go limp in his arms. He cradled her, gently spreading her legs on the floor as he stroked her hair. "You're addictive," she half-laughed, knowing the truth she spoke.

"As are you to me," he kissed her forehead as her eyes fluttered closed and open. "The only mortal I've ever loved." Then he scooped her up in his arms, the Dark King making flight, his beloved with him once again.