Friday, October 31, 2014

Prisoner (Excerpt+Author Interview)

"Sexy, dark and thrilling. I loved every second of it!" 
 New York Times bestselling author Katie Reus

“Dark, sexy, and intense, Prisoner is an emotional ride that does not let go until the end. I loved it!” 
USA Today bestselling author Kristen Callihan

He forces me into the stream. Freezing-cold water swirls around my ankles and fills the insides of my boots, numbing my feet clear to the bone. I try to pull away, but he holds my wrist tight. I’m shivering. I can’t believe he’s not cold without a shirt on. Not that I should feel sorry for him considering he used his shirt to gag and blindfold a cop.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he asks.

“The other side.”

He shakes his head. “We’re walking the stream.”

“I can’t,” I say.

He pulls me closer; he still seems obsessed with the gash on my face, which maybe should be a good sign. I force my focus onto the trees in the distance, anything but the rise and fall of his hard, scarred, mud-streaked chest. It’s around dinnertime; I can tell by the slant of the sun. Up close he smells like sweat. Not pine, not cologne, not musk, just man sweat.

“Bend over.”

“What?” I try to yank my wrist from his hand, but he fists my hair and pushes my face nearly into the water. He splashes water onto my cheek. I close my eyes against the cold spray of it, spitting it out of my nose and mouth, trying to twist from his grip.

“God!” I say as he lets me up. I sniff and wipe my eyes.

He inspects my cut and grunts his approval, as if infection is this huge threat right now. He pulls my hand. “Come on.”

“I can’t even feel my feet!”

He frowns, furrowing his dark brows. “Fine.” He bends over and loops my arm around his neck and just hoists me up.

I pull my arm back and struggle against his hold. “Put me down!”

“You want to walk? Or I still have that .357. I could put a few holes in you, and you could float. Is that what you want?”

I loop my arm around his neck, feeling weird, like I’m participating in my own captivity. But it seems better than the alternatives. Don’t struggle. Wait for your chance.

Interview Questions by Annika Martin

How did you come up with the idea for this story?
In a lot of ways, this tale began with these two characters super-vivid that Skye and I created: this hot, dangerous felon with a dark past and this buttoned-up college girl who teaches a class at the prison.

In a lot of ways, this story felt like it wrote itself from those characters as we breathlessly batted it back and forth, imagining this prison break and the way they’d get entangled.

Will you write more about these characters?
Definitely. Grayson and Abby will likely have cameos in future books, but Stone, Nate and the rest of the guys all have their own stories – it’s just hard to know which guy to start with.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your life?
This book is not based on real life or people I know, but in other books, I have actually based characters on people I know in real life. Usually by the time the book is finished, they have grown into their own personality and are completely different. Nobody ever recognizes themselves in my books, but there have been family members who have thought they were in one of my books when they totally weren’t. lol.

What books have influenced your life most?
Early on, Nancy Drew and Harriet the Spy were really important to me. These smart, curious female characters were hugely influential. They really made things happen, especially Nancy Drew. I love the girl power aspect there. Later, before I discovered romance, I loved Somerset Maugham. He is a writer who returns again and again to the theme of the ant and the cricket (the ant works all summer and the cricket sings away, and in the end, the cricket has no food to eat) but with Maugham, the cricket wins--a lot of his books have that deep inside and I love that. More recently, I would say the ICE books of Anne Stuart really influenced my life. I feel like she broke some real boundaries with darkness. I just love that. I love her bravery. How she rides the darkness.

Sirens sound. Reinforcements. Cherries flash in the distance. As long as the brawl keeps going inside those prison walls, they won’t be able to do a decent count and they won’t know I’m gone. My gaze darts to the speedometer. She’s going thirty-five in a fifty-five mph zone. “You get this thing the fuck up to the speed limit, and you keep it exactly there,” I growl. “Drive natural.”
“Or what?”
I let my voice go cold. “You really want to find out? You think you know me?” She looks over at me, and I let her see all the hell inside me. “You don’t know anything about me. Nothing.”
She speeds up, eyes fixed on the road.
“Easy,” I say as the cops come over the hill from the other way—a whole line of them. Then they fill the rearview mirror, growing smaller. So far so good. More than good, because after all this time chained up and monitored and kept away from her, never able to touch her, she’s under my complete control, mine to do what I want with. It’s as dizzying as the sky overhead, wild and white with clouds.
“We’re just out for a nice afternoon ride, you and me.”
Her jaw is set hard. Yeah, she’s good and pissed. And scared.
I glance ahead at the fields rolling on. The wide-openness is hard to get used to after two years of being confined. God, walking out of the joint today through the parking lot with all that sky above me was so overwhelming I could barely act normal, and then there were all the cars I had to pass by, all the places people could jump out from. I knew people weren’t hiding behind cars, ready to jump out, but in prison you learn to avoid that kind of thing. Second sense. And then I spotted Abby, and everything evened out.
Abby became my anchor. She steadied me, somehow.
So I took her. There’s something about driving away, something sweet about freedom with a pretty girl in the seat beside you. Even if that pretty girl hates you. Even if the guys in your crew would all tell you to kill her. Maybe I should.  
“See, here’s something for you to ponder,” I say to her as the fields flash by. “You’re smart, so you need to be thinking what you are to me right now. Do you know what you are to me, Ms. Winslow?” I use her name from class.
Fear lights the fine, sharp features of her face. Her thoughts have gone dirty. Like I might rape her. The rims of her big, brown, frightened eyes are smudged with makeup. It’s a good look for her. I wonder if Ms. Winslow understands that to the outside observer, fear and arousal look like very much the same thing.
She’s concentrating hard, like she does with everything. She’s a perfectionist, my Ms. Winslow. She probably slaved over every little comma in that stupid journal.
It’s then I think about touching her. Maybe just her neck or her cheek. I wonder if she’d jump. Or if she’d cry. Or hell, maybe she’d eat it up. There’s one thing I do know: she’d feel it. Really feel it, because it would be different and new and all wrong, just like me going across that parking lot, feeling that huge, crazy-ass sky blazing above me. Out of my cage.
Her lips are pressed together, eyes firmly on the road, but not just for safety. She’s also avoiding me, like I’m not here with a loaded gun pointed at her ribs.
What would she smell like? What would her neck feel like against my cheek? What would her tits would feel like in my palms underneath that kitten-fur sweater? She tries to obscure them with clothes, but you can tell they’re nice. I’m thinking B-cup, maybe C, depending on what kind of bra she wears, a topic I’ve mused on pretty extensively, let’s just say.
Yeah, I really, really want to touch her. It doesn’t hurt that she’s so hot, with those smudged-up eyes and pale skin and the way her pulse beats in her neck. I imagine her under me, skin to skin. How smooth she’d feel.
I run my thumb up the back of the Glock. A nice piece. Smooth and warm from the body of a guard who’s currently out cold. Two long years without a woman’s touch—I’d be mad with lust for any woman. I tell myself it’s not about this woman with her books and glasses and prim hairdo, trying so hard to drive naturally even though she’s shaking.
She doesn’t have experience at this, and she sometimes makes jerky movements, but I don’t yell at her for that. I don’t want to hurt her for things she can’t control.
I shift in my seat, shaking her out of my mind because I know how quickly things can go bad, and if she forces my hand, if it’s a choice between her or my crew…
She needs to not matter.
More cops. She’s going fifty-five exactly.
“What you are is a liability, Ms. Winslow. You made the car, probably even memorized the fucking license plate. You were going to call the cops on me.”
“No,” she whispers.
Liar. She’s too smart to do otherwise. “So I took your car instead. But that means… It means you aren’t that useful anymore.”
She’s silent. I’m scaring her, but I need her to understand the thin ice she’s on so she doesn’t do something stupid.
“My point is, if you don’t drive perfect, then maybe I should be driving. Right? Am I right?”
She stares at the road, lips pressed together, which plumps them out a little bit, and suddenly it’s too much, and I reach up to her face. It’s like an out-of-body experience, seeing myself do it, taking this liberty just because I can. She jumps as I graze her cheek with two knuckles. I draw them slowly down her silky skin, toward her chin, drinking up the feel of her, rich with electricity, rich with peace. She’s mine, and I want her so bad, it’s like a fever.
I pull my hand away. She’s breathing fast, hands gripping the wheel.
Softly I say, “That was a question, baby. You need to answer my questions now just the way I’ve been answering yours these past weeks. And if you’re good, I won’t make you list off twenty motherfucking items in your house, okay?”
She looks over, anger in her eyes. I shift the Glock so it catches the light, reminding her who’s in charge. To remind me she’s expendable. The gun keeps us both focused.
She fixes her attention back on the road. “Fine. You’re right,” she says quickly. “If I don’t drive perfectly, you should be driving.”
“Very good, Ms. Winslow. But if I’m driving, how can I hold this gun on you? How do I know you might not jump out or do something crazy? Flag down cars or something. You see my dilemma?”
“Yes,” she whispers. I can tell from her face she really has worked it out, but I spell it out anyway.
“Bottom line, you drive nice, that’s one less reason for me to kill you.” I watch the lump move inside her smooth throat. A gulp of fear. It’s almost comical. “Gulp,” I say.
Her eyes flash at me. “Fuck you,” she says.
“Are you offering?” I ask, the feel of her skin still blazing on my knuckles.
She sniffs angrily, like that’s an outrageous idea. I flex my hand. Her cheek felt warmer than I expected. Her belly would feel warm under that sweater. And she’d be jumpy with every touch. Oh, Ms. Winslow would be very, very jumpy, tensing with every slide of my finger, every kiss, every little invasion. That’s how she’d be at first, anyway. I’d make her keep the glasses on the whole time. Unless I went ahead and broke them, like I was thinking earlier, to put her off balance.
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to meet my friend in a secluded area.”
She gives me that look again. The flare of surprise—and a little bit of something else too.
“Why, Ms. Winslow, please. Mind out of the gutter.” I smile and sit back. The smile is there to put her at ease. Stone’ll want her dead. It’s going to be a problem.
Another pair of cop cars heads over the hill. “You just drive nice, okay?”
Nicely,” she snaps.
“Drive nicely, that’s how you say it. Not drive nice.”
Oh God. Nicely. Correcting my grammar even at gunpoint. I’m so fucking hot for her, I think I might burst into flames.

Interview Questions by Skye Warren

Are there any new authors that have grasp your interest?
Most recently I really loved Push by Claire Wallis. It’s dark and original. And these aren’t new but they’re new to me. I loved the Roxie Rivera Russian protector series, because it incorporates very serious issues while still being sweet and sexy. I’m currently reading Fallen by Leslie Tentler, it’s a gripping romantic suspense. After I read her first series, she’s an auto-buy author for me.

Why did you choose to write dark romance?
It rather chose me… When I first began to publish I had to books written. One I had written just for myself. The other I had written with the intention to publish. I decided to self publish both of them and see what happened. The dark book outsold

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
On some days, the first time I sat down to tell a story. On other days, I still don’t consider myself a writer. I’ve been an indie author since 2011, and I still have to take it a day at a time.

Will you write more about these characters?
I hope so! Annika Martin and I conceptualized this as a series that we’re calling Criminals & Captives. It focuses on a group of men who share a dark past and work together on their criminal enterprises. There’s kind of a ‘lost boys’ feel to it. And each one will take his own captive.

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