Authors: Annika Martin, Skye Warren
Date of publication: October 23, 2014
He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.
But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.
And you might crave him more than your next breath.
“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
There is no shortage of “dark romances” out there, I have read some and made the attempt and failed with no small number over the past year with varying degrees of success – read enjoyment. However, I found Annika Warren and Skye Martin’s debut collaboration to be a different breed all together. Make no mistake it is dark but where many of the others of its ilk fell short Prisoner made that intangible leap from fiction to what I would call “plausible” storytelling.
Prisoner captivated me from the beginning. Lately I have found it rather hard to ignore my inner critic, you know the one, that nagging voice that ever so snidely points out that “that would never happen” and so on. She was blessedly silent throughout most of Prisoner making for a very enjoyable reading experience.
Upon seeing Grayson prior to the first class the connection between teacher and student is immediate and electric. His menacing presence was ultimately irresistable to both Abby and the reader. Prisoner was an entrancing read, flawlessly alternating between Abby and Grayson’s POV’s. Tasked with teaching a writing course to convicts Abby is horrified when the one inmate she cannot ignore joins the class. Grayson sees the class writing project, a collaborative work to be published online, as an opportunity to send a message to his friends on the outside. Toying with the buttoned up Ms. Grayson is simply a side benefit. This all changes when Abby is the one person standing between him and a clean break from the prison and that is when the “fit hits the shan“.
I really only objected to one aspect of the story and I believe the thought was more than justified in my opinion snarky inner critic notwithstanding. Abby, an undergraduate is sent into a prison to teach a writing class, I couldn’t help but cough and mutter “bullspit” (censoring c/o TBS) at the thought. I wouldn’t have questioned a masters or PhD student but an undergrad taking on more than a hypothetical or assistant teaching position just seemed too far a stretch for bounds of credulity. Though otherwise empathizing with her character was remarkably easy. That is saying something as I feel that my allegiances have almost completely shifted from the archetype bad boy to “good boys”. I credit the defection to too many years as a mother and my inability to imagine these bad boys maintaining a loving relationship long term though I imagine Grayson however flawed might be the one to succeed.
Q&A with Annika and Skye:
Where do you find your inspiration?
Annika: You know those juicy, thrilling scenes in books or movies that you just love to pieces? And you think about them long after? Those sorts of scenes, and the huge emotions around them really inspire me. I love to feel that high-point thrill, and to create books around those moments. A lot of times I start with imagining an exciting scene I want to write and the book goes somewhere else completely, but the kernel, the inspiration still remains buried deep down.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
Skye: Prisoner was my first collaboration with author Annika Martin. She and I first met because I’d read her books (love them!) and she read mine. We were both in a boxed set together, MAKE ME. We were chatting over email and came up with the idea to write a book together. We knew it would be edgy, and dark, and also fun! And so, Prisoner was born.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Annika: A lot of writers hate revising and love first drafts, but I’m the opposite – I am crazy about revising–I like to mold and change things in big ways once the words are there. But I write a sloooooow and grueling first draft, and I daydream a lot and change my mind a lot. It’s a total challenge! That was one really nice thing about writing in a team—knowing Skye was at the other end, expecting me to come up with something new and exciting every day was kind of nice. But getting those first words down is hard and slow for me.
What is for you the perfect book hero?
Skye: I like them intimidating. Competent. Vaguely sinister and smug. Possessive. Harsh. Cold. Hot. I like them everything that is mean and cruel, even with the heroine. And then… when he stops, when sex and intimacy and love force him to stop, the clouds part. The sun rises on grass still sticky with dew. It paints the world in orange light and long shadows, hinting at what is to come. And that’s the end of the book. Not a wedding. Not a happily ever after. The ending is hope.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Annika: There are themes that writers return to over and over. One of my themes I return to, even when I’m not trying, is two super messed-up people finding love with each other, and being messed up together, and loving each other for their flaws (and not getting rid of them, because to me, flaws are what make people who they are!) So I guess my message is, even if you feel like you’re really screwed up, being really and truly yourself is beautiful and you deserve love.
Tell us about your first book. What would readers find different about the first one and your most recent published work?
Skye: My first dark book was Keep Me Safe… and god, I hope readers see that I’ve grown as a writer. But at the same time, I hope I’ve kept the core of what people liked about Keep Me Safe, the dark atmospheric setting and deep character exploration. Both of those are hopes—but I’d love to hear from the readers who have kept with me and hear what they think!
Does music play any type of role in your writing?
Annika: Definitely. I write now and then at coffee shops and if there are people talking around me, I need to put in earbuds and crank the music. I have specific songs I just loop over and over, usually dark and melodic. Also, I love to run after a hard day at the writing desk, and I crank the tunes and just zone out to the music and that’s when I get my best ideas.
What books have influenced your life most?
Skye: The books that influence me the most have a super strong voice—and perspective. Broken by Megan Hart, Comfort Food by Kitty Thomas, and anything by my cowriter Annika Martin, who also writes as Carolyn Crane.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Annika: And even though he’s broad and heavy, especially because of that, it feels like a caress. His whole body embraces me, his mouth on mine, his hands on mine, his legs straddling my thighs. I’m wrapped in a cocoon made only of Grayson, where it smells like musk and tastes like man and wipes away every thought I should have. Like getting away. Like fighting him.
Or longer pasted at end….
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I back up until the truck stops me. I’m sweating, but the hot metal is almost a relief. Warmer and more human than the flesh-and-blood beast that looms in front of me.
But I have something to say too. Something true. And I want him to listen. “You might hurt me. You might touch me. But I will never, ever touch you. Not of my own free will.”
I’m shaking by the time I’m finished talking. Tears are threatening again, but I don’t care about them. They don’t make me weak. I know what real weakness is. I saw it inject itself with drugs and hook up with abusive men just to get its fix. I watched it die. That will never be me. Never.
He reaches up to cup my cheek—the side without the scrape. On purpose? I don’t know. He trails his thumb over my eyebrow and down my temple. Places he couldn’t touch when I had my
glasses. Like he’s learning me, mapping my face. The inside of my chest feels bright and quivery, but I keep my frown.
“So I can touch you?” he asks gently. “But you won’t touch me back.”
My voice trembles. “I didn’t say that.”
“Didn’t you?” His hand trails lower, down my neck. Goose bumps rise all across my chest and over my arms despite the heat.
He caresses my skin right where my collarbone is, softly, with the back of his knuckles. I clench my fists at my sides, dreading what comes next. He’s going to keep moving lower, until he’s touching my breasts. And then what will I do? Cry? Scream? There’s no one to hear me. The guy from the truck has disappeared over the ridge.
I let my eyes close. “Stop.”
“You don’t want this.” His tone is conversational.
“I hate you.”
“What do you want, then?”
“I want you to die. I want to hurt you. I want you to let me go.”
He laughs softly, a puff of breath against my forehead. “In that order?”
My teeth clench together. “Take your pick.”
“You know what I think, Abby? I can call you that, right? It’s cute. Like you.” His hand curves to the side, feathering light touches along the cashmere of my sweater. He grips my hip as if we’re dancing. And we are dancing. It’s a sick song he plays.
“I think you want to fix me. That’s what you were doing at the prison. That’s what you’re doing now. But the thing is, Abby, it’s not going to work.”
About the Authors:
I’m a pet wrangler, bookworm, mediocre tennis player and hairstyle failure. And yes, an author, but I promise not to spam you if you friend me!
I live just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi with my husband and two beloved cats in a home full of plants, sunshine, books and cookie crumbs. By day, I’m a freelancer in the business world. In addition to being smutty Annika, I write urban fantasy under the pen name Carolyn Crane.
Skye Warren writes unapologetic erotica, including power play or erotic pain and sometimes dubious consent. There’s struggle in the sex. There’s pain in the relationships. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely romantic.