Carolyn Arnold…continues the trend of writing exciting stories that keep your attention throughout…Life Sentence is a thriller all the way…Arnold never disappoints.Barb
“Tell me a story.”
Those are the words a coworker spoke to me in the summer of 2006. Little did she or I know that those four simple words would start my writing career.
To give you a little more insight, I used to write as a teenager, but at the point she said this, I was in my thirties. I had been away from writing for thirteen years! See, life had swept me along. I graduated from high school, found love, got married, and moved four hours away from my hometown. Even though, I thought it would be quite the accomplishment to write a full-length novel, I was still overwhelmed by the number of words I’d have to write to reach that goal.
But when that coworker emailed me to tell her a story, I found that I easily keyed a few paragraphs and fired them back to her. I didn’t even give the words any thought, I just let the story introduction flow out of me. A few minutes later, she had emailed again. “More,” she said. So I complied, expanding on what I had written before. We went back and forth like this a few times until she finally told me I had to finish the story.
And, as it turns out, I rose to the challenge. What had started off as a harmless “tell me a story” became my first full-length novel—Life Sentence. It took me a year to write that first draft, but I had done it! But I had accomplished even more than writing a novel. I had found my true passion in life again: writing. There have been very few days since 2006 that my life hasn’t consisted of writing, editing, or reading. My life is full of purpose and gratitude, and I will continue to tell stories as long as I can.
Excerpt from Life Sentence, Prologue:
HE HATED BEING RIGHT SOMETIMES. Too bad money blinded him from following his gut instinct. He hated being so self-assured that he thought he could meet the infamous Russian mafia boss and have the option of walking away.
“He’s in here.” The officer swung the door open and stepped to the side.
Possibly it was his heightening sense of paranoia getting the best of him, but he could swear the cop didn’t even want to be in the same room with the man.
The Russian was cuffed to the table but leaned back in his chair, chest wide, as far as the chain would allow. He cupped one hand over the back of the other.
For being forty-five, he looked older than his years. His shoulder-length brown hair clung to his head as if slicked with grease. His eyes were sunken and his cheeks concave, giving prominence to his jaw bone, but it wasn’t his physical attributes that changed perception—it was the raw energy in the room.
Dimitre Petrov snapped his fingers, and Bryan was torn from his thoughts.
“Lexan, da? You’ll be my lawyer.”
Dimitre kept his eyes on him, and when he didn’t respond right away, he made a point of directing Bryan’s attention to the clock on the wall.
Bryan supposed time held a different value when facing the possibility of life in prison.
“So you had nothing to do with his murder?” The words blurted out in a nervous reaction to the built-up media hysteria, and Bryan felt like an amateur the moment they left his lips. Guilt or innocence didn’t factor heavily into the equation, but he liked to be prepared.
“Nothing—nothing is a strong word, Mr. Lexan.”
There was that gut feeling, the one that told him to back away. But what this man represented—the high profile case and what winning would accomplish for his firm combined to mute his better judgment.
Dimitre’s stare made Bryan’s skin tingle and raised the hairs on his neck and arms.
What was it about this man’s incessant gaze? His eyes contained a dark history. He had been witness to unspeakable things. His eyes provided testimony to this. Bryan preferred to be spared the details.
Calculating everything involved, he was conflicted about accepting the job, but the money and the publicity that would come from it were impossible to turn his back on.
Bryan extended his hand across the table. “I’d be honored to be your lawyer.”
Dimitre clenched his hands into fists. “Now get me the hell out of here.”
“You’re charged with first-degree murder and based on your history—” Bryan watched Dimitre’s eyes glaze over and hesitated to continue “—bail may be difficult to negotiate.”
“Don’t tell me I misjudged you.”
“I said difficult, not impossible.” He forced a smile. “I’ll do my utmost, Mr. Petrov.”
His voice held an insincere sweetness, but his facial expression concerned Bryan more. It conveyed a proud sense of ownership. Or did it mimic parental pride? Such as one reflected when a child reaches a goal or mile marker. Within the context of their relationship, it made him both nervous and offended. He was owned by no one. But the advantages of swallowing some of his pride were too good to ignore.
“I’ll get you that bail hearing. I’ll also keep the prosecution buried in motion appeals, starting with a change of venue.”
Dimitre slammed his palms on the table and exclaimed something in Russian.
Bryan didn’t know the meaning, but he assumed it meant something good based on the spark in the man’s eyes.
“All right, I will be in touch, Mr. Petrov.” The man’s eyes corrected him, and Bryan addressed him by his first name. “Dimitre.”
He began to rise but was directed with the motion of a hand to sit back down.
“One more thing.”
Bryan’s stomach tossed, albeit faint enough to try and deny it. He’d never admit to the innate fear this man elicited.
“Bonded by attorney-client privilege, da?” Dimitre probed his eyes, intently enough Bryan sensed pressure on the back of his skull.
“My being exonerated of all charges, very important to me.” His broken English was evident as it came through his thick Russian accent.
Maybe he was getting in too deep. No one could guarantee victory.
The room fell silent in the way an eerie calm precedes a horrible storm.
“I have men who will ensure my—how you say—restitution, should I be convicted.”
Bryan knew all too well. He had done his research before he agreed to this meeting yet still came. Curse money for being such a temptation.
The man’s organization was large and encompassed more than it was possible to know. What he had found out, part of him wished he hadn’t.
The man operated according to his own rules, directed by no one but himself—invincible and untouchable. Witnesses disappeared. Evidence went missing or was tainted. There was never enough to link him to his crimes. The murders, trafficking, and possession of drugs and weapons may as well have been rumor for the amount of good it did in putting him behind bars.
Then again, the fact that Dimitre Petrov was sitting in front of him, chained to a table, proved the legend was an imperfect being after all. They had him on a single murder charge, hardly the big picture, but Bryan supposed the authorities were frustrated by their previous attempts to keep the man behind bars.
For a few seconds, Bryan took solace in the fact the powerful man was on his side, but he also realized the flipside to that. The one being pointed out to him now. You wrong the powerful man, you disappear for good.
His tie constricted his airflow, but he managed to get his words out. “I understand.”
“Just to make sure you do, know this.” The man paused for dramatic effect—and it was effective.
Flashes of newspaper articles sparked in Bryan’s brain. Should he lose the case, he would likely have the unpleasant experience of meeting Sergey and Anatolli—Petrov’s two right-hand men. This stark realization made him aware of a large wad of saliva at the back of his throat.
Dimitre opened his mouth to continue, poised with the confidence of a god.
“If I pay with my life, you will pay with yours.”
Bryan’s stomach fully churned. This time there would be no denying it. The threat was real. Dimitre Petrov had the power to ensure the fulfillment of his words—even from behind bars.
You’ve reached the end of the excerpt, but Life Sentence is available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover from popular retailers.