A Chance Encounter
Madison Lawrence is tired of her socialite upbringing and wants to escape the confines of her domineering father. A chance encounter with a mysterious German stranger sets her on a path that will bring her more happiness…and danger than she thought possible. Carsten Erlichman can’t forget the woman he nicknames his angel. Madison’s beauty shines both inside and out. Their chance meeting under the stars is the perfect setting. But one delicate kiss and twelve gongs from the clock tower later, Madison is forced to leave, and he fears they’ll never cross paths again. But God has a way of working out the most complex of problems.
A Deliberate Accident
Madison collects angel figurines as a means of feeding her most precious memory. Little does she know that her collection will tangle her in a web of lies and danger. When Carsten appears at her office offering a renewed relationship and strong protection, she relishes the opportunity to finally get to know the man who stole her heart one chilly evening in Germany. But Carsten is harboring a secret, and Madison must discover the truth about her father, her faith—and Carsten before the clock strikes midnight again.
|Publisher:||Pelican Book Group|
|Edition description:||Second Edition, Second edition|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Betsy St. Amant lives in Louisiana and has a heart for sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. A freelance journalist, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to a Disney soundtrack with her young daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing.
Read an Excerpt
By Betsy St. Amant
Pelican Ventures, LLCCopyright © 2016 Betsy Ann St. Amant
All rights reserved.
Six years later ...
Madison threw her pen onto her desk in frustration. The design in front of her still didn't look right. Tilting her head, she studied the paper with a practiced eye. Something about the arrangement of the furniture ... there was no harmony in the room.
She pressed the intercom button on the phone with a manicured nail. "Shan! I need you!" Releasing the button, she tapped her foot under the desk.
"You rang?" Madison's partner and best friend, Shan Rimmer, stepped into the luxury office, sarcastic as usual.
"This design isn't working. I need your eye."
Shan sauntered around to Madison's side of the desk and leaned over the drawing. Her dark hair spilled over her shoulder. "The angles, maybe?"
While Shan studied the paper, Madison leaned back in her chair and blew at a stray strand that had fallen from her clip. After graduating from New York State with a degree in interior design, Madison had started her own business with a little help from Daddy's Bank Account. The fact that it was a success wasn't surprising, for Madison spent every waking moment in the office or working off the clock. She had built an impressive clientele within the last year and had decorated everything from her cousin's nursery to the mayor's dining room. Having spent the majority of her life on her parent's plantation home in Georgia, Madison prided herself on being able to give her clients a "little taste of the South".
"You should definitely rearrange the furniture." Shan picked up a pencil from the cup on Madison's desk. Quickly sketching a few lines that indicated which pieces to swap, she dropped the pencil back on the desk with a dramatic flair. "There!"
"You're a genius, my friend." Madison eyed the much-improved design.
"I know." Shan twirled a strand of long hair around her finger and struck a pose beside Madison's desk. "I'm the Queen."
"Of drama," Madison teased. She stuck her tongue out and rolled backwards in her chair. She lifted her arms in a stretch and kicked off her high-heeled shoes to enjoy a moment of relief. With this design almost complete, she could take a quick break. Maybe even go home early, after her last appointment for the day.
And do ... what? Madison's shoulders dropped as she contemplated her lack of options. Her job was her life, and her only friend was her partner. A smile tipped the corners of Madison's mouth as she remembered the graduation ceremony from the prestigious design school they had both attended.
"Hey, Madison. I've heard about the business you're planning to open."
Madison had turned and seen Shan approaching, hands on hips. She had smiled at her fun-loving, feisty friend. "That's right. Madison's Designs. I plan on opening in a few weeks. The paperwork is already under way."
Shan tossed her head in her usual diva fashion. "Well, if you change the name to M & S Designs, then you should have no problem letting me be your partner."
Madison quirked an eyebrow. "And why would I do that?" It didn't sound like a bad idea, but she couldn't let Shan call the shots this early in the game.
Shan grinned. "Because I'm the best, and you know it."
Madison couldn't help but laugh. "Well I don't know about that name you suggested, but let's get some coffee and talk." In the end, Shan had gotten her way, and they became a top team in the city.
Though they were about as opposite as they can get. Back in the present, Madison grinned as she took in the sight of her friend standing by the bookshelves that lined the office walls. Madison, tall, slender, and blonde, was a complete workaholic with a drive for perfectionism, while Shan's easy-going, fun-loving personality complemented her wavy dark tresses and skin the color of rich cocoa. They were opposites, but they were the perfect team.
"Girl, I'm gonna ask one more time. What is the deal with the angel collection?" Shan waved her arm dramatically in the general direction of the bookshelves. Madison rolled her eyes and slipped her feet back into her pumps. "It's just a thing," she insisted. "I wouldn't call it a collection. There's not that many."
Then, just like it always did when someone mentioned angels, her mind raced back to that enchanted evening several years ago. Closing her eyes, Madison entered her favorite time warp and could almost sense the snow on her face, the feel of a certain German's arms around her and ...
"Delivery for Ms. Lawrence."
A deep voice jerked Madison out of her reverie, and she slid down in her desk chair, losing her shoe.
Her regular route UPS man, Tony, stood standing in her doorway with a smirk, clutching a package wrapped in brown paper. "The shipping address is for your home, but I knew you'd be here and would want it right away. The boss said he'd make an exception this once. You are a preferred customer, after all." He set the box on the desk and held out the electronic clipboard. "Sign here."
Righting herself in her chair with as much dignity as she could muster, Madison scrawled her signature on the tiny screen. "Thanks, Tony." She handed back the form and waited until he left the office before grabbing for the box.
Shan was faster. "What do we have here?" She held the box out of Madison's reach. Cutting open the flaps, she dove into the package.
"What?" Madison questioned with pretend innocence, since she already knew.
"Not really a collection, you said?" Shan grinned as she pulled an antique porcelain angel out of the box and fluffed its' feathery wings.
Feeling a blush creep up her face, Madison bolted from her chair and grabbed for the doll. She reached to put it in place on the nearest shelf, behind a row of smaller angels. "It's nothing," she insisted. She smoothed the wings back into shape and adjusted its position on the shelf. This one was truly beautiful. The angel's delicate face was hand-painted, and her gown a deep velvety red — the same shade that reminded her of the dress she'd worn the night she danced with Carsten. But how could she possibly explain to Shan something that made no sense even to herself? How could she say that for some unexplainable reason, each time she bought an angel, she felt a little bit closer to her very own fairytale prince?
"One day, I'm gonna learn about this secret you're hiding." Shan crossed her arms over her business suit and shook her head in mock pity. "You're not the collectibles type, Madison. And you definitely don't do things without a reason."
"I never said I didn't have a reason," Madison said softly.
"What was that?" Shan raised an eyebrow.
"I said, let's go grab a latte. I'm parched." She grabbed her designer purse and ushered her nosy partner out of her office.
"I can take a hint," Shan retorted as she locked the door. "Hey, aren't we important enough yet to have someone bring us the lattes?"
* * *
Madison stared out the window of the taxi; absently tapping her finger against the lid of her half-empty cup. A prayer rose within. "Lord, what is with these random flashbacks? Shan mentions my angel collection and it's like my mind can't think of anything but that night." She prayed silently as she continued to gaze at the passing scenery of buildings after buildings. The nearest coffee shop was only a few blocks away from her office complex, but Shan had insisted that she didn't want to walk in her new high heels. Now, because of the traffic, the taxi ride back was taking forever.
"Get out of the way, you crazy —" The cab driver shook his fist out the open window as he let loose a string of expletives. Madison cringed. Shan giggled.
"I just love New York," Shan commented, stirring her coffee in little circles as she talked. "I couldn't live without the big city bustle! The people, the drama, the action ... I love it!"
Madison bit her lip. The pollution, the crazy drivers, the lack of grass or anything green, for that matter ... It was springtime in New York, but it was hard to tell aside from the weather. Unless one walked uptown to Central Park, it was difficult to find flowers or much greenery. But who had time for those indulgences? There was work to be done, always work to be done.
She stared down at the lid of her coffee cup and thought wistfully of the lush acreage at home in Georgia. The plantation was always so beautiful this time of year, from the azaleas blooming outside her bedroom window to the clumps of honeysuckle covering the fences. Sometimes Madison doubted her decision to move to New York, but she knew her design business would never take off in Georgia. Maybe if she made a big enough name for herself, she could relocate and still keep her clientele. It was a thought she frequently entertained. However, there was the down side that came with spending too much time with her father. Ever since her mother had been killed in a car accident five years ago, her dad had become incredibly overprotective.
Her stomach twisted as she remembered the past years of being told what to wear, whom to date, where to go ... Her natural being was far more independent than that. She shook her head, forcing away the bad memories.
Ignoring Shan's ramblings about how fabulous city life was, Madison once again looked out her window and into the passenger side of another taxi. A man about her age sat perched on the backseat, leaning forward and drumming his fists in an impatient rhythm against the front seat. It looked as if he was as desperate to escape his taxi as she. Madison smiled in amusement, thinking that at least she wasn't the only one with a lack of love for the city traffic.
The man turned and glanced out the window right back at Madison. Madison blushed, embarrassed to be caught staring, and quickly ducked her head. Suddenly, she jerked her gaze back to the window and her eyes widened in shock. No. It couldn't be. He had the same hair color, sure, and the cut was similar, but there was no way. What were the odds? Silly girl, Madison scolded herself. It'd been six years. She wasn't remembering correctly.
She dared to glance once more as her taxi began to pull away. This time, her gaze locked with his and in a heartbeat, she knew. No one else had eyes that color, eyes that reminded her heart of a clear winter sky in Germany. No one but him.CHAPTER 2
"Crazy," Madison mumbled as she banged her head repeatedly against her desktop. "I'm going crazy. No, I've gone crazy."
"Maddie!" Shan burst into Madison's office. "What are you doing to the desk?"
Madison's head snapped up. "What did you just say?" She hadn't heard that nickname since it had come from Carsten's lips six years ago.
Shan slowly backed away from Madison. "I think I called you Maddie. Is that bad?"
"You've never called me that before," Madison replied. She stood up and put her hands on her hips.
Shan threw her hands in the air in a sign of surrender. "It just slipped out. I don't know why, I'm not exactly accustomed to seeing you assault your desk. I probably wasn't thinking clearly."
Madison rubbed her pounding temples and sank back into her desk chair. "Never mind," she muttered. "I'm sorry, Shan. I guess I've had too much caffeine today." She watched as her friend slipped quickly out of the office. Madison knew what had her emotions all stirred up but refused to admit it.
Madison executed a slow spin in her chair, desperate for clarity. "There is no possible way that the man in the taxi was Carsten." She spoke the words slowly and deliberately. Maybe the more times she said it; the sooner she'd believe it.
* * *
Madison straightened in her chair. It was almost time for her four o'clock appointment, and she didn't want her new client to think she was crazy.
She reached into the desk drawer for her client's file. "Mr. Erlichman," she read out loud, as she shuffled through the papers. "Interested in price quotes and design ideas for an inherited estate." Madison had never decorated an entire house before, just individual rooms. This had the potential to be a very profitable job. Her spirits lifted. "Lord, I could really use this sale. Give me wisdom, please."
The speaker on her phone buzzed, and Shan's voice filled the room. "Ms. Lawrence, your four o'clock is here," she murmured in her professional voice. Madison bit back a grin and shook her head. Their receptionist had quit earlier in the week. Shan had volunteered to play secretary until they found a replacement, stating that "it would be fun". Better Shan than Madison, in Madison's opinion.
"Send him in." Madison rose to meet her new, and apparently wealthy, client. Satisfied that she projected the image of a professional, yet approachable designer, Madison trained a smile on the door and smoothed the front of her tailored jacket over her pencil skirt.
The frosted glass door swung open. Shock overtook her and all thoughts of professionalism flew from Madison's head. Her smile transformed into a gaping mouth.
"You!" she gasped.
The handsome German in her doorway responded only with a smile.
Madison's legs went weak.
The room spun.
She collapsed to the floor.
* * *
"Is she all right?" Shan whispered.
"I think she hit her head." The male voice held concern.
"No, that bump was already there."
"She beat up her desk."
"She did what?" The concern turned to confusion.
Madison forced open her eyes. She pulled herself to a sitting position, ignoring the pounding in her head. She tried to focus on the two people crouched beside her on the floor. Shan's image swam into view along with a male figure that made Madison feel certain she was in a dream.
"Wake up," she commanded herself out loud. "Wake up! Right now."
"Oh, no, she's gone cuckoo." Shan tilted her head and spoke loudly to Madison, as if the increase in volume would make a difference. "You are awake, Partner."
A masculine chuckle sounded from Madison's right and for the first time, she looked closely at the man who had entered her office and caused this whole commotion.
"You really know how to make a guy feel willkommen — welcome," he joked.
"Carsten?" Madison whispered. "But how? Why did — I don't understand."
"That makes two of us," Shan responded, gaze moving from Madison to Mr. Erlichman and back again. "Who's Carsten?"
Madison realized she was still sitting on the ground and struggled to rise. Carsten's arm shot out to steady her, and when his fingers touched her hand, it felt as if her entire arm burst into flame.
Shan's eyebrows rose. "Do you two know each other?"
Madison glared at her partner. "Do I hear the phone ringing?"
Shan shook her head innocently. Madison's eyes narrowed further.
"Oh, that phone." Shan shot Madison a look that said you had better explain this later and then left the room.
Madison took a deep breath to steady herself and attempted to twist her skirt back into its proper position on her hips. She briefly wondered if she had flashed anyone during her collapse, then realized it didn't really matter. This situation couldn't get any more embarrassing than it already was.
Daring to glance up, she caught Carsten watching her with a steady gaze, and felt flustered once again. Why wasn't he saying anything?
"Maybe we should start over," she began, trying desperately to put some edge of professionalism back into her voice. "I'm sorry about fainting. I don't think I ate enough lunch today. We've been awfully busy. Perhaps you'd like a cup of coffee? Starbucks it's not, but it's hot, at least." She rambled on, and with a sweep of her arm, motioned to the coffee system on the counter across the room. In doing so, she slammed her knuckles into the sharp corner of her desk.
"Oh!" Madison stuffed her scraped fingers into her mouth.
Carsten reached out and assisted Madison into her desk chair.
"There now," he said, "Let me see your hand." Madison, rendered helpless just by the sound of his voice, surrendered her knuckles to his inspection.
"Just a scrape," Carsten announced after a brief check of her hand. He gently raised her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips across her injury. "All better," he whispered, not dropping her gaze.
Madison snatched her hand back as if it were on fire, certain her heart would at any moment beat right out of her chest and go bouncing across her office.
"Perhaps we should begin discussing your business," Madison stated, pretending she still couldn't feel the imprint of his lips on her knuckles. She motioned for Carsten to take the chair on the other side of the desk.
Obediently, he dropped into the suggested leather seat and smiled. "Business, you say?"
"Yes. Business. You're here for a reason, I presume?" Other than giving her a stroke at age twenty-five, of course.
"Still in a hurry, aren't you Maddie?" Carsten responded, his eyes gleaming with something indefinable. "I suppose some things never change, no matter how much time or distance has been spent."
Madison mentally caught her jaw before it dropped, and squared her shoulders. "I'll have you know that I happen to take plenty of time for myself, thank you very much. As if it's any of your business."
Excerpted from Midnight Angel by Betsy St. Amant. Copyright © 2016 Betsy Ann St. Amant. Excerpted by permission of Pelican Ventures, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
'Midnight Angel', the debut novel by author Betsy St. Amant, is an entertaining, suspenseful adventure in the life of a young woman raised in a wealthy family, marked by a distant relationship with an absentee father and a socialite mother. A chance midnight encounter with a handsome stranger sets the stage for the heart of the story: A lonely woman who has never forgotten the magic of that moment in time, and who never expects that the gentleman will reappear in her life, particularly at a time when she finds herself in danger from unknown sources. Ms. St. Amant takes us from Manhattan to the ranch country of Montana, painting a beautiful picture with words, reminding us that our strength lies in our Lord, even when our lives don't make sense, and when we don't know what lies around the next bend. I highly recommend 'Midnight Angel', and look forward to more works by this author.
On snowy night in Germany, by a fountain and near a clock tower, Madison and Carsten meet. They share a dance, an embrace, a kiss. And then they part. Six years later, Madison owns her on interior design firm in New York City, far from the father she loathes. That night in Germany never left her heart. She now collects angel figurines as a reminder of Carsten's nickname for her. When Maddie welcomes a new client into her office, she had no idea it would be him, Carsten, after all these years. Memories swell, passions ignite. He wants her to help me decorate a ranch he's inherited. In Montana. She can't leave her partner for what could be weeks or months to do this, even though it'd be a great project and lots of income for her company. Later that evening, a break-in at her apartment changes her mind. She contacts Carsten, still virtually a stranger to her himself, and takes comfort in him. Off to Montana, the trouble soon follows. Betsy's debut novel, Midnight Angel, is a well developed one. Both quirky and intriguing characters. Vivid settings. Taunt suspense. Her time as an ACFW member and studying the craft of putting together a good read is evident throughout the novel's pages. I love how she let's you know the English translation of Carsten's occasional German statements without pulling you out of the story. I've seen household name authors stumble on these kind of things. Debut novels are often a hit and miss proposition. Do I spend my money on this unknown author whose story sounds intriguing? Or do I go with old faithful next to it who's well established and which I know is going to be a good read? Do yourself a favor. Stretch yourself and by this one. You won't be disappointed. It's a short read. You'll have it read in a day and you'll clicking on Betsy's website and blog to see when her next release is coming. Until then, she has several short stories available from her publisher, The Wild Rose Press. And one day you'll be in the bookstore thinking, 'Do I buy this novel from this author whose name I don't know, but the story sure is interesting? Or do I buy Betsy Ann St. Amant's new release?' Trust me. This will be your dilemma one day soon.