The Blue-Eyed Billionaire
A blind billionaire and a scarred event planner work to deliver Christmas to Getaway Bay. Will they find love amidst the mistletoe and sand?
Damien Massey lost his sight in an accident during the holiday season when he was young. He’s since set about building an empire and a fortune helping businesses improve their facilities for those with disabilities. His firm is hired to make Sweet Breeze Hotel more user friendly. To thank the owner for his business, Damien wants to plan a Christmas gala and he seeks out the best in event organization to help him plan it.
Sage Williams carries a jagged scar down the side of her face from a holiday tragedy that claimed everything. She hides from the world because of the pain. Normally capable of planning a party – or any event – without leaving the safety of her office, Sage is delighted to get Damien’s business until she sees the stipulations. He demands to meet in person – multiple times – and he’s a good-looking fan of Christmas. Things shift and she’s not sure why. Christmas has never been a friend to her, why would she start feeling differently now?
Will Sage prove Christmas is only out to get her, or will she get caught up in Damien’s holiday spirit and fall in love?
He can’t see her beauty but he can heal her heart – if she’ll let him.
The thick pillow failed as a sound barrier in every way.
Sage flopped over on her sheet-covered mattress and slapped her hands down by her sides, pinning the blankets down. She whooshed her air out in exasperation and stared up at the textures in the ceiling.
A soft whir from the air conditioning unit wasn’t enough to drown out the sounds of holiday merriment outside. Once Thanksgiving hit the islands, all kinds of crazy partying ensued.
At least, it was crazy to Sage.
Every year, she regretted getting a place so close to the beach. At least for the two months at the end of the year. Right in the middle of town. Why hadn’t she thought things through? Too late, she owned the place and trying to sell would only make her homeless and cranky. She’d bought the place at a bargain and loved it when the whole island, blast it, the whole world hadn’t gone berserk.
“Fa la la la, la la la laaaa.” The caroling from the Getaway Bay acapella group felt like it was going to go on forever. Maybe it had gone on forever and Sage had already lost her sanity. Maybe she wasn’t in her house but an insane asylum where they allowed the other crazies to celebrate Christmas all decade long.
Red and green lights shone through the small cracks between the curtains of her bedroom window. They were blinking this season. Blinking. Like Christmas on crack. Yay.
“Unh.” Sage squeezed her eyes tight and rolled to the side. Her expensive bed lost all value when she couldn’t sleep. She might as well be on the floor with rocks beneath her for all the good it was doing.
Beeping from the empty spot on the queen mattress beside her gave her a reason to open her eyes. Desperate for a distraction, Sage grabbed the glowing piece and swiped up the screen.
Lifting the phone to her ear, Sage rolled again to her back. “Angie, hi. What do you need?”
Sage’s longtime friend and business partner chuckled. “You’re not even worried that I’m calling so late. The music keeping you up again?” The woman didn’t mind Sage’s continuing issues with Christmas. She knew Sage wasn’t permanently crazy. Just during the times of the year everyone waited for some kind of miracle.
“Yes, it’s awful.” Sage sighed, pushing herself up to a sitting position and draping her arm over her bent knees. At least Angie understood why she was so Grinch-y.
“It won’t last forever. Didn’t you say it was getting more bearable each year?” Angie was hesitant but also fishing. She must want something. She hadn’t called late at night to discuss the Christmas epidemic.
“Yeah, but bearable is subjective. This year I don’t want to drive needles into my eyes, so I guess that’s improvement.” Sage rolled her eyes. “What’s up, Angie?”
Clearing her throat, Angie hesitated, then spoke. “Okay, so I know we’re blocked out for the next six weeks and that you’re not taking anyone. I get that.” Angie paused, like she was going to start her arguments all over again. “Here’s the thing. We got a request from Fisher Dupont – an actual personal referral and it’s for a lot of money.”
Sage hesitated. Fisher owned Sweet Breeze. If she took the job he recommended, she could get her foot in the door for event planning through the rest of the year. Jobs weren’t hard to come by, but a holiday event on their portfolio would mean she’d potentially be expected to work during the next Christmas season. That wasn’t something she wanted to make a habit.
She already made enough money to cover the holiday season, but money was tight and she had to rely on penny-pinching throughout the rest of the year to make things work. With the rise in cost of almost everything, making it through December wasn’t going to be a guarantee this go around.
Pinching the bridge of her nose, Sage closed her eyes. “I don’t know, Angie. I know it’s from Fisher, but it’s more of a mental health thing.” She wasn’t trying to hate on everyone’s fun time. She hadn’t always hated the holidays. But some things – like severe depression – were just better to avoid at all costs.
“Look, before you say no, think about. He’s willing to pay two-hundred thousand.” Angie said the number in a half-whisper, like the amount was too much to speak out loud. And they kind of were.
Sage’s eyelids snapped open. She twisted her lips to the side and jutted her chin forward. “When is the event and what is the base?” That much money had pull and Angie should have led with that kind of information.
Anxious hope blossomed in Angie’s voice. “It’s a gala, roughly a thousand people, indoor and outdoor. He requested the evening of December twenty-third.” Angie fell silent, like she held her breath.
“That’s not enough time.” Sage let pent up air out in a huff. The decision was taken from her. A gala-style event for that many people would be more along the lines of a year or more. Five weeks? No way. She was amazing, but she wasn’t the keeper of miracles.
“Maybe it would be impossible if you had other jobs you were working on or something, but you don’t have anything else to plan. Combine that with Mr. Massey’s sparing no expense. You can offer over-time or double compensation to make it happen.” Pleading in Angie’s tone couldn’t be more apparent, even over the phone. Of course, it was a big deal to her. It was a lot of money and they both could use the exposure.
“Are you sure it’s going to be hosted at Sweet Breeze? It seems like there wouldn’t be availability for such an in-demand venue.” Sage wouldn’t deny that she was reaching for a reason, any reason, to get out of the event. Even as her bank account screamed for her to take it.
“There was a huge cancellation and it opened up. Look, it’s late. Sleep on it. He’s not expecting an answer until morning. I’ll call you first thing. Get some rest.” Angie hung up before Sage could offer any more arguments.
What was there to argue with anyway? Sage lowered her phone to her lap and stared toward the nightlight plugged into the wall outlet inches below the window. The LED lighting competed with the holiday lights outside the curtains. Maybe during the season Sage should unplug the nightlight.
Why did she care about the light, anyway? She needed to focus on the opportunity Angie had just shared. Sage needed an answer by morning when Angie called.
If they took the job, she’d be set for the rest of the decade to grow her business. She’d be able to hire a couple more planners and stretch across the island and maybe even into Oahu. That market would be ideal with millions of tourists running through the city every year, there were plenty of events being planned year round and with more planners, Sage wouldn’t have to work during the holidays but she could still reap the benefits – namely the money – of having planners available who would work.
While Angie was a partner in the business, she was still training and neither of them felt comfortable with her running an entire event by herself. No problem there, but once Angie was ready, she could take over the holidays. Sage had it all figured out. But that season wasn’t one where the situation was ideal.
Sage would have to work the event herself. If she could sacrifice during one holiday season, she might be able to benefit her business in ways she couldn’t imagine. Just thinking of stretching her reach was enough to cut the Christmas tunes from her mind.
How was she going to be able to make the event happen? Could she bear working on it? The time frame was tight and with the date, would Mr. Massey be interested in leaving Christmas out of the event?
The likelihood of that was next to never, but Sage had to be able to avoid the holidays if she was going to be able to survive them. Maybe that would be a negotiating point for her to take on the gala.
She wasn’t stupid. Most planners were booked out years in advance for the holiday season. The fact that hers weren’t available wasn’t a secret and Fisher knew that. His request meant that this was a big deal and they needed someone fast.
Maybe she’d have a little say in how the event played out. She’d have to work on her proposal after she got more details. Thankfully, no matter what event she planned, she didn’t have to leave the safety of her place to conduct her businesses and Angie attended the events for Sage. It was a win-win.
Lying back down, Sage stared at the ceiling again. This time, though, she wasn’t avoiding sleep because of the craziness outside. No, Angie had delivered one more reason for Sage to not sleep for the next five weeks.
At least this one would pad her accounts. She had that to hold onto.
Nothing good happened during the Christmas season. She had to make sure and remember that. If nothing good happened, then she had to plan on something bad happening.
Losing her business wasn’t going to be an option. She’d have to figure out just what was going to happen and prepare for it.
Waving her hand in the air, Sage scoffed, then spoke to herself. “It’s just a gala. Nothing bad is going to happen. Nothing bad is going to happen. You can plan these in your sleep.” To prove the point to herself, Sage rolled over, tucking her hands beside her cheek and closing her eyes. She would text Angie first thing. She’d take on the job.
She had to have faith in herself. There was no one left to rely on.
Rays from the sun rising in the east warmed Damien’s skin and he lifted his chin to soak in the early light. Sitting at the table on the terrace to his suite, Damien leaned over, claiming the bite of pancake between his teeth from the fork he held aloft.
Orange and cinnamon wafted on the air, delectable together as they mingled. Up as high as he was, Damien was surprised at the still tangible taste of salt water in the air.
Setting his fork to the side of the plate, Damien felt with his fingers for his glass of orange juice. Room service had set everything up very close to the instructions emailed earlier by his assistant. When things were set up just so, he didn’t have to find his way around things. Knocking over a glass of juice wasn’t his ideal way of spending a morning.
He would have eaten in a restaurant, but there weren’t any open that early. At least for another hour and he wanted to inspect each restaurant’s handicap access. He didn’t think of himself as disabled, but the work that he did was on behalf of those with disabilities.
Damien had one goal in Getaway Bay and if everything went according to plan, Sweet Breeze would be the next on his list of successfully upgraded establishments.
Helping business become blind-friendly and handicap-accessible was the main purpose of InSight Designs, Damien’s parent company.
Fisher had called for an estimate a few months before and Damien said the holiday season would be a perfect time to establish the needs of the hotel. He’d always wanted to spend Christmas in Hawaii and the small island town of Getaway Bay was exactly what he was looking for.
His cell phone rang, and he reached to the breast pocket of his suit jacket. Pulling the piece out, Damien swiped the screen. He didn’t have the voice moderated caller ID activated yet.
He’d probably need to get on that before the morning concluded.
“Massey.” He leaned forward, smelling the cinnamon tea he’d been brought. He was a tea connoisseur and the loose-leaf brands were his favorite.
“Mr. Massey, it’s Tiffany, the concierge. We haven’t been able to locate an assistant for you as of yet, sir, but we do have confirmation from Sage Events for the gala. I’ve emailed you the information you’ll need to contact the event planner as well as confirmation on your venue. Please, don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything else you need.”
“Thank you, Tiffany. I appreciate your help.” Ending the call, Damien was impressed with the professionalism of the concierge floor that Fisher had set him up with. He wasn’t surprised there was a shortage of assistants. Everyone probably had taken on extra work or was out for the holidays.
The room service server hadn’t left and instead stood by the table waiting for Damien to finish. “Excuse me, sir. Would you like me to bring you more napkins?” The server would have been proper except for the exceedingly slow manner in which he spoke to Damien, as if Damien wasn’t blind, but stupid.
Not the best way to get on the blind billionaire’s side.
Damien sighed, shaking his head. Hadn’t the young man just heard Damien on the phone? Damien was neither stupid nor slow. “No, thank you. I’m finished with my meal.” He stood, clenching the blind guide stick he’d opted for over the smart version which spoke as he walked. When he’d used the smart stick, he’d found it more distracting to have a voice narrating his steps when he was also trying to maneuver them with his feet. Plus, the sensors on the stick had been a split second behind and Damien had almost tripped – twice.
He never tripped. He wasn’t going to use a stick that was bent on trying to kill him.
The door closed behind the staff member and Damien shook his head. He had a job and a half cut out for him to educate the Sweet Breeze staff on user availability and friendliness. Ignorance would only ruin Fisher’s chances at a 5-star 5-diamond resort. Sweet Breeze held that distinction the last five years, but the judging had changed hands and word was the new officiator was harder and had impossible expectations.
Fisher was covering his bases and Damien just happened to be the best in the business. Yes, a sightless holiday gala was exactly what Getaway Bay needed.
He clenched his teeth. He’d wanted to tell that server he was blind. Not deaf. But what did you do? He’d been fighting it most of his adult life and nothing was going to change with rudeness.
No, killing people with kindness was the only way to get what he wanted. That or throw money at them. Either way, Damien had kindness and money and he wasn’t afraid to use it.
Now all he needed to do was set up a meeting with the event planner and get the gala planning underway.
The incessant beeping of her phone woke Sage and she groaned as she rolled over. The entire night had been filled with tossing and turning. She’d finally fallen into a restless sleep after agreeing to the impossible the night before.
Eyes still closed, Sage pulled the offending cell into her hands and swiped the screen. “Angie, I swear. If you’re not dead or –”
“Ms. Williams, this is Tiffany with the Sweet Breeze concierge services. I’m the interim assistant assigned to Mr. Massey.” She paused like she expected something from Sage, but Sage glared at the ceiling. She continued into the silence as if it were normal. “Yes, well, Mr. Massey would like to meet this afternoon to go over the particulars of the gala as well as get a vision from you for what you have planned. Can I verify a two o’clock time?” Professionalism dripped from her tone, grating on Sage’s nerves.
“I don’t want to meet. I don’t need to. We can work through email and some platforms I use. I do this a lot. It’s how I function.” Sage covered her eyes with her free hand and rolled onto her back. Didn’t the concierge realize what time it was? Sage opened one eye and squinted at the clock wall above the door. Okay, it wasn’t that early, but Tiffany’s chipper tone wasn’t getting her any bonus points.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Massey was adamant about a face-to-face. This is a contingency to the account. He prefers to establish a personal connection with everyone he works with.” Tiffany’s tone rejected Sage’s rebuke which left Sage speechless. “Would you like to confirm the two o’clock?”
A contingency? Tiffany and Mr. Massey didn’t realize that Sage rarely left her house, unless it was absolutely necessary. Was this necessary? Was it just one more sign from the universe that Sage shouldn’t have taken the job?
After a moment, Sage licked her lips and stared up at the ceiling. Her heart tripped a beat and not in a good way. Even her palms were damp. Clearing her throat, she dropped her hand to her side and studied the textures of the ceiling sightlessly. “Um, so how many people will be there? One? Or a group? Where are we talking about the meeting being held?”
“Just Mr. Massey will be there for the meeting. It will be at the outdoor café located just off the south entrance to the Sweet Breeze private beach.” Tiffany didn’t sound impatient, but that didn’t mean anything.
What would Mr. Massey do when he saw her face? There would be shock and then curiosity and then pity and then dismissal. How many times had she been through it? How many times would she have to go through it?
If he would dismiss her for the job because of her scar, then he would be doing her favor. It wasn’t the first moment she’d regretted agreeing to the gala. She’d have to give up sleep for a huge chunk of the next few weeks. And now, she had to meet him in person. Something she didn’t do.
She didn’t like to leave her place.
Her mouth dried up and she worked her tongue to get control of her speaking. She didn’t want to go to the meeting and end up having him stare. That wasn’t her idea of a good time.
If she didn’t go, she’d lose the huge, gigantic commission. If she were serious about her business, she’d suck it up and hope he didn’t care about the scar, or worse, wouldn’t judge her by it. Angie was counting on her. If Sage were honest, she’d accept that she, too, was counting on her to get the account and do a good job with the event. Part of her restlessness the night before had been due to excitement over the possibilities.
On the other hand, if she didn’t do it, she could escape Christmas another year. She considered her options and ultimately decided on rescuing her dreams rather than catering to her nightmares.
Nodding, she plucked at a string on her comforter. “Yes, that will work. Which cafe are we meeting at?”
“He’s chosen the Latte Shack. Please, bring your contract, your proposal, and anything else you determine to be pertinent. He’ll have the down payment and other details he wants for the event. I’ll let him know it’s a yes. Thank you.” Tiffany cut the call without waiting for Sage’s reply.
Sage flopped back to her pillow, grunting. “Guess I need to get up.” She hadn’t planned on starting anything until she’d gone over the email with the information Angie had forwarded to her.
She wasn’t familiar enough with the project to have a proposal put together just yet. Every minute until the meeting would be spent studying the situation. The night hadn’t been productive enough in sleep for the day to be much different.
First, Sage needed a shower and a cup of blueberry herbal tea. Mr. Massey better bring a down payment. There wasn’t really an upside yet to the event.
Latte Shack had the look of a normal beach front café, except it was nomadic and never stayed in one spot more than a week or so as it toured the large island. Getaway Bay was lucky enough to have the café at that time. Overall, the café was a high demand commodity and the appeal was in its temporary nature.
Sage glanced around, trying hard not to see the glitzy green and red garland wrapped around the palm tree trunks and piñata style Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeers hanging from the corners of the trailer’s roof. Poinsettias in pots colored the vibrant green foliage so richly displayed throughout Getaway Bay.
Latte Shack had claimed a corner of the public beach and parking lot, setting up fold up chairs with card tables for their “patio”.
Sage bent down, releasing a rock from the sole of her sandal where it had worked its way up between her skin and the leather. She’d opted for her pencil skirt, blue professional formed blouse and gold and black sandals.
She glanced around the outside patio seating. The email had said to look for a blond man at a table in the sun. All of the tables were in the sun and there about fifteen blond men. They were in Hawaii; blond men grew like fronds.
Sage hiked her bag higher on her shoulder and sighed. Reaching up, she tugged on the wide brim of her sun hat, pulling the security covering lower over the scar on her face. Already the gala had turned into a headache job. One of those that would, of course, be due right in time for her least favorite part of the year – every year.
A man a few feet to her right called to her from his table. “Excuse me, are you Sage?” Dark sunglasses covered his eyes but didn’t hide his almost-white short blond hair. The curve of his supple lips softened the hard angle of his masculine jawline.
Sage tucked a chunk of her red-auburn hair behind her left ear, opposite the side of her scar and nodded. “I am. You must be Mr. Massey.” There was no question in her sentence. She hiked her bag higher, desperate to get the weight off her shoulder. She’d packed her laptop in case he wanted to see evidence of the work of the vendors she would work with.
“Please, take a seat.” He smiled, the white of his teeth brilliant against his tanned skin. There was something hypnotic in the way he seemed to watch her and the breadth of his shoulders. This man wasn’t one to let himself go because of access to money.
His long legs barely fit under the small café style table. Sage took a seat across from him, careful to give him enough room to stretch out, if he needed more space. He reached out his hand to shake hers, his tone strong and confident. “I’m Damien. Please, don’t call me Mr. Massey. I keep expecting to hear my father’s voice.” His grin flashed as he took her hand shook it.
“I’m Sage, but you already know that.” She laughed, lowering her bag to rest on the floor beside her chair. Grass growing up through the ever-present sand worked as a carpet, muffling the sounds of patrons walking amongst the tables and coming in from the beach.
“Are you visiting Getaway Bay, Mr., I mean, Damien?” Sage needed to know her client to make sure she was hitting his vision. Was he from there? Where had he grown up? Did he know not to expect a white Christmas?
“I’m here on business. I have plans to assist in upgrading Sweet Breeze with the owner.” He leaned forward, his sunglasses trained her direction. “Tell me, Sage, what’s your favorite part of Christmas?” He folded his hands and leaned them against the edge of the table.
Stunned by the question, Sage sat back. She blinked rapidly. “Um, I’m sorry. I’m not sure how that’s relevant.” She furrowed her brow. She couldn’t honestly answer him with her knee-jerk response – her favorite part of Christmas was when it was over.
“Well, we’re throwing a holiday gala. I just want to know where your inspiration is coming from.” Damien leaned forward, cocking his head to the side. “You smell good. What is that, rosemary?”
Sage swallowed. The meeting was going from bad to weird to worse. “Thanks, yes. Um…” How could he tell what her natural soap scent was? People could barely tell what rosemary smelled like with the sprig under their nose and he’d picked it out from all of the aromas in the air? “You have a good sense of smell.”
He lowered his voice, his brow furrowing. “We have a big job ahead of us. I don’t want you to feel like you have to do it all alone. I’m here and we’ll be able to pull this off together.” He smiled, but the challenge was clear. “Are you up for it?”
He seemed to have passed over his question about her preferences for the holiday. Sage studied him, clearly taking her time to consider what he was asking. He didn’t pull any punches to make it clear he’d have his hands in the middle of all of the plans.
Was he a micromanager or did he understand how large the job was and how short the time? Most event planners hated involvement, but Sage liked the accessibility to the client. That way they were both clear on what was expected.
“You bet.” She nodded tightly. He’d better keep his personal questions to himself. Charming or not, he didn’t have to know what her personal beliefs were. At all.
“What’s your team consist of?” Damien had no idea how distracting the slight stubble on his jaw was once she ignored his probing about the holidays.
Sage blinked from staring at the golden flecks. “I have an assistant who is also a partner. I have working agreements with local vendors and many in Oahu. They always put my clientele first, even in short time frames. I know what I’m doing. You won’t be disappointed.” She smiled flirtatiously than forced the grin from her lips. She needed to stop flirting with him.
She needed the work, not the drama of a romance. Plus, he liked Christmas. There wasn’t much she could do with that.