Barely two days after his father’s operation, Jared received a phone call from the hospital that his father just gained consciousness and was asking for him immediately. Jared although in the middle of a board meeting rushed to the hospital to fulfill his father’s request to see him. Jared still hadn’t figured out if he really cared for his old man. For the past three days, he’d been trying to find it out. But then maybe he really did care because if he did not, he wouldn’t be rushing to the hospital in the middle of a very important board meeting.
Arriving at the Intensive Care Unit where his father was confined, he was surprised to see at least four people seated beside his old man’s hospital bed. Three middle aged men wearing tailored suits who looked like lawyers, and a middle-aged woman in mid-sixties who, despite the old age still looked regally beautiful. As he was about to enter the room, the doctor whom Jared arranged to replace the pretty brunette surgeon approached him. The doctor was a middle-aged man and he was the chief of the cardiac surgery department. Dr. Adolf Finnegan approached Jared and said;
“The patient gained consciousness several hours ago. He insisted the presence of these people before notifying you. I don’t know what his reasons are but I tell you, young man it is not healthy for him to have this number of visitors when he’s still under observation. I don’t understand but he threatened one of my residents that if we do not notify those people in there to come, he’ll close this hospital down. Now, Mr. Rickford… Wall Street probably knows who you are but I refuse to allow any patients to go on bullying my staff do you understand me? If your old man continues to spread his animosity here in this prestigious hospital then I have to advise you to transfer him god knows where but here.”
Jared winced upon hearing this. He knew his father would become handful when in a hospital, the man hated the hospital.
“I apologize for my father’s behavior doctor. I’ll try my best to tell him to slow down a bit. Thank you for dealing with him.” Jared said courteously.
Dr. Finnegan shook his head in dismay as he looked at Jared straight in the eye.
“Dismissing Dr. Cunard was not a wise move Mr. Rickford. She maybe young and inexperienced compared to me but she’s got a bright future as a surgeon. This hospital trusts her skills when in comes to the operating table, and it was very wrong of you to underestimate her intelligence. You’ll eventually find out how capable she is compared to anyone in this hospital.”
As Jared heard this, he decided not to respond. The older doctor did not know what really happened. It was Aurora’s attitude toward him that made Jared dismiss her. But of course, he’s not going to admit that. He proceeded to the ICU when he was given permission by Dr. Finnegan to finally visit his father.
Entering the hospital room his father was occupying, Jared’s eyes confirmed that two of the men in suits were indeed his lawyers. As he glanced on the left side he was surprised to recognize the faces of the couple as the well-renowned shipping mogul Englishman Paul Gregory Cunard and his wife of thirty-two years, Rosalie Von Metternich - Habsburg. He wondered if they were in any relation with the woman surgeon who has a blabbering mouth. But then, probably not… the Cunards were practically an old European family and refined was what they were most appreciated for. Jared knew about them of course. The whole America knows. The couples’ only child is an enigma to the American high society. The only thing Jared knows is that there is only one fruit - a daughter - of the thirty-two year union for Rosalie suffered an illness which deprived her of having more children. He knew about this because a former classmate of his mentioned that he was dating Cunard’s daughter and that he recalled that her name was Margaret or something like it. He did not know what she looked like though. Good thing for him, having children was never in his plans. He shifted his glance to his father lying in the hospital bed tubes inserted in almost every hole in his face. He looked like a man on a brink of death. And he wasn’t sure if he felt relieved or nothing at all.
“I’m glad you’ve gained consciousness,” he said courteously. Jared felt disgusted looking at his father in such a state. Once a very strong, domineering man now in the hospital bed looking frail like never before, and there was no one to blame but himself. His father winced at the sight of him.
“Don’t be too cocky, boy. I know damn well you’re not glad I’ve gained consciousness. If I’m right, you’re hoping that I’m dead,” his father said haughtily.
Jared shrugged as a reply. “I didn’t say that and you’re recovering well as I thought. What’s Lansing and Fairway doing here?” nodding towards his two lawyers who are seated in the couch near the old man’s bedside.
“They are here to witness our agreement,” George paused to catch his breath.
“What agreement?” Jared asked immediately. He didn’t mind if he was interrupting his father. He wanted to know what his old man was talking about. His father eyed him disapprovingly, but decided to continue.
“A few days ago, I requested a meeting with you at the diner where I suffered this nuisance,” gesturing to his bed confinement. “I hope you still remember what I’ve asked of you that time.” Jared gave his father a curt nod indicating he did.
“I am well determined to insist that request, Jared. For there is no more time to back out. You have been betrothed to Cunard’s daughter since you were 8 years old. If you wish to procure proof, our lawyers are here to provide you what you need. Your mother and I decided upon that back when she was still alive”, he said as he gestured to his lawyers to give Jared the documents.
Jared stared transfixed at the papers handed to him by the two lawyers. One was the original copy bearing the signature of the Cunard couple and of his mother and father arranging the betrothal. Below were the signatures of the lawyers who witnessed the signing of the contract. Jared was stunned to see that two of these lawyers were the fathers of the lawyers currently working for him. He never felt so angry before. He handed the papers back to the attending lawyers almost harshly, and then he faced the Cunards.
“Does your daughter know about this?” His jaws locked, and his eyes were beginning to betray his calm face. He was aware of his lack of courtesy, not even chancing to utter a simple good afternoon.
He wanted to kill somebody. Then, he heard Paul Gregory Cunard answer his question.
“Rosalie and I already told her about marrying soon but she’s got no idea about being betrothed. She will not at all be pleased about this arrangement. As your father just told you, it was already arranged even before my daughter was born.”
It was like he’d been lured to a trap that he cannot get himself out of. This never occurred to him before. He was not a marrying man and here he was confronting the knowledge that in his whole thirty-nine years, he’d been betrothed to someone he never even met and does not know it.
“Are there conditions in this arrangement? What? A year, two years..? What do you require at the end of it?” He inquired exerting too much self control. Again, there was silence.
One of the lawyers particularly Atty. Fairway provided the information Jared was dreading to hear.
“There are no stipulations as to its longevity. However, the moment you and Ms. Cunard wed, half of his stocks at Cunard Shipping Ltd. in under the current Chairman and owner, Mr. Paul Gregory Cunard will be transferred to your name. If within three years of marriage Miss Cunard bears your child, the remaining half of Mr. Cunard’s shares will be added to your name. Simply put, if in three years Ms Cunard gives birth to your child, you will be the major shareholder and owner of Cunard Shipping Limited.”
This time, Jared didn’t even think of hiding his shock. He stared at the lawyers, then to his father, and then to the Cunards.
“This is madness! You’re transferring your corporate shares to me?” he asked astonishingly, unable to believe what he just heard. Paul Cunard looked at him, his face devoid of expression which gave Jared the recollection of how serious the situation was.
“A 115 billion dollars’ worth, to accurately put it,” Atty Fairway corrected.
“Your father has been updating me of your successes and failures. I must admit, if you were born the same year as I was, I’m afraid you’d be my greatest rival. I know what your abilities are, Jared. I trust that once I give you control of my company, it would give me great relief to know that it is in good hands”.
“Jesus”, was the only word Jared had said. As he whispered this, he shook his head in utter disbelief. Paul Cunard issuing that ultimatum only made Jared angrier. For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do, like a trapped animal in a cage not even his size. He brushed his dark tresses with his hands and sat himself in the vacant chaise near his father’s bedside. The expression in his face was unfathomable. “Why now?” he logically reasoned, his voice cold as ice. “What would’ve happened if I say, married five years before, on my own will before this arrangement was even revealed?”
One of the lawyers, Atty Lansing answered that question for him. “If you read the full document, it stated there of the conditions. Miss Cunard must not reach the age of thirty-two before the arrangement is executed. As for you, your parents stated that if in due course you have not married after the age of thirty-five, with both parties still available and not engaged to someone else, it will stand firm and must be executed in all accounts stated herein. Simply put, you had your last chance of finding a wife of your choice four years ago, while Miss Cunard had hers until she turned thirty-two a month before to date. Neither of you were informed of these stipulations as regarded in this document by both your parents to give you a fair chance to a natural flow of things and normalcy. However, during those times neither of you also found someone of your own choosing which led to this day of inevitability”.
After hearing those words, his mind was reeling and he was shockingly confused. It was like two ropes were pulling him on each sides; one side was that the offer was an opportunity of a lifetime and Jared knew he’s very fortunate for a man like Paul Gregory Cunard to choose him to be the beneficiary of his multibillion corporate empire. On the other side however, his father is ordering him to proceed with the plan despite the old man’s condition. Then it hit him. As Jared looked at his father, a realization came to mind. His father wanted to secure the business for long term. Could this be possible? As stated by the lawyers, the document is binding and he had his chance of finding a woman fit to be his wife the last several years. The document said thirty-five. He’s turning thirty-nine! He realized the betrothal was put on hold for nearly 4 years to allow him to find a wife of his choosing. But he didn’t. Women he dated were not meant to be married into. They loved his money and the
Jared stared at her expressionless. Margaret my ass, he mused. It is Margarethe apparently, and she is presently in a relationship with someone he knows, which is bad luck. For Aurora however, it seemed to her that he looked bored – elegantly so! He was in a customized dark navy blue double-breasted tailored suit. His dark hair naturally combed to expose his handsome features and his marvelous gray eyes. Aurora, for the first time, though she already met him the other day when he sacked her - realized she was looking at the most handsome man – in a rough and hard kind of way - she ever laid eyes on. And the man did not just have the looks of a rough on the edges kind, but complete with height, aristocratic jaw lines and a muscular body that are usually built for a soldier or some sort - he was oozing sex. He made her feel breathless. It was simply devastating. He was devastating. He was tall, more than six feet and hard built, not big but bulky enough she thoug
Walking along the hospital corridor with her parents, the lawyers and her betrothed gave Aurora a feeling of dread which was slowly penetrating her tolerance. She was lucky that her department had additional staff and so she managed to get permission from her senior supervisor – Dr. Finnegan – to get out earlier than used to. They already left George Rickford III back at the Intensive Care Unit to continue his recovery. Recalling that she was dating an acquaintance of her betrothed three weeks prior was quiet disconcerting. She met Stephen in one of the hospitals’ fund raisers and he was charming and kind. Not to mention familiar with how their family business works though she does not talk about it as she has no idea how to run it. Stephen was a nice guy some days and disappearing in other days, reason why she decided to cut him lose. His inconsistency does not bode well to her instincts and having first hand experience in a toxic relationship, she did not want to be on the s
Jared was kind enough to drive her back to the hospital before heading back to his office. But again, they didn’t talk at all in the whole ride. This annoyed Aurora most of all. She couldn’t seem to grasp the man’s point of extreme silence! She felt uncomfortable whenever he’s too silent, and whenever he speaks… Aurora couldn’t understand it either for every letter of sound that comes out from his mouth has the obvious hint of repulsiveness on them. Does this man find her unpleasant? Is it why he never talks to her if there is no need to? Is it his way of showing he disapproved of her, that he doesn’t find her suitable for his standards as a man? Aurora hoped she’d know. It was very hard for her to comprehend the man who was supposed to be her husband soon. They should at least try understanding each other if they want to get along. She glanced at him for a while and when she was convinced that there’s no hint at all that he was going to speak, she mustered all her courage to speak
Jared, on the other hand did not fail to notice it too. He was now scanning the contents of the red folder his secretary prepared and an idea crossed his mind. He stood up from his high-backed chair and walked over to where the two women were. He then sat himself beside Aurora and without a word to both women, took the put of tea and poured into the empty cup beside Aurora’s. He reached for the creamer, poured a small amount, stirred, and began to sip. Both women exchanged a meaningful look and smiled. Renata then excused herself, and upon receiving Jared’s approval, walked towards the exit. “What are those?” Aurora asked as she sipped her tea eyeing the creative board paper in Jared’s hand. “Invitations for the Met, and the Gates Foundation” he replied nonchalantly as he leaned his back against the couch and rested his head. “Both are fund raisers, Met’s for breast cancer but we need to shell out at least five thousand dollars per individual, the other one’s f
“You will join me in New York,” he told her when they were inside the elevators descending towards the basement parking. “I beg your pardon?” she was not entirely sure if she heard him right, with the exhaust humming in the background as they reached the basement parking where Jared’s silver BMW X5 was parked. He smiled at her as he prompted its keyless controller to unlock the door of the vehicle. “We go together. It’s black-tie, this coming Saturday. We’ll leave for New York on Friday afternoon. We’ll fly back here the next day. Can you clear your schedule?” She heaved a sigh before answering his gentle orders. “You misunderstand,” she began her explanation. “I don’t go to these kinds of social events. In Germany and in Austria, yes but not here in the States. Absolutely not.” “Why not?” he was scowling now, irritated more with her foolish reasoning. “What’s the difference between the social events in New York than that of Germany and Austria? Excep
“How do you want our betrothal to go forward?” “I thought you’ve decided that you and I will marry?” “Yes. That is already decided for both our families,” he acknowledged. “My question is how do you want it to unfold? Do you want it announced in the papers suddenly? Your call. Let me know what’s comfortable for you.” Aurora nodded in agreement and gave him a grateful smile. “I prefer that you and I cut all strings that are currently attached to our personal lives before going forward. I’d like to go into this arrangement with clear expectations and terms if there’s any. I am not the only person in this arrangement whose life is going to change. You must also tell me how you want this to be treated”. “I understand. Perhaps it is necessary that you and I spend a bit more time together to figure out how we both want to proceed and decide on those expectations and terms along the way. Would that work for you?” “Can you be more specific about spend
He wasn’t sure how to respond. Then his father opened his eyes and the old man motioned him to come closer. “You have met her before. It was a long time ago,” George added. His voice was stronger now as he recovers from his drug-induced sleep. Jared’s attention was now fully on his father’s words. “If I did, when was this? I don’t recall anyone named Aurora.” “You met when both of you were still children,” his father explained and Jared immediately understood why he could not seem to recall her. “You were with us at her Christening. You were only eight years old then.” “I presume that’s the time when you and mother decided on the betrothal,” he concluded. “Though I don’t think that meeting counts. We would not recognize each other at all.” “She asked me to allow you to be betrothed to Paul Cunard’s daughter the moment she found out of Rosalie’s pregnancy. Your mother is half British and half Austrian, and she’s best friends with Rosalie. They communic