Chapter Six

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 thought. This time, she felt herself blush again. Oh what the heck? Why is she acting like a schoolgirl when faced with this man? Instead of feeling a voracious anger towards him for sacking her and underestimating her abilities a few days ago, she was beginning to find herself attracted to him.  Her father’s voice gave her the reason to come to her senses.

“Aurora, this is Jared Rickford. He is your betrothed.” Aurora already knew this, but to hear the words from her father confirming her assumption earlier gave a slight alarm in her system.

So it is true. She is betrothed to this man. To her surprise, this thought gave her a feeling of excitement and trepidation at the same time. She didn’t speak even after Jared acknowledged her presence. She couldn’t bring herself to talk.

“If I’m not mistaken Paul, your daughter is currently involved with someone I know. I wouldn’t want to hamper with the relationship of your daughter and a former school mate of mine. It will be inappropriate.” A loud gasp was heard from Rosalie Cunard as she stood to walk towards her husband and daughter.

Paul Cunard stared at Aurora angrily. Aurora’s face looked beaten. She couldn’t bring herself to look at her parents’ eyes.

“Is that true? Are you currently involved with Mr. Rickford’s friend?”

Aurora heaved a sigh and looked at her father, then her gaze shifted confusingly at Jared. “You’re friends with Stephen?”

“Who is Stephen, Aurora?” Paul Cunard insisted, his brows showing speculation and worry.

“Stephen Ross, father.” This time, the lawyers arose from their chairs. George Rickford looked angry. Rosalie looked disappointed. Her father looked aghast. “Stephen Ross of Royal Pacific? For God’s sake Aurora! You’re dating the VP of our company’s largest competitor?”

“We never discussed anything about business, father if that’s what’s worrying you”, she responded politely even though her eyes was beginning to temper, Jared observed.

“Really, you astonish me!” It was her mother who spoke this time. “That is beside the point. We already told you not to get involved with someone for you are already betrothed.”

Aurora looked at her mother in utter amazement.

“No, mama. You have never mentioned it before,” she was about to speak more but knew she would receive a reprimand from her father if she did.

Her mother opened her fan and started to fan herself as if she needed air to breathe.

“But surely, you must have known why your father and I were extremely strict about you dating other men. That is because we were trying to preserve you for Mr. Rickford here.”

This time Aurora raised an eyebrow to her parents.

“I beg your pardon, mother. With all due respect I am not a fruit in a jar to be preserved,” Jared, hearing this felt the need to control himself from grinning. He didn’t know why but he was amused with the way her temper flared and the way she used the word “preserve” revealed her sense of humor.

Her mother looked utterly distraught which made her feel guilty but she herself was shocked with the revelation. She knew, as well as her parents that now was not the right time to have discussed and revealed such information. Naturally, her instincts told her she needed to humble herself and would not display any more rude behavior towards her betrothed, and her parents, not to mention the lawyers that surround the room.

“My sincerest apologies. I’d like to be excused, as this is rather getting real awkward” she faced her parents and acknowledged them with a polite nod. It looked like a curtsy of some sort to him. He did not know if he was appalled or dumbfounded. Was it a mockery of some sort? He did not have the energy to contemplate the act, he realized.

The moment she was outside the hospital room, her father’s tight grip stopped her. Never in her whole life did she see her father this angry and it frightened her.

“Talk to Ross and tell him you’re not going to see him again. I advise you to apply a reasonable judgment this situation requires.” Paul ordered - his voice cold, quiet but commanding. Jared admired the iron fist behind the calm demeanor of the Brit. And his daughter possesses almost the same level of dominance he rarely see in women.

From his inside pocket, he extracted his mobile phone and gave it to his daughter.

“Now, Aurora.” Jared thought he was going to see her cry, but what he was surprised to see was that she didn’t even budge. And he did not fail to hear the name Paul Cunard called her daughter. He could not seem to pinpoint but it sounded familiar.

She stared at her father with the same manner he was staring at her and quietly said, “there is no need for you to force me to call him as he and I went on our separate ways more than two weeks past. He is no longer in the picture. I am free to marry Mr Rickford if that is what you think is necessary”.

“That is good to know,” Paul buttoned his suit after shoving the phone inside.

“Ask your supervisor for a day off. It is best that you and your betrothed talk.” This time, Aurora glared at her father.

“Father, this is not an office, and I am not a clerk of some sort,” she firmly stated. “I can’t just go off asking for a day-off, I’m on duty… I have patients…”

“Now is not the right time to try my patience,” Paul Cunard’s hiss snaked quietly in the room that Jared thought he was going to witness a confrontation. Aurora, by some odd reason needed an ally and she hoped to get it from her betrothed. She shifted her eyes to Jared and silently pleaded to him to intervene. She only hoped he would recognize the non-verbal communication.

He noticed it alright. Her blue eyes were the most transparent he could ever define and felt the need to rescue her from an ongoing awkward situation. He subtly cleared his throat, and said “Mr Cunard, if I may speak. As I believe I’m the other side of the party.

Paul Cunard did look at him and logic dictates, Jared has a say on the matter. “Yes, of course”

“I think it is best that Dr. Cunard and I discuss this arrangement privately when both our time permits as this involves both our personal lives and the people, corporations & professions that we both have. Another thing would be to agree before deciding on anything that is permanent. This union requires production of offspring for preserving the futures of both our conglomerates and that is something I need to evaluate."

For a fraction of a second, the tension inside the room somehow dissipated but remained though conspicuously. The course of actions suggested by Jared gave her and both families time to consider all possible ramifications, and outcomes of the proposed union. She definitely appreciated how directly wanted to address their situation. Him taking charge of the situation gave her a feeling of unexplained security that was unfamiliar but definitely welcome.

“I’d like to concur with what Mr Rickford said, father” she seconded. “If I might add, it is important for me to have a clear understanding of my role in this proposed union”.

Paul Cunard hesitated but his wife placed her hand on his arm to appease him and so he nodded, “Very well. George if you can hear us I hope you give us an affirmative.”

George, while his eyes were closed, raised his right hand and gave a thumbs up. “Thank you father,” Jared acknowledged. “Do what you have to do, son”, he heard his father say.  

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