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 for obesity – any amount will do. Pick one.”
She looked at him not sure if he was serious. His eyes were closed, his head resting in the edge of the couch his left arm resting in his side while his right rested on his thigh. “Tired?” she mused and then she saw him break a smile in reply. His eyes were closed but he was smiling and Aurora noticed his cleft chin, and the dimple in his left cheek. It only confirmed her worst fears. Yep, he was a very attractive man indeed. She heaved a sigh instead.
“What institution does Rickford’s CSR relationship needs to be developed more in order for you to increase compatibility with its target community?” she asked instead before answering his instruction to pick one for him.
Hearing this, it reminded him that the woman beside him was a surgeon not an actress, nor a ballerina, or a supermodel. She was smart, has exquisite blue-violet eyes and striking wave of hair and sounded intelligent too, not to mention unspoiled as he gathered just moments before. He certainly can’t expect her to merely choose something just because he told her to do so. He decided to cooperate instead.
“RHI has been collaborating with Gates Foundation since its inception,” he explained. He was now leaning over the coffee table in front of them, alternating between sipping his tea and explaining to Aurora what he wanted to accomplish. “RHI’s relationship with them is pretty stable and built. We’ve donated millions to their relief operations in Africa, Asia and South America.” He did not mind their faces were both only inches away from one another. He enjoyed her scent. Chanel No. 5, he knew. It was the best, and the woman beside him recognized the difference of the best from the rest.
“What about the Met?” she asked abruptly turning her head to look at him. Her face was inches from his instead, and he was regarding her with such a confusing state Aurora couldn’t move. Seconds later, she felt his lips on hers surprising her beyond her wits. It was a gentle kiss but the longer Jared’s mouth lingered the more it demanded to be appeased. Aurora opened her mouth to utter a word, and pulled her mouth away from him the moment he intended to kiss her again.
“You taste nice,” he said his thumb caressing her rosy lips. He was not deterred by her deliberate avoidance. It challenged the living out of him.
“What about the Met?” she stated, turning her face against his touch. She was glad enough her voice did not shake, nor her chin or her hands. Why was she allowing this stranger to touch her so freely like this and liking it, she could not understand! She knew how to control herself, her temper, and her emotions no matter how stormy it can get. But damn the man if he was merely stirring some sort of storm in her sensation, it felt like a blizzard.
He stood and walked towards his rosewood desk and sat himself in his chair before continuing. “We haven’t had any dealings with Met before. Minimal donations yes, but significant ones none. However, we need their support because of our expansion plans in New York. We recently bought an abandoned property near Central Park and we hope to develop it bearing the Rickford hospitality standards. It would entail much work for our PR Department since we never had any significant contribution to the community of NYC.”
“That settles it then,” she replied enthusiastically.
“It settles what, exactly?” he questioningly stated.
“You wanted me to pick one, and I pick the Met for you to attend to for the reasons you stated just now.”
“I’m not paying five thousand dollars per individual, Aurora.”
“Is it fiscally suicidal?”
“It’s too much”, he answered firmly and clearly.
“Say goodbye to Park Avenue development then,” she casually replied. “Let’s RSVP your attendance to Gates?”
Silence. She knew she got him thinking as she kept her smile to herself. It delighted her to know that the man did not part with his company’s money like a drunkard. She knew however, he needed to do this to get their expansion plans done.
“How much do you think the company should shell out?” Now, he was making sense, Aurora mused.
“I don’t think I’m the one you should ask about that,” she reminded him. He pressed his intercom and instructed Renata to call several people to report to his office immediately.
Several moments later, as Aurora was seated in the couch with Jared sitting at his desk chair, the intercom sound indicating the arrival of his requested officers. The moment they entered, Jared began the necessary introductions.
“Everyone, meet Dr. Aurora Cunard,” he began his eyes directed at Aurora who is now rising from the couch. “She’s the daughter of Paul Cunard. You all know Cunard Shipping Limited. Introduce yourselves,” he ordered.
The first one who offered her hand was a woman in her late thirties with black hair and blue eyes. “Maris Pontini, Head of PR & Communications. Nice to meet you Dr Cunard.”
“Hi. Nice to meet you too. Please call me Aurora.”
The second one was a tall man in his early forties, Aurora guessed unsurely. “How do you do, Miss Cunard. Gerald Rice, Employee Relations Head”
“I’m doing fine, Mr Rice. Please call me Aurora.”
The third one was a bulky man in his mid-forties with a pleasant face and big round eye glasses. “Good afternoon, Aurora. Ben Carter, Finance. Welcome to RHI.”
“Thank you, Mr Carter. Nice to meet you.”
The last one was a younger version of Gerald Rice in his early forties with grayish eyes and a firm built. “Steve Henderson, Research and Acquisitions. Good to see you Miss Cunard.”
After he heard Aurora’s acknowledgement, Jared told his officers to take their seats.
“Did you bring your files with you?” he asked and received an autonomous affirmative.
“What’s the status of our Zoning Permit in the NYC property?” he directed his question to Henderson.
“Same,” Henderson replied shaking his head. “We’re having a difficult time convincing the community advisor of our sincere intention to develop it based on their standards. We resubmitted it the fourth time since we acquired the property, still no good movement. They think we’re not efficient enough to provide a significant contribution to their reputation most especially in Park Avenue society. We don’t have enough backing. We never penetrated New York before.”
“What about the Mayor?” he inquired, his face scowling in displeasure. “We’re wasting a great amount of time waiting for that permit.”
“We talked to the Mayor,” Maris Pontini replied.“and the PR team extended its efforts to his office but to no avail. I verified that even if we are friends with the Mayor, he still values the opinions of the New York oligarchs. We must face it, he gets his votes from the New York community, not Boston’s.”
“I got an invitation to the Costume Institute Gala to be held at the Met this Saturday,” he finally stated. “I need your thoughts on how we can get those bastards on our side using this as leverage”. He handed the invite to Maris. “How much do you suggest based on your books can we give as a CSR effort and how many people will you need there, and who. Ben, I need you to check the books. Make sure we have funds for this or reallocate some. I don’t want any department’s budget to be diverted in this unprecedented spectacle. Maris, discuss with Steve how you can approach this in a subtle way and still get it done. I want that permit by the end of next week and not later. Who do you think needs to be there? No extravagances, no excesses. After which, discuss with Gerald on how to go about a skeletal force on Friday and Saturday or if it’s even necessary. Compute for additional operations expenses and charge to CSR contingency per head. I need it in an hour. Do it soon please”
Assuming they were all dismissed, they immediately stood up and rushed towards the exit as they began to formulate the solution the boss was asking. Jared stopped them by calling out in his booming voice. “Where the hell do you think you’re all going?”
His officers exchanged confused glances at each other. “To meet it out, Red” Ben Carter bravely replied.
“Yes, but do it here, now.” He replied irritably. “Why do you think I instructed all of you to bring your files with you? It isn’t a financial report, I’m requesting. I’m merely asking you to discuss informally how to go about this gala and work it to our advantage but with the right data.”
“Of course,” Henderson replied uncertainly. The rest uttered their affirmatives.
“You may use the conference table on the other side,” Jared initialed as he pressed the button to reveal his office’s extending conference room complete with glass panels overseeing downtown Boston with its full paneled glass walls, twenty-seater rosewood conference table, white board, lcd projector, and unused laptops. It was shocking for all them. Being ushered to Jared Rickford’s office was a normal occurrence. His immediate report requirements were also normal, not to mention his extremely demanding nature. His generosity of allowing them to use his office to work when only the board has had the privilege of sitting on these chairs was not. To actually see the magnificent view of Massachusetts the way their CEO sees it in a daily basis was indeed very unlikely. After glancing in surprise at one another, they decided to focus on their work. The man was only a panel away from them.
An hour later, the four officers submitted their printed recommendation to Jared’s desk, seated themselves and waited until Jared finally hung up the phone in his hand.
“You’re done?” he inquired, as he opened the document and began studying it intently as silence enveloped the whole room. Aurora looked at him not knowing what to expect. She was practically stunned to actually see how he works. The man was brilliant, knows what he’s doing and Aurora began to feel proud with the knowledge that he’s going to be her husband. This made her blush as she immediately removed her eyes from him.
After several minutes of silence, he finally looked up, his eyes riveted to his officers and said. “You better be sure this thing works,” he stated as he reached for his fountain pen and scribbled his signature at the end of each document. He ushered Renata into his office and began issuing further ministrations the moment the secretary stepped inside. “Prepare the necessary arrangements. Use one of my private planes to transport participants this Friday. It will help lessen the cost. Discuss with the participants their roles and responsibilities. Brief everyone. And…” he paused while breaking into a smile which practically shocked his staff beyond belief. “Have your tuxes tailored, and buy your wives some gowns as I need you all looking expensive in that sea of snobs! It’s the Met. You’re all excused.”
Everyone was still in a daze as they left Jared’s office. It was the first and it beleaguered them in ways they could not really fathom. They finally saw Jared Rickford smile.
After giving more additional instructions to Renata, he told her she can go home earlier if she wanted to. Now, that’s something. Aurora was grinning when Renata closed the door leaving her with Jared alone. “You’re smiling…” Jared remarked as he began to fix his brief case. “Something amuses you?”
“You remind me of my father,” she replied honestly. “He’s ruthless. Well…at least now I have an idea why he wants you to take over”
He did not know what to make of that remark but it somehow gave him almost a pleasant feeling to assume that she thought similarly of him. He locked his brief case, loosened his tie and removed his coat. “I admire your father, and his work. Hearing that from you is a whole different story.”
Not knowing what to make of that, she gathered her bag from the couch she was sitting and stood up to wait for him. He hung his coat over his left arm, and carried his brief case as he walked towards the office doors. He opened it and waited for Aurora to exit before locking and shutting it closed.
“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
It took her five hours to finish the surgery, and the moment she left the operating theater, her colleagues started teasing her. When she went to the nurses’ station, they joined in the teasing too.“Stop it guys, please” she pleaded, her face red to the roots of her hair.“That was some kiss, Dr Cunard” one of her male co-surgeon, Dave teased. He was a tall man with green eyes and curly brown hair and wears a spectacle just below the bridge of his straight nose. “About time we see you with a guy.”“Not just any guy,” a petite nurse, named Minnie interjected. “The Jared Rickford, no less. He looks hot, Doctor.”She glared at them and shook her head in disbelief. “Since when did Jared Rickford become a branded entity of some sort?”“Since he began dating Olga Vladikova” Dave answered before Minnie can. He reached for one of the patient’s records and repla
The common room was a cozy room of carpeted floors, paintings of what seemed relatives of the Cunards or the wife’s. Aurora was seated in one of the cushioned sofa chairs while Paul Cunard poured a glass of scotch in one of the glasses, handed it to Jared and seated himself in the chair behind his oakwood desk. The room also serves as his office, Jared realized. Rosalie Cunard however, is now seated in a trimmed chaise lounge near the fireplace. Jared decided to seat right next to Aurora, as he deemed most fitting. “You called me an asshole?” he whispered in German enough for Aurora to hear. She stared at him and immediately shifted her gaze on the wall. She did not know Jared could understand German. “Yes,” she decided to reply curtly. “Are you going to contradict me?” “That is quite enough,” Paul said in a steely voice, which made Aurora wince. “I can see you don’t get along well the both of you. Might as well learn to set aside your difference soon enough
She was surprised of his gentle gestures but her mind was not on him but her sorrow. She was half thankful and half irritated with the fact that Jared allowed himself to be cried into. His shirt was wet with her tears and now his handkerchief. She finally found reason against her sorrow and whispered a mortified apology for the mess she created. “I made a mess of you…” she uttered her breathing still uneven choking her words in her throat. He shook his head in reply. “Don’t mind it. Let’s get you some water…” he muttered as he held her hand in his and walked towards the mini bar where her father’s drinks were kept. He poured some in a clean glass and handed it to her to drink. She took a sip and replaced the glass on the shelf. “I need some air,” she said her voice still shaking, her eyes still in shock. “Come,” he instinctively wrapped his arm around her. Aurora wanted to remove herself from his wrapped arm but she felt tired to even exert such effor
Dinner was friendly and casual without delving into much discussion about the impending marriage. After dinner, Jared and her father were deep in discussion about the shipping company and went into the salon to discuss it further. She decided to look for her mother and found her upstairs in her in the common room. “I’ve asked Maude to serve us some tea, why don’t you join me while we wait for the gentlemen to finish their meeting?” her mother invited, gesturing her to sit next to her in the chaise. “They are discussing serious business matters?” she inquired as she sat herself next to her mother. “You can call it that,” Rosalie replied while taking a piece of carrot tart from the desert tray. “Your betrothed will be handling quite a lot once your father transfers his shares to him.” Aurora gazed at her mother worriedly. “Isn’t the company in good financial standing?” Rosalie nodded her affirmative. “It is,” she replied. “Some of the Board howe
She was thankful he was walking towards the study when he voiced that out and did not see her trip over the couch on her way to the kitchen. She almost uttered an expletive of her clumsiness. Her thoughts immediately drifted to what her mother just revealed to her earlier that evening, and so she decided to be agreeable. Heaving a sigh, she replaced her hand bag in the sofa, and prepared the coffeemaker. After placing the coffee beans in the coffeemaker, she walked towards the study and called over, saying “I’ll prepare the guest room.”He kept his gaze on the phone but heard her statement. Apparently, she took his jibe on a serious note. He did not intend to stay for the night he was just trying to irritate her. And her unexpected response made him feel uncomfortable. She was difficult to understand. He shook his head in utter confusion and just decided to call his valet to bring his things over. They were going to be married eventually so might as well sta