Chapter Twelve

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 communicated via letters. Lots of letters. You may want to read them. It’s in my chest at home at the foot of the bed.”

“I did not know mother was half Austrian,” Jared managed to voice out in complete daze. It was beginning to make sense. “Why did she do that, and why did you allow it?” He tried his best not to sound so accusing knowing how delicate his father’s condition was.

“You were only ten when she died,” George said, sorrow evident in his voice. “Paul Cunard and Rosalie initiated the betrothal. Rosalie suffered a massive complication after child birth and is no longer able to have another child. They were hoping for a son. Paul Cunard is a businessman in every sense and he doubted that a woman can handle the shipping line. It’s one of the most complicated industries there is and Paul thought he needed to secure both the company and his daughter’s future.”

“But why us, dammit?” he could no longer contain his impatience. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to raise my voice.”

He saw his father shake his head and said “It’s okay. You are frustrated. I understand that. As for your question. Your mother detested the Bostonian society.” Jared saw the glimmer in his father’s eyes when he said this. There was also a faint smile which was surprising. It was the first time in a very long time for Jared to witness that show of emotion. “Laurel calls them boastful, pretentious prigs. She was a constant topic of the society papers criticizing her practical way of running our household. But to me, they were merely envious. She’s beautiful and she knows how to run the house like an executive housekeeper. What more could a man want?”

It was Jared’s turn to smile. Hearing his father boast of his affection for his dead wife was surprisingly poignant. “I remember, she knows every little thing in my closet. And she wants her chocolate pie perfectly baked.”

George nodded, his eyes closed but his smile unfading as if he was reliving those moments in his head which made Jared feel gloomy because he had a notion that his father never really moved on from the heartbreak when his mother died. “Father?” he quietly prompted.

“Your mother wanted to betroth you to Aurora because she thinks she can help the Cunards, as well as you, and herself. Paul is traditionally English and he is a Baronet so he is also a member of the English peer. Your mother knew that Rosalie and Paul were hoping for a son to inherit the vast holdings, estates of both families. Rosalie Cunard is a Countess in Austria. She has vast holdings herself. It was also your mother’s form of retaliation against her critics knowing that she’ll eradicate all their daughters’ chances of wedding you. You were quite a handsome little boy, and the ol’ American mothers are beginning to make their mark by pairing their daughters to you. Your mother wanted you to belong to someone of higher caliber than those. She paired you with a Countess instead.”

“I know she’s a countess father,”

“A Countess,” George proudly clarified. “I heard she’s very low-key and exceedingly private. Interesting, eh?” He was now looking at Jared with pride and a smile so contagious Jared did not understand it.

“You think that’s funny?” he asked in confusion. “When was the second time we’ve seen each other? You said we’ve seen each other twice. When was it? I would hope to recall.”

“The riding school in Ireland,” George replied casually. He could feel his stomach rumble in starvation but did not feel any appetite. “She was four, and you twelve. You first taught her to ride her newly-purchased pony.”

He tried to remember. “I remember a child with golden hair named Briar. Aurora has dark brown hair, not blonde.”

“And?” George urged him on to try to remember whatever he can. “You remember the color of the child’s eyes?”

“No, I don’t recall any of that” he replied dishonestly. But he already knew what his father was saying. The child’s eyes were dark blue almost violet, and he remember immediately from the meeting recently, that Paul Cunard calls her daughter, “Briar”.

Their conversation was halted with the arrival of Rosario with their breakfast and basket of fruits for George. A few moments later, they heard a knock and Aurora came in, with a stethoscope hanging around her neck. She was wearing a white lab coat over a printed aqua silk shirt tucked neatly in a pair of blue skinny jeans, and ballet flats. She was surprised to see Jared in the room this early and her gaze went from him to the older woman who was peeling apples in the kitchen sink.

“Dr. Finnegan asked me to check on the patient as he is currently conducting surgery,” she stated, her gaze directly at Jared for his approval. The man betrothed or not, sacked him a few days ago. “May I?” she gestured towards the resting patient.

“Of course,” Jared muttered feeling awkward knowing that his father is wide awake and knows what’s going on. He did not want his old man to know he sacked his own betrothed a few days before. He watched her instead.

“Good morning, Mr. Rickford” she said happily as she approached the bed. “Can you open your eyes for me for a just a minute?” The old man did what he was told but kept quiet. Aurora began checking on his eyes, and vital signs. She pressed the overhead button to request for an attending nurse, and in a few seconds, came a red-headed nurse with green eyes and with her were several medical tools, aluminum pan, and some other paraphernalia Jared could not identify. He also noticed the woman eye him appreciatively which Jared hoped Aurora did not notice. “I’m going to remove the bandage and check if your surgical wound is healing correctly. Do you feel any shortness of breath, Mr Rickford?”

“No,” the old man responded politely.

“Any palpitations or pain when breathing, except for the pricking of the wound?”


“Problem eating? Any thing blocking your windpipe or you feel like it?”

Again, the old man shook his head.

Aurora then instructed the nurse to level the bed so that the patient was flat on his back. Then she placed her stethoscope in her ear and began checking on his breathing. “Get his pulse rate,” she ordered the nurse. “Mr. Rickford, I want you to take a deep breath and hold it until I tell you so,” when she saw him nod she placed the stethoscope in the old man’s chest and said. “Deep breath... that’s good. And hold.” She checked her wrist watch and after few seconds, instructed him to exhale. Then she instructed him to repeat it few more times.

He watched her do her work, and Jared did not know if he was going to be fascinated or irritated. Why she decided to dye her hair brown was entirely no longer his concern but he was amazed of the fact that the little girl he once doted upon grew up to be somehow lovely – with brains too.

“Am I dying, Doctor?” Jared heard his father say. He saw Aurora smile while checking on his father’s surgical wound. “You’re far from it,” he heard her say and continued with her work, the nurse assisting her. “You’re healing nicely. We’ll discuss how to go about your new diet when you’re ready to go home. For now, I advise the hospital cafeteria to give you low carbs, non-fatty food.”

“But I’m ready to go home now,” the old man interjected. Aurora shook her head and gave the old man a warm smile.

“I’m afraid Dr Finnegan will be the one to decide on that. Not you this time.” She firmly stated which gave the old man a feeling of surrender.

After several minutes of changing the bandages, the red-headed nurse gathered the used utensils and made her way to the door. Before closing the door behind her, she gave Jared a charming smile he thought quite telling.

“You like red-heads?” Aurora inquired when she saw his eye glimmer with the nurse’s smile. She was now walking towards the door. “Her name’s Olivia,”

“I want to introduce someone to you,” Jared interjected deliberately ignoring her hint, and went near her and placed his arm around her in a gesture Aurora almost jolted upon but froze instead. He did not fail to notice that and squeezed her closer hoping her to relax. “Aurora, this is Rosario. She’s our long-time house-keeper.”

“How do you do?” she warmly acknowledged stepping forward to shake the older woman’s hand and to remove herself from his uncomfortable hold. “Nice to meet you Rosario. My name’s Aurora.”

“Yes ma’am,” Rosario returned her smile. “You were just a baby when I last saw you. You’ve grown beautifully as we’ve expected.”

That revelation surprised her. “When I was a baby?” She looked questioningly at Jared now.

Rosario nodded smilingly. “I was Mister Jared’s nanny first before I became housekeeper. We were at your christening in Germany.”

“Oh my, what a revelation” she stated dazedly, forcing herself to laugh at the coincidence. She knew it was not a coincidence. She suddenly wanted to talk to her parents. “We’ve met before,” it was not a question. “Well, that’s good news. I think. Should we go outside?” She was now asking him to follow her outside. They needed privacy.

Outside the hospital room, Aurora sat in the vacant bench just beside the door. When Jared closed the door behind, he pulled her up against him. “How long did you know this?” she managed to say.

“Where’s the cafeteria?” he asked checking his wrist watch for the time. He has a meeting by ten. He needed to know why she wanted to talk to him. “Let’s talk there.”

“No,” she replied hastily. “I don’t have the time. I have a scheduled procedure in an hour. I need to prepare. But I need to know if you knew this?”

“Father told me few,” he stated truthfully. “They plotted this betrothal months before you were born. How’s Firefox?”

She looked at him surprisingly. Her violet eyes confused. “How did you know about my horse?”

“Your parents purchased her from our stables in Ireland. Do you remember who first taught you to ride her?”

Then it hit her. The chocolate brown hair, the gray eyes. “How old I was then?”

“You were four,”

“And you?”

“I was twelve.”

“Gaadddd, Jared. You’re practically eight years my senior” she remarked regretfully.

“And you’re blonde” he said distastefully, his eyes glimmering with mirth. Totally out of his character, he found himself reaching for her nape and pulled her for a kiss that both rattled and melted Aurora’s wits. His mouth was demanding yet gentle at the same time, he was coaxing her with his tongue and when she finally allowed him access, he plunged into her mouth deeper shocking her beyond imagination. She felt herself kissing him back with the same ardor, when suddenly reason came before them when a rasping voice disturbed them out of their shared world.

“Dr. Finnegan!” she recognized, totally stunned at herself to go so much overboard. They were in the middle of a hospital corridor and people are smiling at her, and started whispering, which means they saw the kiss too. She could feel her blood rise into her face, and her cheeks felt warm from embarrassment.

“This is a public hospital alleyway,” Dr Finnegan said in a booming voice. “Public display of affection is not welcome here”, and with those words, he left both standing, Aurora still in shock with herself. When she heard the PA system request her presence in the operating theater, she tried to compose herself and before she turned around to leave, she raised her hand and slapped Jared hard across the face. Then she walked away leaving him baffled, and entirely dissatisfied. He wanted more of her, he discovered. Not just more, he concluded. He wanted all of her.

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