Chapter Thirteen

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 replaced his eye glasses.

“The Ukrainian ballerina?” Aurora clarified. She could no longer seem to concentrate on why she was at the nurse’s station.  

“The very,” the red-headed nurse named Olivia replied out of the blue. “I heard he’s currently dating Eleanor Weinberg and rumor has it that he’s already popped the question when they were vacationing in Marseilles last month.”

“Wow,” Minnie replied, glaring intensely at Olivia. “You got some serious gossip there. I don’t think there’s any truth about that”, she added trying her best not to shatter Aurora’s ego.

The red-headed nurse then pulled a copy of Us Magazine from her cubicle and placed it in front of all them. “It’s at page six,” Olivia stated eyeing Minnie provocatively. “Plenty of pictures too.”

Minnie and Dave opened it along with the other nurses and residents while on break. Aurora merely watched and listened.

“Actress Eleanor Weiberg and hotel investment magnate Jared Rickford were super hot for each other while vacationing in Marseilles. According to Weinberg’s publicist, the couple is planning to get hitched later this year. We still yet to see a ring on that finger, though but the entertainment world is pretty excited about it.”

“That’s juicy,” Aurora finally remarked despite feeling uncomfortably shocked upon hearing that piece of news. “The man better stay away, right, Minnie?”

“Right you are, Doctor Cunard!” Minnie enthusiastically responded. “We’ll find a prince for you, he’ll see”. And Aurora finally laughed with that remark, along with her other colleagues.

She turned to her serious self when she saw Rosario approach her. “Hi Rosario, is there a problem? Is Mister Rickford alright?”

“Yes ma’am, he’s resting. That’s why I was able to leave his room for a while to seek you,” the older woman stated.

“You were looking for me. How can I assist you then?” she asked politely her smile charming as usual.

“Mister Jared wishes you to call him at this number,” Rosario said handing the piece of paper with his hand-written phone number. “He said something about your travel details to New York tomorrow.”

“Oh I see,” Aurora replied. She did not see, but she noticed the peering eyes and the curious glances around her realizing that she was still standing in the middle of the nurses’ station and they all can hear their full conversation. Too late for her to remove herself from the place, she took the paper, and said her thank you. The moment Rosario was out of ear shot, she faced them before they fired their questions to her. “It’s business. He’s dating Eleanor Weinberg and probably secretly engaged to her too.” She excused herself then and left looking confused more than ever.

She only remembered to call him when she reached her house and was preparing for her mother’s Thursday dinner. It was already five in the afternoon and their chauffeur will be arriving anytime soon to drive her to their estate in Wellesley. She decided she’d call him there instead. She was just finishing her light make-up when she heard the intercom. She reached over to answer it.

“I”ll be right down Mister Peter,” she said without even confirming.

“It’s Jared, not Peter”, she surprisingly heard over the intercom.

“Why are you downstairs?”

“I’ll come up, then.”

“No,” she firmly replied. “I”ll be down in a minute.” And then she hung up. She rushed to the mirror and checked her self in the mirror. Her hair was stylishly tied in a half-knot with her long wavy tresses flowing just below her shoulders. She was wearing a patterned sleeveless blouse tucked in a black and white diagonally striped skirt with side pocket and her Ferragamo classic pointed-toe flats. She accessorized her wardrobe with a Van Cleef and Arpels Alhambra 20-leaf-clover necklace to have a classic finish. She looked presentable enough, she mused. She grabbed her black suede chained wallet and proceeded to where Jared Rickford was waiting. She wondered where the hell her father’s chauffeur was.

He saw her exit the elevators looking good enough to eat. But it felt weird coz she simply donned a conservative sleeveless blouse and pencil skirt but she managed to look gorgeous. She wasn’t even wearing the typical ultra-high heels he usually sees his dates wear during their dinners. Then he realized something. If she manages to look gorgeous with just a simple ensemble paired with flats, what would she look like if she seriously dressed herself up for an occasion? The thought painted a scowl on his face, which Aurora noticed immediately the moment she stepped out of the elevator and saw him standing at the lobby. He looked displeased, and Aurora only wanted to slap the look out of his face. Who did he expect? Eleanor Weinberg?

Her agitation against him coupled with the information she read in the magazine earlier gave her the audacity to voice the thought out.  “You look displeased,” she started. “Who were you expecting? Your Russian ballerina or your Oscar-winning actress? Telling you now, I’m neither.”

Jared felt the sharpness of her tone and he was half certain, somewhere along in the hospital someone has tipped her of the names of his former flings. He wasn’t sure though if her attitude was because of their kiss earlier that day or the information she got from who cares where. He decided to ignore both and charm his way to lighten her mood. “Actually, I was expecting to see the Countess of Vienna,” he jested.

“Tell me something I don’t know?” she silently inquired. She stood only a foot away from him and her voice was almost a whisper.

“I did my research,” he lied, then told the truth. “Through my father”.

“It isn’t common knowledge. Not in this country, so you can remove me in your list of titled princesses” she defensively remarked. “I hope to keep that information private and I expect you to understand that.”

“You expect me?” Jared was somehow caught off guard by the demand evident in her voice. “I should say, never to expect anything from me.”

If she was taken aback with that remark of his, she did her best not to show it. She merely nodded her agreement, politely excused herself and went to proceed to the building exit where she was desperately hoping Peter would be waiting with the car.

“Where are you going?” he asked the moment she began walking away from him. He followed her then.

“Not your business”, she curtly replied and jerked her hand away the moment she felt his hand touch her arm. “Stop touching me”, she hissed catching Jared off guard with her show of annoyance.

“Alright. I can see you’re in a tight mood. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.” he finally answered, his voice annoyed and his eyes confused. “Peter is not coming,” he stated instead, not wanting to waste anymore time. “Your father invited me to your mother’s dinner and asked me to fetch you instead. My car’s at the back.”

Without any word to him, she allowed him to lead her to where his car was. The drive from downtown Boston to Wellesley was approximately twenty-five minutes and they both spent half of it in silence. Aurora kept her gaze in the view outside of the car window while he drove in silence, his iPod connected in the car’s radio system and playing various songs from various artists. She did not feel like talking to him. She was also committed to remain quiet the entire duration of the drive. Jared felt the same way.

They arrived in the Cunard’s estate just before six-thirty as indicated by Aurora’s father. The house was modestly large but not as intimidating and imposing as his father’s at Chestnut Hill. The house itself was made of red bricks, with a simple driveway, which leads to several car garages. He then parked the SUV just beside a Mercedes S-Class.

“One of your father’s?” he inquired after turning off the ignition.

“The only one,” she replied her voice still unfriendly. She reached for the door latch and exited herself without waiting for Jared to collect her. She did not expect him to do such gentlemanly things for her. He told her himself not to expect anything from him. She understood.

She did not wait for him either. She proceeded to the front door and rang the doorbell. It was answered by her mother. The moment she walked inside, she began ranting in German.

“You betrothed me to an asshole, mama” she voiced out in German language. Her mother, was shocked.

“Watch your words, young lady!” she surprisingly replied in German as well. “Where is Jared?”

“Good evening, Lady Cunard” Jared carefully interjected in English yet understanding every word Aurora just said in her native tongue.

“Please, come on in” Rosalie ushered him inside. “Oh my, do you happen to know how to speak German?” she inquired worriedly and paled when he nodded and smiled an affirmative. “Please forgive my daughter’s language. I don’t know what has gotten in to her.”

“Understandable,” he replied truthfully when he was led to the common room where Paul Cunard is busy reading a book while Aurora bent over to place a kiss on his cheek.

“You’ve angered him already, Briar?” Paul Cunard said looking up at Aurora, which surprised her irritably. He did not wait for an answer and greeted Jared with a warm welcome. “Nice for you to have come, Jared. May I offer you a drink?”

“Scotch will be great,” he replied his eyes staring intently at Aurora who looked undeterred and as unfriendly as she could be. She stared back furiously at him her violet eyes shooting daggers at him. For some foolish reason, he found it took his breath away.

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