“Mission accomplished,” Jeremy said as he stretched his legs in the car.
Josh Fan was behind the wheel; they were on their way home from distributing Thanksgiving Day meals on behalf of the Jeremy Lin Foundation.
“I wish I had more time to spend on the foundation’s events,” Jeremy mused, as he reclined in the seat, his eyes fixed on the buildings they passed by.
“Every little thing counts, dude,” Josh replied. “You live enough a busy life as it is. It’s great, though, huh – getting the time to do this?”
“Oh, yeah… I wish everyone could have joined me today, but it’ll have to wait till Christmas,” Jeremy sighed. It was difficult to coordinate when his whole family and Jess could be gathered in Houston.
“When is Jess arriving?” Josh asked.
“She just sent me a text – couldn’t catch an earlier flight. She won’t make it to tonight’s game against the Bulls, so she’ll probably come directly home,” Jeremy replied, his thoughts on Jess. It’s been just over a month since she visited last – he couldn’t wait. The rest of his family will be arriving tomorrow, so they’ll have some time together before his apartment becomes host to a huge Thanksgiving circus.
He smiled at the thought of the whole “clan” gathering. It’ll be awesome.
Jess found him sprawled on the couch. It was nearly midnight.
She quietly rolled her travelling case aside and walked towards Jeremy’s form. He didn’t respond to her quietly saying his name, so he must be asleep.
“Jeremy,” she tried again. No response.
Jess sat beside him and simply looked at the profile illuminated by the flicker of the TV and a few strategically placed lamps in the living room. It had been some horrible hours of travelling, but all worth it to be finally here with him. Jess released a deep breath – the one she didn’t know she had been holding since his face came into her focus.
I love you so much, Dumbo, she thought.
She didn’t know how long she sat there staring. When Jeremy stirred, Jess broke out of her own reverie. He tilted his head, exposing that wonderful stretch of neck. She’d always been slightly obsessed with that neck – the smooth skin, the way it tensed when he’s playing hard on the court, the way he smelled when she had her face tucked against it.
Jeremy snorted – Jess had to cover her mouth to stop from laughing.
He looks so adorable asleep. Her gaze rested on that nerve on his neck – that which was nearly indiscernible, throbbing with every beat his heart took. Jess smiled. She can basically hear Pansy yelling at her, “Spice up your relationship. Do something unexpected.”
When her lips touched that spot in Jeremy’s neck she marveled at how smooth his skin felt against her kiss. It felt warm on her lips. He smelled of soap – clean and fresh. He would have showered after the game.
Jess trailed fluttery kisses on Jeremy’s skin knowing his weakness – he was quite ticklish. Only her lips touched him.
“Hmmm…” Jeremy squirmed a few minutes later. “Jess?”
Jessica smiled. “I sure don’t hope you thought it was someone else,” she replied in a soft voice.
As slumber left his body, Jeremy slowly pulled himself up to sit. When he gazed at Jess’ face, he flashed a sly grin. “I was dreaming of Jess..ica Alba.”
“Oh, really?” Jess raised an eyebrow at his comment. Jessica Alba was Jeremy’s celebrity crush – had been for years – since they were in their late teens.
“Tell me more,” Jess said – and to his surprise – she decided to straddle Jeremy, linked her arms around his neck and nuzzled her face against his neck.
“We were at the beach,” Jeremy continued as he enjoyed the feel of her in his arms.
“So… did Miss Alba kiss you like this?” Jess simply said as she brushed her lips lightly against his – but flirtingly withdrew when he tried to deepen the kiss and chose instead to move her lips downwards.
Jeremy gave a slight hiss of breath, his nerves on edge as her lips tested a path along his skin, sending a frisson down his back.
“Not exactly,” he said in a soft moan – and gasped when Jess took a little nibble off his neck.
“Hmmm… like this, then?” Jess inquired just before she decided that a small spot just along his collarbone was interesting enough for her lips’ attention. She sucked and felt Jeremy jolt in reaction. Naughty Jess, she grinned silently.
“Jess, what are you doing?” Jeremy asked.
“Branding you,” Jess murmured. “You’re mine.” She didn’t stop, intent on her actions. She felt empowered, in control. The feeling was exhilarating. It helped that she could feel Jeremy’s reaction to her kisses. The heat from emanating from their bodies, as clothed as they still were, was unmistakable.
“I’m gonna get razzed tomorrow if I show up with a hickey,” Jeremy said. He never realized how potent kisses can be.
Jessica lifted her gaze, her smile impish. “Just tell them I gave it to you.” She brought her lips to his and kept them there.
She gave a shriek of surprise when he lifted himself up – and her with him. Jess instinctively latched onto his hip with her legs to hang on, but Jeremy had her securely against his body.
“Did you carry Miss Alba like this in your dream, too?” she whispered against his ear and gently nibbled at Jeremy’s earlobe.
Jeremy laughed, “Maybe.”
“Well, then, I might as well make sure you forget all about it,” she proclaimed.
They made love that night in what Jess felt was like a daze. Their movements were slow, almost lethargic. It felt like they had all the time in the world.
The living room vibrated with the sound of explosions as Jeremy and Joseph lounged on the couch, their faces intense as they played Halo 4.
Jess smiled as she sat looking at them. Jeremy would occasionally slide his gaze to hers to give her that smile she found so heart-warming. She smiled sweetly back at Jeremy as their eyes met again in silent exchange.
“Concentrate on the game, bro,” Joe said, without moving his eyes from the screen.
“I am,” Jeremy grinned.
“Yeah, right. Then, again, it’s your problem – easier for me to win,” Joe continued.
“In your dreams,” Jeremy countered.
They’ve always been competitive, the Lin boys, Jess thought. There were just the three of them at the moment. Gie-min and Shirley were on their way and Josh Fan was on his way from the airport where was picking up Joshua and Patricia.
They were celebrating Thanksgiving together – gathered as they were since their boat trip in Hong Kong.
Joseph looked so grown-up, she couldn’t wrap her head around it.
“College going well, Joe?” she asked.
“Uhuh,” Joe grunted. “Uhm, I got an e-mail from Dylan,” he volunteered a few minutes later. His eyes darted quickly to where Jeremy sat. Jess understood.
“Yeah, me too. She’s enjoying her stay,” she answered and played along – Joe obviously did not want to tell too much in front of Jeremy.
Jeremy, on the other hand, was quick to pick up on the signals. “She? Who’s she? Who’s Dylan?” he insisted.
“None of your business,” Joe replied.
When Jeremy looked at Jess with a grin, she shook her head .
“So you both think you can keep me out of the loop? I thought you loved me!” he said in false indignation.
Jess laughed as she stood up. When she left the room, Jeremy turned to face his younger brother. “Spill.”
Joseph tried to ignore him, but since Jeremy stopped playing, he had to surrender.
“Dylan is Pansy’s younger sister,” he explained. “She’s on a semester’s trial stay at a local college near Hamilton. We met in NYC in September. She’s cool – plays with me on-line. Her handle is D-mize, by the way,” Joe rushed the words out.
“Wait… D-mize? The dude who’s been kicking my butt in DOTA 2 is a girl?” Jeremy said in surprise.
“Yeah,” Joe confirmed.
“Really? Whoa. Well…“ Jeremy looked at his brother’s face. “So does she know you had a crush on Pansy?”
Joseph blushed, “How did you…?”
Jeremy laughed, “Who didn’t know?”
Joe opened his mouth to say something, but chose to close it again. He honestly did not know what to say.
“You never answered my question,” Jeremy commented.
“No, she doesn’t know,” Joe sighed. “And we’re more like pals, I think.”
“You like her, huh?” Jeremy’s question was met with a shrug.
“Don’t waste time if you do like her,” he advised Joe with a quick nudge with his elbow.
When Jess entered the room again, all talk about Dylan ceased.
“You ready?” CP asked him as they sat in the locker room.
Jeremy shrugged. He did not have words for what he’s feeling at the moment.
The Rockets were meeting the Knicks – his former team. All eyes will be on Jeremy and the game. The Toyota Center was by no means Madison Square Garden, but this was home for his team now. He did not want to lose to the Knicks at home.
Jeremy’s eyes drifted around the room – looking at his teammates. They were all so young – inexperienced. It’s been a rough start for everyone. They’re all learning to play with one another, off one another.
He looked across the room to where James was sitting. They exchanged a little nod. James gave him that look – the look that almost always made him smile or laugh. His lips automatically broke into a grin.
“Dude,” CP nudged as he sat beside Jeremy. “We got this.”
“Yeah,” Jeremy nodded.
“Wait, is that a hickey?” CP laughed.
Jeremy winced. Nearly every player in the team reacted to CP’s outburst, so he decided to be honest and joke about it.
“My girlfriend couldn’t help herself,” he said with a grin.
“Ha!” Marcus Morris teased. “The closest you have to a romance is one with CP.”
“That’s bromance, Mook,” CP pointed out, which elicited laughter in the room.
Jeremy absorbed the humor and relaxed. He was a bit anxious, but it helped knowing that everyone he cared for were now in Houston. His friends, family and Jess were all there.
“Showtime,” Toney said, as they walked towards the doors to the arena. Jeremy gave his teammate a huge grin – Toney and he were in this together – he of all people would know the apprehension Jeremy was currently feeling.
“Let’s go,” Jeremy nodded.
The Rockets won. They won – against the Knicks.
As the Rockets stood in a huddle, Jeremy met CP’s stare and got a nod from his friend. He doubted the Knicks would ever forget CP – he simply dominated tonight.
His former Knicks teammates came over one-by-one to give him a hug and a goodbye. They would soon be on their way back to New York. The next time their teams meet will be at the Garden. Jeremy refused to think about it and ignored the feeling of sadness. MSG will, of course, always be a part of his heart – where everything started.
He looked up at where his family sat and he felt their support all the way down to the court. His eyes darted – where was Jess?
Jess stood a couple of meters from his family and blended with the crowd of Asian fans. She gave him a smile even as she started to move with the crowd.
He started to walk towards her – to intercept, but he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Haven’t you learned Texan hospitality?” Steve Novak laughed. “Can’t run off without saying goodbye to the guests, you know.”
“Of course not,” Jeremy replied as he gave Novak a hug.
“Hey, your family’s here,” Novak observed and started to walk towards the Lins.
As Steve greeted Jeremy’s family, Jeremy looked around for Jess.
“She’ll meet us outside,” Shirley discretely told him the answer to his unsaid question.
“I wanted her here,” Jeremy simply said.
“I know you do,” Shirley smiled. “She was here when it mattered. I know you also understand why she’s not ready for all of this.”
Jeremy became conscious of the flash of cameras and phones from journalists and the public who were still gathered around and on the court. How could he have forgotten?
He turned his attention to his former teammate.
“You’re as big a star as you were in New York,” Steve grinned.
Jeremy shook his head.
“Houston is an awesome city,” Steve said. He was a former Rocket and had spent great times in Houston. “I hope they’re taking care of you.”
“They are,” Jeremy smiled. “I love being more normal here.”
They companionably walked together through the crowd – almost like they used to – but as they neared the locker rooms, they parted ways.
“We’ll have our revenge next month,” Novak shouted out.
“Not if we can do something about it,” Jeremy grinned and turned his back.
He was moving forward and everyone who mattered was with him.
On to Chapter 4