Jeremy had to blink twice to make sure he read it right. There it was – Jessica Man.
His agent had talked about Volvo wanting Jeremy as a spokesperson – as the company’s face for the Asian market. So Jeremy had agreed to meet with them to hear what they were offering. His agent had mailed him a list of all the people joining the meeting and one name stood out – Jessica Man.
Naah… it can’t be her, Jeremy thought. But it could actually be her – for who else would be a better fit for a company like Volvo? She had the background – both academically and socially.
But why would she keep it from me? Jeremy thought, unable to ignore the sting in his chest.
There had been nothing to indicate that Jessica was in New York – not from the messages they had been regularly exchanging. But there had been times when he’d wondered why the reception had been so clear when they actually did talk via phone.
I need to know, Jeremy decided.
There’s someone he could badger into telling him the truth; one person he knew who would not be able to say no – Jonnie.
Jeremy knew he was early for the meeting – that was more principle than chance. He hated being late – AND he wanted to see where Jessica worked. The receptionist was nice and offered him practically everything while he waited. But he sat and read a magazine and patiently waited – for Jess.
His conversation with Jonnie last night had been – enlightening. It made him mad and disappointed that Jess had been living in New York for longer than he thought. He went through everything they did together last summer and tried to figure out what he had done wrong. So far, he hadn’t found an answer.
She came walking into the conference room together with Roger, Jeremy’s agent, and a couple of people he assumed were Jess’ boss and colleagues.
She could always take his breath away – today was no different. Maybe it was the fact that he had not seen her since August that the sight of her now could turn Jeremy’s guts to jelly. She was laughing at something Roger was saying – her smile lighting up that beautiful face.
You have it so bad, Jeremy, he told himself.
He stood up to greet them, extending his hand first to his agent, then the man beside him.
“I hoped we did not keep you waiting for long; our secretary just said you were here,” the man said. “I’m John Maloney.” The CEO of Volvo in the US, Jeremy noted. He did his homework – he wanted to be prepared for this meeting.
“Jeremy likes to be early at meetings,” Roger laughed and Jeremy smiled.
“I don’t usually sit-in with a meeting like this, but we all agree that you are special, Jeremy,” John continued. He proceeded to introduce the people from Volvo.
When it came to Jessica’s turn, Jeremy took a step towards her, said “It’s good to see you again, Jess,” and gave her a kiss on the cheek instead of a handshake.
They were all surprised – especially Jess – whom Jeremy felt tense up immediately. He looked at Jess and immediately saw temper flare I her eyes – there was embarrassment there, too. It was a mean move, Jeremy knew, but he was still angry and hurt.
“You know Ms. Man,” John Maloney said, speculation gleaming in his eyes.
“We grew up together in Palo Alto – lived across each other;” Jeremy explained.
Jessica smiled sweetly, but her eyes betrayed her. Jeremy could see the challenge in her eyes. Knowing her, she’ll correct this quickly and efficiently.
“I didn’t want to use knowing Jeremy as leverage to get the assignment,” she said, earning a nod from her boss.
“Well, now that it’s out in the open, Jeremy,” Jessica said, “I can assure you that Volvo will be proud to have you as a spokesperson for the company. Knowing you like I do, I don’t know anybody who’s a better fit for this company which, like you, strives for excellence.”
Jeremy caught her eye just as they all sat down for the meeting to begin.
She is pissed, Jeremy concluded. Good, he thought. He wanted that reaction – and was ready for it.
It was easy to forget sometimes, that Jeremy was not just a basketball player. It wasn’t JLin who showed up at the meeting today. It was Harvard economics graduate Jeremy Lin who sat and discussed Volvo’s offer with them. He had a sharp mind, Jess knew that, but she had never seen it in action. This Jeremy could outwit Andrew anytime of the week. Jessica was impressed and intrigued.
Jeremy was thinking the same thing about her. He had to remind himself she was no longer just Jess from his childhood. All the choices she had taken – studying abroad, perfecting her language skills – made her perfect for her current job. This was her arena, he thought. He was a bit sorry about embarrassing her earlier, but he knew Jess was tough. Jeremy knew Jess of Palo Alto like the back of his hand, but Jessica is a whole new side of her he wanted to know more of. He was definitely looking forward to unraveling this new layer to the Jessica he thought he knew.
When the meeting ended, he agreed to meet with them again. Jeremy liked what he heard, but he wasn’t ready to commit to anything. Besides, more meetings meant more time with Jess in the future. His agent had to go, but Jeremy stayed, hoping to be able to talk with Jess more.
“Ms. Man, why don’t you give Jeremy a tour of the company,” John Maloney suggested. In Jessica’s ears it sounded more like an order, but she knew the reasoning behind it. It was her job to show Jeremy the advantages of joining the Volvo family.
Jeremy could not help but smile to himself. No one was making it easy for Jessica today. It seemed even her boss wanted them to spend time together. Okay, it was for business, Jeremy admitted, but still – it made him a bit happy that she had to go out of her way for him.
He followed her around the various offices and listened intently to her explanations. She was efficient and knew Jeremy enough to know what kind of information he would find interesting. Jess was obviously happy about joining Volvo – he could hear it in her voice and in her smile. He was curious about a lot of things and did not hold back on the questions about the company.
During their tour, her phone buzzed several times. Jess would smile and shake her head and not answer the messages. When the noise came again, Jeremy had to ask: “Is it something important you needed to attend to? We could stop, you know.”
Jess looked at him apologetically, “Sorry. My friends – my three girl friends are badgering me – they are Linsane fans who want to say hi.”
Jeremy smiled. “I’d like to meet them, too,” he said and thought of the possibilities of getting more info on what Jess had been doing in New York since she moved here.
“It will have to wait for another time,” Jess said. It’s not that she did not want them to meet him. In her mind, it would be too much to take in one day.
Jeremy had to accept that. He looked at his watch and noted the time – he was not ready to let go of her just yet. There were one or two people who joined them in the elevator while it made its way down the different floors.
None of them were Asian, so Jeremy said in Mandarin: You could have told me you’d been here since August.
Jessica said nothing but answered: Who told you that?
Jeremy grinned: Jonnie.
Jess hissed under her breath and swore. Jeremy laughed, unable to stop himself; he liked pushing her buttons.
He continued: Why don’t we go for a cup of coffee?
Jessica glared at him, answering: I don’t think it will be wise.
Jeremy expected her to say so, so he countered: Your boss said you should take care of me. I want to have coffee with you – now.
Jess said nothing, but her body language said it all – she hated hearing that.
Okay, she finally said. But you better behave yourself.
Jeremy smiled at her with what he hoped was an innocent smile, but he did not promise anything.
As they quietly sat and drank coffee, Jeremy looked at her from across the table. He missed looking at that face – nearly could not stop himself from reaching to touch her.
“When I saw you, my heart stopped beating,” he whispered so only Jess could hear.
Jess blushed. “Jeremy…” she started to say.
Jeremy ignored her protest and continued, “Following you around the company was driving me crazy. That dress, those heels were driving me crazy. Beige suits you, by the way” he ended, referring to her trench coat.
“You’re doing this to punish me,” Jessica glared.
“A bit,” Jeremy answered honestly. “I hope you can give me an explanation of why you did not tell me you were here.”
Jess did not know what to say, so she sat quietly and observed Jeremy. She had been mentally preparing herself for their meeting since the day her boss told her that the company would try to land Jeremy Lin as an endorser. She knew she couldn’t pull herself out of the project. It was too big a chance to pass up.
Fate had finally thrown Jeremy and Jess together.
She tried to see the changes in his features. He sported a shorter haircut since last summer. He was paler; must be the lack of sunshine on the East Coast. Jess knew that Jeremy had been playing major minutes since being appointed as the Knicks starting PG. He looked tired, she worried.
There’s something different about him, though – she couldn’t quite put a finger on it. He had always had confidence and attitude – but this Jeremy sauntered when he walked. He was oblivious to the stares of people around them; Jessica had been aware of glares from some women in the coffee shop. Maybe Linsanity had changed him, she worried. Maybe being in the spotlight these past weeks had changed other things, too. She did not know what to think of that.
At Jess’ silence, Jeremy said: “We have to talk about it at one point, Jess; hopefully sooner than later. We have all the time in the world. How’s Andrew?” he suddenly asked.
The question surprised Jessica. “In Hong Kong, I guess, “she answered. “We’re ex-colleagues.”
“Nothing more?” Jeremy urged, hope filling him.
“There never was,” she said softly.
Jeremy felt happy – the happiest since last summer. It felt like no victories on the court could come close to this feeling.
When they were done, Jeremy asked the chauffeur to drive back to Volvo, ‘cause Jess needed some work done. He was sad to let her go, but he knew it was not under the same circumstances like the last time they said goodbye. Just before she got out of the car, he pulled her towards him.
Jeremy took his time – the kiss was soft, but full of promise. Jessica sighed, enjoying the feel of his lips against hers.
“You won’t be able to get rid of me so easily this time, Jess,” he promised.
“I know,” she accepted. He gave her one short kiss before letting her go.
She stood on the sidewalk for a while, long after Jeremy’s car disappeared.
What now, Jess? she asked herself.