Well done, Miss Man.
Those words from her boss made all the hard work and extra hours nearly worth it. But it was watching Jeremy smile at her as the new “brand ambassador” for Volvo Car Corporation that tipped the scale.
As she watched him hold a speech and tackle a press conference, she accepted how far they both had gone from being just Jess and Jeremy of Palo Alto – and how near they had come towards each other these past weeks.
He was not letting her go – and honestly, she did not want him to.
When they were preparing the Volvo campaign, he’d make sure that they had time to be alone afterwards. They went to church together on Sundays – whenever he was in the city.
And the flowers! He sent a bouquet of tulips, all in different colors, to brighten up a rainy day. After a long meeting, she found a single-stemmed rose on her desk. She suspected that Jeremy had an alliance with one of her friends – but so far, no one had confessed.
When she came home during one of the days he was away from New York for a road-game, she found a mini-jasmine plant outside her door. The smell of jasmine reminded her of her parents’ garden – and kisses in the moonlight.
His busy schedule with the Knicks and her work were the greatest challenges to their already limited time together. She couldn’t even watch the Knicks-Raptors game at MSG tonight, because she had tasks due the next day.
She’d barely had time to cook for Jeremy last week. Good thing her friends helped with the ingredients shopping beforehand. Those hours with Jeremy were precious; they talked and laughed while cooking. In her or his apartment, when they were alone, they were just Jess and Jeremy. When they were together, Jess could feel that she was his focal point – he was hers. She felt special, appreciated… loved when they were together.
Girl, you are doomed… Jess told herself as she watched Jeremy dazzle the crowd.
“Are you up to celebrating, Jeremy?” Landry asked. “Some of the guys want to hit a club – or something.”
Jeremy wanted most of all to spend the rest of the evening with Jess.
“I was planning on dropping by Jessica’s tonight,” he answered honestly.
Shump interrupted the conversation by saying “Wait, Jeremy knows a woman in New York?”
Jared, Tyson and Novak were all suddenly interested, too. Jeremy never talked about women – unlike the other guys on the team.
Shump continued, “So when are we meeting her, dude? Sure she exists?”
Jeremy smiled at the thought of Jess, “She exists.”
The expression on his face caused Shump and Landry to laugh and heckle.
“My man, you are totally into her,” Landry said. He was Jeremy’s best friend on the team, but even he had not met Jessica yet. He knew that Jeremy and she were best friends growing up in Cali. Somehow, she had become more than a friend for Jeremy since last summer. His friend sent a lot of texts and often talked on the phone with her.
“Whoa boy,“ Shump teased. “Now – we really need to meet her. Tell her to meet us at Avenue.”
Jeremy looked at Landry and Shump and shook his head.
“Come on, guys, she had just as long a day as I had.”
“Are you afraid she’ll dump you for me?” Landry teased.
“Does she have friends?” Jared asked. “She’ll feel less intimidated by these nosey-pants if she had company,” he suggested.
“She has a circle of friends – and they‘re fun,” Jeremy said, finally accepting that he could not worm his way out of this one.
As he made the phone call to Jess, he thought that at least they’ll be together – and in great company.
What have I gotten myself into? Jessica asked herself when she entered Avenue flanked by Pansy, Karin and Christine. They were there for support – and for fun.
“Shit, look at all the mannequins,” Pansy commented.
Jess looked around – Pansy was right. She spotted Jeremy and some of the guys from the Knicks team – Shump, Landry, Novak, Tyson and Jared. They were surrounded by model-types – thin, tall and mini-skirt-wearing types.
She mentally shook herself. Come on, Jess – no insecurities. No more running away…
When Jeremy turned his eyes towards their direction, he smiled. The lights may be dimmed but Jess could see and feel that smile from far off. I am his focal point, Jess told herself.
Landry noticed the change in Jeremy mid-conversation. His friend hadn’t really been interested in talking with anyone but the guys since they came in. Jeremy had been waiting.
“Jess” was the only word that came out of Jeremy.
Landry’s gaze followed his friend’s and rested on the woman crossing the distance between them and the door. Long dark hair, pretty tall, though not model-tall, he noticed. It was dark, so her face wasn’t in full view yet. She was accompanied by three other ladies.
When she finally stood in front of them, Landry could see why Jeremy was hooked. Jess had clear alabaster skin, full lips and dark almond-shaped eyes. There was something there – something that made any man take a second look, Landry decided. There was confidence and intelligence behind those eyes that were currently looking at Jeremy.
Jess and Jeremy just stared at each other.
“Hi, I’m Landry,” Landry decided to introduce himself to the three other women with Jess. “Our friends are totally oblivious of our presence, anyway, so we might as well get to know each other.”
Christine laughed, “I’m Christine. This is Pansy and Karin.” They all shook hands – their friends still had not budged.
Finally, Jeremy leaned to whisper something in Jess’ ear, “Thank you for saving me.”
She smiled, “Saving you from what?”
“Boredom,” he replied as he took her hand and led her to one of the lounge chairs. Jess laughed.
“So, this is Jess?” Jared immediately asked.
“Oh, sorry,” Jeremy realized his lack of manners. “Jess, you probably know Jared Jeffries, Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, Tyson Chandler and Landry Fields. And Jess’ friends- mine too, actually – Pansy, Karin and Christine.”
“So, how come you’re with him – and not me?” Shump asked outright, making everyone laugh.
“Who said I was with him?” came her fast reply. The guys immediately reacted to that, giving out a hoot and teasing their friend. Jeremy just grinned. The ice broken, they all fell into conversing with each other.
“Jeremy said you all work for Volvo.” Landry said to no one in particular.
It was Karin who answered, “Pansy is a designer, I work at Human Resource and Christine is at Public Relations.”
Landry stared at her. “Karin is an unusual version of Karen,” he commented.
“That’s because it’s the Swedish version,” she explained.
“You don’t look like what we’d think Swedish looked like,” Landry said while taking a long and thorough look at her.
Karin gave him a little smile. If he thinks I’m going to be self-conscious, Karin thought, he’d better think again. She took just as thorough a look-see of Landry and explained “My mom is Filipino and my dad is Swedish.”
“I’m mixed, too,” Landry exclaimed.
“I know,” Karin simply said.
Landry looked at her. Ice queen, he thought, but there was warmth in her eyes when she talked with her friends and the other guys. Is it just me? Landry wondered. Intrigued, he decided to see if she thaws while they’re here.
Christine was surrounded by Jared, Tyson and Novak. She was totally starstruck – and felt really small beside them.
“So, Christine, you don’t sound like you’re from New York…” Jared commented.
“I’m from Spain.” she smiled
“Married – with kids?” Novak asked.
“Yeah, a son,” she smiled and took out her phone. “Carl is nearly two.”
“I have a daughter who’s almost the same age,” Jared said and showed the background image on his Blackberry.
Jeremy and Jess smiled at the scene of Christine, Jared, Tyson and Novak comparing their kids’ pictures and talking about being parents.
“Sorry for putting you in this position. The guys badgered me,” Jeremy whispered and nuzzled her ear.
“I don’t mind,” Jess answered. “I’m just happy we’re together tonight.”
“Me, too,” Jeremy agreed.
Loud music was playing, people were talking all around them, but he felt in peace. He had Jess in his arms and their friends were bonding – even Pansy and Shump.
“I have these Kobe VI Custom South Beach sneakers,” Pansy was telling Shump.
“Damn – you do?” he said.
“It was the color that got me,” she explained. “I think the design was too simple, but…” she shrugged. “Hey, you’re not allowed to buy Nikes, right? Aren’t you Adidas-sponsored?”
Shump groaned, “Yeah. But…” He had a sly grin on his face, which Pansy understood right away.
“You didn’t!” She was laughing – so did Shump.
“You look Asian, but sound British,” Shump noticed.
“My parents were Vietnamese refugees who were relocated to England in the 70’s. They’re still there.”” she explained.
“You miss them, huh? I miss mine a lot – and they’re only living in Chicago,” Shump shared.
“Yeah, I do.” Pansy smiled. “But I will dazzle them with stories about me partying with some Knicks players. I just might even tell my sister that I pinched you in the ass.”
Shump laughed out loud that people around them stared.
“I like you, P. You’ve got spunk,” he said.
“So, do I get to pinch you in the ass?” Pansy grinned, making Shump laugh again.
“I get it, man,” Landry told Jeremy later. The ladies were at the powder room and Landry took advantage of them not being around.
“Jess is a knock-out,” Landry added.
Jeremy looked at him and said “She’s brilliant, kind, caring and humorous…” He looked at Landry’s grin and acknowledged, “Yes, I am so doomed.”
Landry nudged him. “Hey, how about helping me out with Karin?”
Jeremy gazed at him and shook his head, “NO. You are on your own.”
Jeremy drove Jess home in his new Volvo S80.
“Maybe we should take a road trip in this sometime?” he asked Jess.
“Hmmm…” Jess murmured.
“Don’t fall asleep now,” Jeremy laughed.
“No, I’m just tired,” she yawned. “It’s been a great day, though. You were really impressive this morning. And thanks for inviting us all out tonight.”
“No problem,” Jeremy explained, stopping the car outside her address.
“It wasn’t such a bad thing, was it? Partying with basketball players? Being seen with me in public?” Jeremy asked Jess.
“No,” Jess told him. She had her fears, but she had to admit that she had fun with him and his teammates tonight. “I hope it won’t be the last time – I like your friends,” she continued.
Jeremy knew it was a huge step for Jess to join them tonight. Even with the Volvo deal, she kept herself in the background, away from the spotlight. He wanted her to be with him in every sense – most of all in his successes.
”You look beat, Jess. Go on up,” he murmured as he kissed Jess in the car.
“Aren’t you coming?” she asked.
“Not tonight,” he said, though he really wanted to do otherwise. “You and I need the rest.”
“Goodnight, then,” Jess smiled. She waved at him as he drove off.
Yeah, you are so doomed, Jess, she told herself.