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Authors’ note: Finally!!!  I am sooooo sorry for the delay.  Real life got in the way and my writing muse went on an extended trip where I couldn’t find it.😉 I hope you all enjoy this and it’s on time for Christmas, too. 

The knock on the door sounded ominous.  Jeremy dried his hands on his cargo pants.  Don’t feel guilty, Jeremy.  You haven’t done anything wrong. Just get it out in the open.

Jess stood outside the hotel door with a small bag in tow and a couple of shopping bags. She had a blush on her cheeks – probably from the cold wind outside.

“Welcome back to the Big Apple,” she said, as she gave him a tight hug.  Her lips were warm against his as they gave in to the feeling of longing.  Jeremy held on, as tight as he could without smothering her.

“You okay?” Jess asked.  She could feel the tension from Jeremy’s body.  “That was a tough game you had.”  The Rockets arrived in New York from Toronto.  It had been an awful afternoon game they had; they lost.

“I was awful,” Jeremy said bluntly. “I sucked.”

Jess let him seethe for a few minutes – let him pace while she placed her stuff in a corner.  She joined him on the couch – took his chin and turned his face to hers.  She chose her words.

“I’ve seen your games.  It’s there, Jeremy.”

Jeremy tilted his head.  What is it that makes Jess believe in him – without hesitation?

“You just have to stop hesitating.”

“What?”  He was surprised at the slight reprimand.

“Come on, you don’t have to pass the ball that much,” Jess said, her brow raised yet gaze steady.  Jeremy was silent.  “Tomorrow, when you play the Knicks, you seize the opportunity to score.  Your teammates will feed you and feed off you.  The Knicks are slow – you do as Les says – you run!”

Jeremy looked at Jess’ face.  She was serious.

“Since when have you been an expert?”

“I’m not saying I know a lot about basketball, but I know you, “Jess replied.  “You can do so much more havoc on the court.”  She punched him in the shoulder – just as she did when they were kids.  The action made Jeremy smile.

“Okay,” he sighed.  “but how…”

“You tap into the magic of the Garden,” Jess answered.  “You’ll see. I believe in you, Dumbo.”

Jeremy chuckled.  “Only because you love my kisses,” he retorted as he nipped at Jess’ lower lip.

“True,” she grinned with a naughty flash in her eyes.  “So… you up for wreaking havoc on NYC?”

Jeremy suddenly remembered.  “Jess, I need to tell you something.”

***

On his first night back at the Madison Square Garden, the Rockets beat the Knicks on their home turf.  Jeremy scored 22 points.  As he moved around on the court, hugging his former teammates, saying goodbye and getting accosted for autographs and pictures, Jessica looked on with pride, from the sidelines, just as she wanted.

She looked at Jeremy’s bright smile and sighed.

One of her friends, Pansy, picked up on the movement and asked, “Girl, what’s up? That didn’t sound like such a happy sigh.”

“Nothing,” Jess denied.

“I know you better than that,” Pansy said as she leaned in towards Jess, and gave her a side-hug.

“His ex from Harvard contacted and met with him some time ago,” Jess explained, a tight feeling coming back in her gut.

“Don’t tell me he cheated on you! I’m gonna go and kick his ass back to Houston,” Pansy exclaimed.

“No, no. He would never… she kissed him, that’s all.” Jess said.

“It takes two pairs of lips to make a kiss.” Pansy deadpanned with her eyebrow raised.

“It caught him by surprise and he didn’t kiss her back.  He told me that he no longer has feelings for her,” Jess defended. “He told me everything when I came by his room yesterday.”

“And you’re okay with this?” Pansy asked.

“Yes. Not totally. I don’t know,” Jess answered honestly.  Her eyes still followed Jeremy’s movements on the floor of MSG. His eyes would occasionally flit towards their position, just to check if she was still there. “I still need to talk with him about it.  It kind of blind-sided me a bit yesterday.”

“He’s staying over tonight?”

“Yeah,” Jess replied. “There’ll be time to settle this tonight.”

Pansy looked at Jess.  She is worried.  Jeremy is a great guy, but experience has taught her that even the best of guys can fall for temptation.  Jess does not deserve feeling this awful.

It has been a strange day – more so a strange evening.  Part of him had missed New York, but he just realized that what he missed most was Jess.  As the cab he hired drove from MSG to where she lived, Jeremy could not help but reminisce.  It felt like it was only yesterday, yet it also felt like Linsanity happened ages ago.

“Great game,” the cabbie suddenly commented.

“Er… thanks,” Jeremy answered with a little smile.

“I’m not happy about you beating my boys, but I was a big fan when you were still with us. Dolan messed up,” the man continued.  “Hope Houston is treating you well.”

“Yes,” Jeremy replied as the cab pulled to a halt in front of Jess’ address.

Just before he got out, Jeremy heard the man say, “Good luck, man.”

“Thank you once again,” he replied, “Merry Christmas.”

Surveying Jess’ apartment building and looking up at her lit windows, Jeremy took a deep breath.  Jess had been calm when he told her about meeting Grace and the kiss she gave him, but something felt off.  He could not put a finger on it.  Their time together last night had been brief, because of early morning training and the game, but tonight they have the time.  The team won’t be leaving the city until the next game, so he’s spending the night at Jess’ and will meet the team at the airport the next day.

“Hey there,” Jess called from her position on the couch as he locked himself into her apartment.  She was nursing a mug of her usual tea, the flicker of the flames from her fireplace reflected on her face.

“I love you,” he murmured as he gathered her into an embrace.

“I love you, too,” Jess answered.

Jeremy pulled back, apprehension written on his face, “I can hear a but in there somewhere.”

“I… ugh, how do I even begin…” Jess started.

“Is this about what I told you last night?” he asked.

“Why would you think it’s about that?” she countered.

“Well, something felt off when you left the hotel,” Jeremy explained. “You weren’t upset nor angry, but you didn’t look happy either.”

“I’m not,” Jess said and looked him straight in the eyes.

Silence filled the room for a few minutes.

“What do you mean?” Jeremy finally asked.

“I hate being that kind of girlfriend – the kind that gets jealous or insecure.  I hate doubting you, but I did after last night.”

“I’ve already told you…” he interrupted her.

“Wait. Let me finish.” Jess said. When Jeremy fell silent, she pushed on, “I love you. That hasn’t changed.”  She lifted a hand to run down his cheek.  Jess buried her head on his shoulder.  “I’m afraid that she has the power to take you away from me.  I don’t care about the fans of yours who fawn at you and scream out your name like a rockstar during games.”

Jeremy snorts at that. “Grace is the only one I know who has been able to get close to you – like I do.  I wasn’t there for you when you were in Harvard.  She was.  She had a part of you, which I didn’t and could never have.  I hate that.”

Jeremy listened intently, trying to understand what she was saying.  He still held her in his arms, unable to let go.

“How can I ever compete with that? With her knowing you that well during a time I wasn’t there?  It must seem immature and juvenile…” she sighed.

“No,” Jeremy insisted. “No, don’t think that. You can tell me anything and everything, Jess. That’s what makes us us. I never had that with Grace.  She was not a bad girlfriend; she was a good friend, though.   But she will never be you.”

He rocked her in his arms, stroking a hand down her back.  Jeremy could feel her tension and sadness slowly drain away.

“I love you so much,” he whispered while putting a soft kiss against her forehead. “You are a huge part of me – a part I definitely do not want to lose. I am so sorry for making you feel like this, Squirt.”

“’S’okay,” Jess murmured.

They sat there for a while – for how long, Jeremy did not really care.

“Jess?” he finally whispered.

“Yeah?” she whispered back.

“I need to give you your Christmas gift, before I forget.”

“Hmm… I have yours as well,” she said.

They reluctantly let each go.  Jeremy took the small box out of his bag.  Karin had helped have it delivered to his hotel yesterday.

“Jer, your gift is in here,” he heard from Jess’ bedroom.

The sight that met him took his breath away.  Against the stark white bedspread, Jess half sat with a small box in her hand.  That wasn’t what made his heartbeat jump – it was what Jess had on.

It wasn’t the most risque of outfits – just a simple red slip with red lace bordering the soft curve of her breasts.  The red silk ended just below Jess’ thigh giving him a view of her long legs and pale skin.  Thin straps rested against her bare shoulders.

“Which one is my gift?” Jeremy asked, his voice embarrassingly hoarse from surprise.

“All you need to do is come and get it,” she smiled.

Jeremy put Jess’ gift on her vanity.  He never took his eyes from her – as he began to take off his clothes, he let his gaze roam from her glistening eyes down to her red lips currently curved into a challenging smirk, onwards down her body.  Jess began to blush, the color spreading on her face.

He was down to his boxers when he reached the end of her bed. His fingers grazed her feet and sent shivers up Jess’ leg.  She bit on her lower lip to stop herself from flinching.

“I’m gonna need to unpack my gift, right?” he teased even as his fingers lingered on the lacey edge skimming her thighs.

“This,” she answered, while she shook the little box on her right hand, “you have to wait for Christmas to unpack.”

“Awesome,” Jeremy chuckled, as he lowered his head to give her lips quick kisses.  Jess tried to catch his lips, but he was having none of it.  When he finally pressed against her to deepen a kiss, she moaned with satisfaction.

“Been too long,” he complained even as he moved kisses against her cheek and down her smooth neck to rest against the junction of her throat and left shoulder.  He could feel Jess shiver when he sucked at the spot.

“Ugh… gonna have a hickey tomorrow,” she groaned.

“Good,” he muttered against her skin, still intent on sucking and kissing.

Jess raked her blunt nails down his back and enjoyed the feel of Jeremy’s firm muscles as they rippled against her touch.

“Mine,” she said with conviction.

“Yours,” he whispered against her lips.

Jeremy’s large hands were tender and teasing against her skin as he carefully slipped the piece of silk off Jess.  He did it with reverence and took his time to feel every inch of her.  When his long fingers swept by her thigh, Jess arched against his hand at the sensation. His long fingers were pushing her to the brink now.  Jess tugged at the waist band of his boxers, impatient to feel his skin against hers. When their thighs rubbed flush together, moans filled the room, which sound that came from whom indiscernible.

Jeremy held Jess’ gaze even as he linked them together in the most intimate of ways. He didn’t really need to say anything.  It was like a dance, primal yet graceful. Jess held on, her nails digging into his shoulders. He was as beautiful in total abandonment and lack of control as he was when he made his way down the court.

And this beautiful man was all hers.

Authors’ note:  If you’re curious, this is what Jess is giving Jeremy for Christmas.  Jeremy chose this for Jess.