It's a beautiful fall day on a ranch in present-day California.
There's a twenty-four-year old woman riding on a horse. There's also plenty of dust. There's another man riding a horse nearby.
"I thought you said this was fun?" he quipped.
She seemed to ignore him and kept on riding until they reached the barn. She dismounted and helped her friend of his horse as well.
"You all ready for the bar?"
"I guess so."
"You guess so?" Andie just did not seem like she wanted to talk. Leo followed into the barn as she returned the horses."You seem a little preoccupied. Something on your mind?"
"No, just in need of some open air after being cooped up with boring law books and classes for months at a time."
"I missed you Andie." Leo tries to kiss her but Andie turns away and gives her attention to her horse instead.
"You know what I think? I think you have split personality. I mean one second you're calling me at midnight telling me hop over here, that you couldn't wait to see me, and when I get here you're distant and practically mute. What's going on?" Andie bends down to take off her boots and tries to trip her friend but she ends up in a mud puddle instead. Leo extends a hand to help her but she pushes him away and marches toward the house.
From inside the house CJ is peering out the window and sees all this. Hearing her laugh, Matt comes over and glances over her shoulder.
"Those two at it again?"
CJ just shakes her head. "They remind you of anyone?"
Matt turns her around with his hands on her waist, catches her eyes and draws his hips closer to hers. About to kiss her, Andie bounds in the room "You two at it again!"
He glances for a moment then ignores her and finishes the kiss. With a there's-more-for-you-later look he leaves his wife's grasp and walks over to Andie, scoops her up and swings her around the room.
"Hey sweetheart! When did you get in?"
"About 2 hours ago. I just had to get out and go riding though."
"I see you and Leo have been torturing each other again?"
"Dad! Stop looking at me that way. We're just friends. Really!"
"Uh huh," CJ and Matt say as they nod and wink. "Your talking to the former king and queen of the "we're just friends" club.
Frustrated, Andie says, "I have to change," and leaves the room almost as quickly as she entered.
Turning his attention back to his wife "Now, where were we …"
Matt's hands went back to wife's waist. Her arms locked in place over the back of his neck. They continued their kiss. Nothing had really faded over the nearly 25 years they were married. They had finally found true love with one another, much to the relief of their colleagues and friends.
CJ leaned her head against his chest, just under his chin, "I really should go up and talk to her." And with that CJ went upstairs and left Matt to answer the phone that was ringing.
The Houston ranch where they all lived was really something. Actually, it was an estate with acres and acres of land surrounded by a tall, stately wrought-iron security fence. Multiple bedrooms and guest rooms branched off from the main hallway, which branched off from a huge staircase. Besides their daughter Andie, her twin brother Wade would occasionally reside there when he wasn't on a tour with the military's special forces team. They each had their own quarters which branched off from the house. Their family business dictated that so that they could stay safe yet feel a sense of independence from their parents. There were also several detached guest quarters which were homes unto themselves. One for Bo, Lamar – who helped with various ranch duties, one for a maid, and one for security, since in their line of work and raising a family they have found they had always needed. Down the road a half a mile was the residence of Vince Novelli and his family. They had moved back to California after Mama Rosa passed away almost a dozen years ago. Vince had become a frequent consultant in Houston Investigations.
CJ walked upstairs to her daughter's bedroom, where the door was ajar, and stood in doorway.
"Penny for your thoughts …"
Andie just shot her a look that said "I'm in no mood for talking". CJ walked over and sat on the edge of her bed and insisted, "Now I know something's bothering you? You've been in a funk ever since you arrived this morning. Did your exams go okay? Is it that guy Mark you were seeing at school? Did you have a fight with Leo?"
Andie sat on the bed next to her mother. Still silent, she looked at her folded hands resting on her lap.
"Andrea Madeline Houston. I know you'll feel better if you just talk to me."
Andie knew her mother was smiling as she said this, so she slowly lifted her head and looked her mother in the eyes.
"Why … why do men have to be so difficult?"
CJ almost laughed upon hearing this, but she retained a straight face and thought about the best answer.
"They're usually only difficult when we're caring more about them then they are of us."
Andie was almost taken a back by her mother's directness and stared at her.
"I'm right, aren't I?"
Andie nodded her head and teared slightly, prompting her mother to embrace her. Andie still didn't feel like talking much, especially about herself or the man she had been seeing back at school.
"Mom, you always said some day you and Dad would tell me the whole story of how the two of you finally got married?"
"I thought we told you that story plenty of times?"
"Yeah, but I now that I'm older I want a woman-to-woman version."
Well how about that. Somehow this young girl sitting next to her on the bed was a woman. How the hell did that happen? CJ pondered this request and began thinking.
"Where would you like me to start?"
"Start at the night Daddy broke up with that woman he was engaged to. What was her name?"
"Her name was Elizabeth … she was nice; an attractive woman..."
Andie glared at her mother.
"Okay, okay … so I couldn't stand her. From her red frizzy mop of a hairdo to her oh my god, I hope there's no bad guys following us attitude."
Both women laughed out loud for a few moments, then CJ continued:
"Well, first of all, you have to understand my state of mind before this night. Ever since whats-her-name and your father had become engaged I had spent several nights at home crying my eyes out. I didn't want her around. Yet I wasn't about to tell your father my feelings. I just couldn't do that. About three in the morning that night I get this phone call from our local police. Seems that your father had been picked up for public drunkenness and they wanted to know if I could come bail him out."
"Yes. Before I got the phone call I was feeling relieved that your father did not marry this chick but I was also feeling guilty knowing had bad he was hurting. And then I was pretty annoyed that I was rescuing him from a police station … in the middle of the night no less!"
"So I got dressed, went down to the police station. Arrived there about 5:00AM. You see, I didn't exactly rush."
Andie laughed again.
"Was he happy to see you?"
"Kind of. He was so intoxicated I don't think he even knew where he was. He did seem to respond to my voice when I told him that I was springing from his cell and to follow me to my car."
Andie continued to chuckle, mostly because of the amusing delivery her mother was using.
"Did you take him home?"
"Yes – to his home. He had a beach house in L.A. at that time."
"Did you go inside with him and did he … you know?"
"No! As I was walking him inside the door he turned to me and said the most unexpected thing! He said, "CJ darling, you're always there where I need you. It's like you're my wife yet you let me sleep with all kinds of hot, sexy women whenever I want and I never have to worry ... you'll always be there… you take care of me, do my work for me, clean up after me… and I can just keep stringing you along knowing full well that you have the hots for me!"
"OMG – what did you do!?"
"I reacted irrationally. I didn't care that he was a stumbling, mumbling drunk. I slapped him so hard that he lost his balance and fell. He landed butt first into edge of the stair. I was so angry I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I went back to my house and immediately packed my bags for an emergency vacation."
Just then Matt poked his head in the room.
"Did I hear my name?"
CJ turned towards him and said, "We were just talking. You know woman talk".
Andie rose from the bed suddenly, walked over to her father and slugged him on the shoulder.
"Ow! What was that for?!"
Before Andie could answer, CJ laughed and said "I've been telling her the story about the night I bailed you out of jail for public drunkenness."
"Oh … I still don't remember much about that night."
"Good, then you can leave me to tell this saga on my own."
"As long as I get to add a little of the parts from my point of view later."
Andie agreed. After all, it would only be fair to have the man's point of view.
"By the way, I may need you in the office in a about 20 minutes. Kathy Hoyt called and said she needs BABY and us for a murder investigation. "
"Oh, Okay, I'll watch for her through the closed circuit monitor and then I'll join you."
Matt smiled and walked back downstairs. CJ was still watching him leave as Andie prompted her to return to their conversation.
"So, did you leave?"
"Yes, I packed my bags, then made my way to our downtown office to tell Chris to make flight plans ASAP to Hawaii."
L.A., May, 1985...
Murray Chase has just walked off the elevator into the H.I. penthouse suite.
"Good morning, Chris! Is Matt or CJ in? I need to see them immediately!"
Chris rolled her eyes at the request. "Houston hasn't come in yet or called. CJ was here briefly but took off for some emergency personal time, as she put it."
"Hmm … maybe I should call Houston." Murray dials the phone which rings awhile before Matt picks up. "Hello, Houston …. we have a problem "
"Very funny. Hello Murray."
"Hey, are you okay … you sound a little hung over?"
"I think I'm a lot hung over. Is CJ there?"
"No. I think you just missed her. Chris said she only came in for a few minutes but then took off for a vacation – emergency style … Houston ... are you there?"
"Yeah. I'm here. Look, tell Chris and Uncle Roy that I'm taking the day off. I'll be in tomorrow."
"But I need to you sign the papers for the …"
Matt hung up the phone before Murray could finish and went right to kitchen where he swallowed some aspirin. A though popped in his head as he grimaced at the pain in his backside: now when and how did that happen?
The plane ride itself was what she needed. Time to let her anger go and focus. Matt should take some time, too. Not that she cared. Really. Maybe he should take the time to analyze why he keeps jumping from relationship to relationship without ever committing to a woman who's actually right for him – like a woman who's been by his side for years. Putting up with getting shot, chased after, kidnapped, you name it. How dare he say those things to her! Especially after involving that Elizabeth and all her drama in front of her! Suddenly CJ caught her thoughts and immediately opened a book that she had picked up on her way through the airport.
CJ gazed out her taxi window. Hawaii was so beautiful. The blue water, the rolling hills in the backdrop, the picturesque landscaping. Yes, this was exactly what she needed.
The taxi stopped in a restaurant parking lot. CJ grabbed her suitcases and her purse and headed to hotel that was adjacent to the restaurant. The hotel lobby was breezy, with shutters covering some of the windows and ceramic Italian tile on the floor. What I nice place to be with a lover… if she had one. All she had right now was a friend, or a … what was he now? Oh, yeah … a cad … a playboy. An asshole.
CJ checks in, is escorted to her room and goes about unpacking. A few minutes freshening up in the bathroom is all she needs and before heading towards the restaurant next door.
CJ pokes her head in the door and is immediately greeted by Tony Novelli who runs and jumps in her arms.
At the same time Vince notices her, "CJ!"
"CJ – what brings to you to Hawaii?"
"Just a little vacation Vince. How's Mama?"
"She' great, she's great..." he says as they embrace. "Tony, go get Mama!"
Mama comes into the room, "What, what is it now! Oh, my goodness! CJ! Look at you! What brings you to Hawaii? Is Houston with you?"
"Hi Mama. I'm just here for a little personal time. And, no Houston isn't here."
Mama studied CJ's face carefully and changed her smile into concern.
Vince excused himself and returned to the kitchen. Mama took CJ's hands and sat her down at a corner table.
"Something's wrong. I can see it in your eyes."
CJ didn't respond but instead tried to escape Mama's eyes by looking at her clasped hands on her lap.
"What did he do?"
"Oh, Mama …"
Tears surprised CJ's face as she tried to lift her head up to meet Mama's eyes.
"I don't know what to do …"
"CJ, I love you and Houston like you were my very own. You can tell me anything, ya know?"
CJ knew this and decided to get a motherly perspective on her situation. "Why ... why do men have to be so, so … difficult?"
"Oh, I see. " Mama paused for a moment and searched for the right words. She knew how close Matt and CJ were yet wished for years that they would become more than good friends. "I have a question, for you Miss CJ. How comes you care so much for a man who doesn't give you the same in return?"
CJ was stunned. Mama had a way of getting right to the point. Oh, boy did that smart. CJ chose her response carefully.
"Because him, Roy and Will are like the only family I've got. And, he's always been there for me."
"Yes, but he's always been your friend and you'd like something more. Am I right?"
CJ teared again and nodded her head.
"I see. Well, CJ I'm going to give you the Mama Rosa fool-proof method of snatching a man. You need three things: good looks – which you've got; a man who is interested too – which if you ask me, you've got, and a plan."
"Yes. Listen to me very carefully. You two, you and Matt, are both pretty stubborn, eh?" Just listen to me … listen to me: Okay. He's more stubborn than you. So you're going to have to be patient? Can you do that, eh?"
CJ was listening.
"You have to make him miss you."
And with that CJ suddenly straightened up in her chair. She knew Mama was right.
"You stay here as long as you want. You can hang out with the whole family. I could use the extra help with Vincenzo's wife having baby number five soon. You learn to cook like me and you'll have another gimmick in your bag."
CJ liked that idea. Mama made it all sound so easy. CJ rose from the table and hugged Mama and was suddenly greeted by the rest of the Novelli clan.