Matt drove to Houston Enterprises headquarters in downtown and parked in the garage. It had been reconstructed after the explosion had ripped it apart months ago. He hadn't been there when it happened and for once he hadn't been the target. It had been his former friend Scott Prescow who had been targeted by Duval who had anticipated his betrayal.
Prescow had survived several attempts on his miserable life and was locked up under protective custody in a federal holding facility awaiting trial. Chris' husband, Dan who had been badly hurt in that explosion instead had fully recovered from his injuries and had been working hard to make his security firm a success. He'd asked Matt to work with him and Matt had been tempted by the offer to partner in but he still had his own agency and life back in L.A.
Only he found himself trying to make excuses not to go back to that life. He had stayed in Houston to recover from his injuries and had stayed with C.J. They'd spent the past couple months on the run together hiding out in different corners of the world. Been through so much more in those months than they had in their lives…not that it had been easy with the danger that pursued them and the demons that haunted the woman who was his closest friend…
The woman he loved more than any other, something he'd figured out a lot later than he should have done. He'd been on his way back to L.A. to tell her that before all hell broke loose.
After parking his car, he walked to the elevator and took it to the office where Chris waited for him with a stack of briefs for them to review with Murray. They had to file a bunch of paperwork in court tying in with a couple patents on products created by one of their subsidiary companies. A couple of hours of work and then he'd take his conference call.
"I think this is the worst of it," Chris said, "You want some coffee?"
He nodded and she got him some of that Espresso in a cup before Murray walked into join them with his own stack of files. Between the two of them, Matt felt he'd been traveling light.
Murray sighed heavily.
"We'd better get started."
And so they did, going through each file in each stack with a fine tooth comb…Matt really didn't have any questions but listened as both Chris and Murray presented the strong points alongside the weaknesses.
Matt paid attention to most of it but he found his thoughts returning to C.J. He knew that she had one of her sessions with the therapist and that she'd been a little on edge this morning because of it. He'd been through intensive counseling himself to deal with traumatic incidents in his life. His father had made it clear to him that looking for help didn't make him ineffective or weak and he always would have him his support.
He knew a little of what she was going through, how emotions could turn so quickly on a dime from happiness to intense fear, not to mention flashbacks that popped up unexpectedly and dreams that haunted at night. He knew all about the isolation and did all he could to let her know he was right there with her but he knew that there were integral parts of healing she had to do on her own.
"Houston…we're almost done."
He blinked his eyes and saw Chris smiling at him.
She shrugged, picking up some files.
"It's all right," she said, "It's Valentine's Day after all, so I think more than a few minds are elsewhere."
He smiled back at her.
"You and Dan doing anything special…?"
"Dinner and dancing at the Marina…what about you…?"
He sipped his coffee.
"C.J and I thought we'd try that new barbecue place."
"Yes… I heard it's great," she said, "You should go out and have some fun. It's been an intense few weeks."
Matt looked at his cup.
"When you heading back?"
Chris put one of her hands on top of Matt's.
"She'll be okay…she's got us," she said, "and we're all looking after her."
"It's tough to go back but I've got a lot waiting for me," he said, "Uncle Roy and Will have been working hard keeping up with the workload and handling the cases…"
"Just don't be a stranger Matt," she said, "We all miss you out here."
He picked up his empty coffee cup and tossed it in the trash before they both left the conference room.
C.J. arrived at the restaurant to meet up with Chris and Rhonda. She'd been able to drive with her cast but she felt drained from her therapy appointment. Diane had her go through her history and she'd struggled with talking about her father's death and didn't know why.
She'd come to terms with it years ago even though she never completely stopped missing him…and her mother. But when she'd gotten to the part of talking about his death in a car bomb explosion, she had frozen and been transported back to when she'd been a little girl whose daddy didn't come home one day. Her mother fighting back her own tears as she tried to explain it to her in words she'd understand.
The permanence of it took longer to set in.
Diane had been patient until she found her words and continued her story but why had she stumbled a part of her life she put behind her? She knew it had to be a way of not thinking about her more recent past. But Diane had told her that there was no rush to talk about anything. She wanted them to start building a foundation first beginning in childhood.
But it had gotten off to a rough start. Now she just wanted to forget about it and relax with her friends. Actually she wanted to put on a pair of running shoes and take off to do her 10 miles like she had on the island. Instead she parked her car and walked up to the entrance of the restaurant.
Chris and Rhonda were laughing at the table when she walked in. She slid in the booth next to Chris. They both looked at her.
"How'd it go?"
C.J. sipped from her water glass.
"It went…Diane's really nice but I'm not sure I'm good at this."
"You'll do fine…it's always rough in the beginning but after you start to relax, it'll help you…to talk about it."
C.J. supposed she was right, she just didn't feel like it right now, but there were areas of her life she couldn't touch right now.
"So what are you both doing for Valentine's Day?"
Anything to change the subject and both women brightened. Chris smiled.
"I'm going out with Dan to the Marina," she said, "We…you know…we've been trying to start a family…"
Rhonda nodded her approval.
"You'll have great kids…Jonathan's flying in later and we're just going to hang out together at my place."
"That sounds like a plan."
"What about you," Rhonda asked, "you and Matt?"
"He wants to go out to dinner but I'm not sure…"
Chris glanced at Rhonda.
"You should go C.J. You'll have a great time," she said, "You always do together when life gives you both a chance…"
C.J. rubbed the back of her neck.
"I do want to go…but the whole holiday…it's about romance isn't it?"
"Not necessarily," she said, "It's about all kinds of love including friendship."
"Yeah and you've been best friends forever right?"
C.J. knew that she'd loved Matt more than anyone else but still…but she knew how much he'd wanted to spend time with her before he left to go back to L.A.
She didn't want him to leave but knew she couldn't ever tell him that…so what could she tell him instead?