Winter Comes Early


Derek Morgan stood on the porch with a cup of coffee. Tomorrow was Thanksgiving and he had a lot to be thankful for this year. His family was happy and healthy back in Chicago. His friends back home and in Washington DC were all doing well. And his new friends here in the Sierra's made it though another crisis. Jesse and Matt made it up to Coral Ridge Ranch late the day before and found Charlotte Coral in her safe room shaken up but in okay shape. He wished he could say that for Colby. Matt found him in the barn, beaten and left for dead. Shep did all he could but the man had been too far gone. Jesse decided he would take his old friends wife in over the holiday and try to find a suitable home for her come Monday.

The High Mountain Rangers and the Sheriff's department along with the FBI will start searching the Ranch next week to see what they can turn up. It'll take a lot to get up there since the road was taken out by the avalanche. It would be spring before the drug lab would be uncovered. Matt estimated six feet of new snow fell after Cody had taken Jess and himself off the mountain Sunday. Derek shook his head. Had it only been three short days ago he's awoke in the snowy paradise with Jess. Voices behind him broke him out of his thoughts. The Hawkes men dressed in warm coats and snow gear came to him.

"You ready city boy?" Jesse asked with a smile. The smile Derek had learned was much like his son's, full of mischief and humor.

"Ready for what?" He looked over Jesse's head to his somewhat taller offspring, hopping they would clue him in on what their father was up to. They both had that same wicked smile.

"To catch us a turkey or two. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving you know."

"Catch a turkey. Like go out into the woods and shoot it?"

"Yeah, it's the only way around here. There's no big chain food store with a thousand frozen birds just waiting to be thawed. We do it the way the pilgrims did it." Jesse's smile grew bigger as Derek's eyes widened. He handed Derek a shotgun and his coat.

"Jesse, I never really hunted much I mean my dad took me to Wisconsin a couple of times deer hunting but we never really caught anything."

"You shoot at bad guys for a living; this will be so much simpler. Cody spotted a flock of turkeys near Angel's Camp." Cody bit his lower lip trying not to laugh at the look on Derek's face. Jesse couldn't do it any longer. The younger man looked totally stressed out. "I'm just pulling your leg son." He hit Derek on the shoulder. "Sarah picked up some fresh turkeys in town. Why don't you ride down with the boys and pick them up." Jesse turned laughing all the way into the house.

"You two let him make me think I had to shoot dinner?" Matt smiled.

"You should have seen the look on your face man. To have a camera at that moment, it was priceless." Cody took his keys out of his pocket.

"Let's go get the turkeys from my garage before Bailey and his family decides to come down the mountain again and share dinner with us." The three men headed for Cody's truck.


Cody watched his sister hold his son in her good arm. She was talking softly to him like she had been doing for more then an hour. Colton had grown found of his aunt's voice. He would look at her and listen like whatever story she was telling was the best ever told. Cody knew the boy was sleeping now but Jess kept spinning stories of all the adventures the boy would have on the mountain with his brother and sister.

"You're the only one who can get him to sleep lately."

"I think he takes after you. I could always put you to sleep with my ramblings." Cody laughed and sat next to his sister.

"I did like falling asleep while you talked about the things we did that day. But there were days you'd go on and on."

"Can I tell you something?"

"You know you can tell me anything Jess."

"I never wanted to fall asleep back then. I was afraid I would wake up and I'd be back in L.A. with my parents." She looked at the little boy in her arms. "I was afraid if I fell asleep you and Matt and mom and dad would be taken away from me." Cody put his arm around his sister and hugged her close.

"That would never happen Jess. Not then and not now." Right then he knew it what she was feeling. The winters had been hard when she left. Her parents never really connecting with her like the Hawkes had. Now Derek would be leaving soon and she didn't want to feel that same way again. "He's coming back Jess. He'll always come back."

"You don't know that Cody." Jess let a tear fall.

"But I do." Matt came in from the kitchen. He went and knelt down in front of Jess. "He told me as soon as he can he's transferring out here Jess. Derek Morgan is so in love with you little sister he can't see beyond it." Matt looked at his nephew laying in his sisters arms. "I think before too long you'll be holding babies of your own." Jess looked into her brother's intense blue eyes. He was right; she knew Derek was just as much in love with her as she was with him. It still scared her. "Love is scary Jess." Matt stood up. "It wouldn't be such a great ride if it wasn't." Both his younger siblings looked up at him. Cody raised his eyebrows. "I know, I should talk, but I do know that when love is right you can't deny it."

"Matt's right Jess. I've pretty much met all the men you've dated and this one's a keeper baby sister." Jess looked at her brothers.

"How did you two get so smart?" Jesse was standing in the door way.

"Genetics." He laughed. "Come on you two there's wood to chop if your mother wants to smoke these turkeys before tomorrow." Cody took his son from his sister and laid him in his cradle and helped Jess off the couch. He hugged her close.

"We won't let you mess this up Jess. We got your back." He smiled and kissed the top of her head and headed outside to chop wood with his father and brother.


Matt was sitting in front of the fire. It was late and he was on call till morning but damn he couldn't keep his eyes open for anything. Robin handed him a cup of coffee.

"You're a mind reader." He took the cup from her. "You're not on tonight."

"I know. I'm off till tomorrow night."

"You coming to dinner at my parents?"

"Yeah, Jackie invited me. I just got back from delivering my Swedish Toscas." Matt closed his eyes.

"You made Toscas. Who needs turkey?"

"You didn't say that the first year I made them." Matt laughed.

"You've gotten slightly better at making them." He turned and looked at her. "Thank you for staying here with us and not going back to Sweden when your parents died. I know it was hard."

"My brother's ran the lodge for ten years without me. This is my home now." Matt looked at his friend of over twenty years. He never thought of her as more then a friend but tonight with everything that had been going on around them he wondered what it would be like to kiss her. "What?" She looked at him. He shook the thought out of his head.

"Nothing. Thanks for the coffee."

"Anytime boss man." She stood up. "I'll see you in the morning." She started walking out the door and turned. "And Matt if ever that thought should pass though that thick scull of yours again…act on it. Because the chance might never come around again." She smiled and headed out the door. Matt smiled and closed his eyes again. Him and Robin. Wow, what a thought.


Jess was in bed when Derek came from helping Jesse move some tables from the garage. It wasn't late but the last few days had taken a lot out of them. Derek got undressed and slid under the big down comforter and snuggled next to the warm body on the other side.

"You're cold Morgan."

"Blame your father. He had my hauling tables in and out of that damn cold garage of his."

"MMM but tomorrow you'll be his hero and his sons will get the evil eye." Jess smiled in the dark. "I'm sure you'd rather be home with your family for Thanksgiving."

"I am." He said softly. "I called my mom and she's got my sister's and their families. I promised I'd bring you to New Year's Eve and she was thrilled. You're my family too now Jess."

"It's only been…."

"A life time baby. I know you're scared, so am I." He kissed the back of her neck. "This is right where I want to be Jess. Right here with you. In the snow and in this bed. I want to be with you." Closing his eyes he held her as close as he could. "Don't ever think I want to be any place else but where you are." Soon they were both asleep. Jess didn't care what morning brought all she cared about were the words he told her as she drifted off to sleep.


Cody sat on the sofa reading a story to Ava as Sarah nursed Dylan. He was content at this moment. The only thing that would make his world complete is if Matt found a woman and settled down. Jess was happy; his parents were in heaven with the birth of the twins. He couldn't be happier if he tried. Now it was time to get Matt off his butt and find someone to spend the rest of his life with. Ava's head nodded and Cody knew she was down for the count. He stood and lifted her up and carried her up to her room. Covering her up with the quilt his grandmother had made his dad a million years ago. It was her favorite. He heard Sarah putting Dylan to bed. He waited for her in Ava's room.

"Both asleep. I think we need to hire your sister to be Colton's nanny."

"Not dangerous enough for her." Sarah kissed Ava good night.

"Let her try and change his diaper without get nailed." Cody chuckled.

"Pretty soon she'll be to busy having babies of her own."

"You think so huh?" Sarah hugged him and looked into his eyes. "I like Derek. He's good for all of you." Cody kissed his wife.

"Now if we can find a woman compatible with my moron brother we may have a fight chance of keeping this mountain out of harms way." Sarah smiled.

"You, Cody Hawkes, are some piece of work, you know that?"

"That's why you love me Sarah Hawkes. Let's take this to bed. I'm beat." Cody lifted his wife in his arms and swung her though the door to their bedroom.


Jesse Hawkes stood at the head table in the conference room of the Ranger Station surrounded by food, friends, and family. He looked at the faces in front of him and smiled. He said a prayer then before he sat down he raised his glass.

"This year has been a rough one. We've dealt with a lot of things and though it all we've stuck together. I just want you all to know that I'm thankful to each and everyone of you for what you've accomplished in the last year. Also I'm thankful for my beautiful wife who needs to stop cooking for me before I'm not able to leave the couch." Jess coughed and took a drink from her water as her father glared at her. "And my three children whom have given me everyone of my gray hairs and the man and women who love them. And to all our friends who grace us with there presents today and everyday. Thank you all. Now let's eat." A cheer came from the table and they all began to enjoy the food and the company that surrounded them all. Because all too soon the phones would ring and the snow would fall and the mountain would yet again befall another crisis on the Hawkes family and The High Mountain Rangers.