Christmas Mountain

Chapter Ten

Derek set a cup of coffee on Cody's desk. Cody looked up.

"You're not on the payroll yet. You shouldn't be working so hard."

"I find it hard to be idle lately."

"How's my sister?"

"Taking a nap before dinner."

"I can't believe I suck my foot in my mouth that way."

"You didn't mean anything by it Cody." Derek sat across from him. "She's not going to take things like she used to."

"Word of warning." He showed Derek a scar on the top of his hand. "I used the words raging hormones when Sarah was pregnant and she threw a ski boot at me. The binding nearly ripped my hand off." Derek smiled.

"I'll remember that." He looked at his fiancé's brother. "Do you think something happened at boarding school? It kind of freaked her out earlier when we we're talking about her birth parents."

"Jess talked about the McCormick's?"

"A little. Just enough to know she wasn't happy when she was with them."

"You must be something special. She never talks about her time with her parents. Ever. Even when we were kids. I knew about the boarding schools and the nanny's but nothing more. When she came in June there was always dark circles under her eyes and when she left in August she looked like a different kid."

"Why did the McCormick's even have a child if they were going to send her away?"

"I guess we'll never know. I'm just glad they did."

"Jess turned out okay."

"We're all a little messed up." Cody looked into the kitchen. "Now if we can get Matt married before he's fifty we'll have it made."

"Stranger things have happened." Derek laughed.

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Jess poured herself a cup of tea and went to Matt's office. He was staring into space and looked as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"Penny for your thoughts." He looked at her.

"I thought you were sleeping."

"I got thirsty."

"Jess we need to talk."

"Five words I long to here." She rolled her eyes. He handed her an envelope. "My walking papers?"

"Never in a million years Jess." She put her cup down and took the long white object in her hand.

"Why all the secrecy?"

"It's an envelope Jess. Just and envelope." She took his letter opener out of his pen cup and slit it open. Taking her time returning the opener she watched Matt. There was one of those storms brewing in his eyes again. The ones Jess wasn't ever prepared for. She took the paper out.

"It's a check. Payday's not for another week." She looked at the amount. "Seems someone put a few too many zeros." Jess looked at her brother. "Matt this is a check for five million dollars."

"Yeah. I got it in the mail yesterday."

"You got it? Why did you get a check to me for five million dollars?"

"The year Lincoln Coral died he called me up to his place to have some words. Tell me what he thought of his no good daughter. He asked me what he could do. I told him nothing. That fall his lawyer sent me paperwork of a trust in your name. I was to give it to you when the time was right." He stood up and went to the edge of his desk and looked at his sister. "It was in an interest barring account. "

"You mean this is a payoff from the Corals?"

"A settlement I guess is the right word." She looked at Matt. Derek was in the kitchen talking to Cody.

"Give me a few minutes." She set the check on the desk and went to the kitchen. "Cody could you leave us alone please." Cody looked at his sister then at Derek.

"Not if you're going to do something stupid."

"Maybe I am but it has nothing to do with you. Please Cody." He picked up his cup and walk out of the room. Jess sat down in front of Derek. "I need to tell you something."

"It's been a long week of telling secrets Jess. I don't know if I can take much more." She smiled.

"It's really not a bad thing." Taking her good hand she reached and held his. "When the McCormick's died they owned a law firm in LA. They were smart people with good business sense. I had a college fund and an insurance settlement. The Hawkes got a monthly check till I was eighteen but Dad always deposited in my college fund even before they adopted me."

"Jess, where are we going with this?"

"Between my overabundance in my college fund, my the insurance check, and the inherence I got on my twenty fifth birthday I was pretty comfortable. The only time I paid rent was when I was in DC and now and then when Cody would take it from me. I lived here or at my parents. I drive a company car, my health insurance gets paid." She looked at him. "Cody made some sound investments for me the past few years that have held and are pretty much recession proof."

"In other words you have a little money?" He smiled.

"Understatement, but yes Derek I have some money." She looked at him. "Now I got a check from Lincoln Coral. Matt said he felt guilty about Letta killing the McCormick's."

"I still don't get why your telling me all this."

"I don't want Coral's money. I don't need Coral's money. I want to give it back to the people who made me what I am. The Hawkes won't take the money but I know if I gave to Matt for the department he would take it."

"For the Rangers? Jess that's a great idea. It's your money baby, Do what you want with it."

"Five million dollar's will cut Matt's scrapping and skimping when our budget swells like it did this year." Derek's eyes got wide.

"Five million. Wow, I mean you said the Coral's had money."

"It started out smaller Matt said. Are you okay with this?"

"Why wouldn't I be? You're not only helping your family, your helping this mountain." Jess stood up and leaned over and kissed him.

"Thank you." She walked back into Matt's office and took the check off the desk. Cody was sitting across from Matt when she handed it back to him signed. Matt looked at it.

"Jess, I can't"

"It's mine to do what I want. I want this." She glared at him in a way that dared her to argue.

"Jess, all of it? Are you sure?" She looked at her brothers.

"I have everything I want right here. Cody knows I have enough to keep me in skis and snowboards for the next fifty years and then some."

"You have a wedding, honeymoon, a baby on the way Jess."

"It's covered big brother. I promise. And a few other things too." Cody had yet to find out she started college funds for his children. "Take it. Matt I don't ever want this team to worry about how to fund the next rescue. Think of it as investing in the family business. This will stop that from happing for a very long time. Please. This team means everything to all of us. Let me do this." He looked at her.

"There's taking one for the team Jess but…five million dollars." Cody choked on the mouthful of coffee in his mouth. He coughed and sputtered. "Breath Toad." Matt laughed.

"I want this Matt. I want to know that there are no worries when it comes to funding. If I can take that one worry off your shoulders Matt, let me." Cody looked at Jess.

"You just happen to have five million dollars lying around?" He knew she had money. Hell he knew what she had down to the fifty-seven cents she had on top of her dresser but five million dollars isn't something your keep in your sock drawer.

"Letta's dad left it for me. Gilt money." Cody looked at her. Now he understood.

"Jess I don't know what to say." He came around the desk. "One last time to change your mind." He looked at her.

"It's a done deal." She stood up. "I'm sure Lincoln Coral would like to know his money is helping the Rangers." Matt hugged her.

"You know there are other places you could go with this money Jess."

"None that I trust as much as this family." She stepped back. "I'll see you at moms." Jess left the room. Cody looked at Matt.

"Five million dollars? Coral gave up that kind of money for Letta?"

"It was only three, but I took your advice a few years back and invested it."

"You took my advice. I should write this down." Cody laughed.

"You such a brat. I can't believe she's just hand it over to me like that."

"She said it's an investment in the family business." Cody stood up. "More family's coming big brother. She knows a good investment when she sees one. Now let's see where the investment takes us. See you at moms." He walked out leaving Matt alone with his thoughts.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

Jess sat curled up on her parents couch with a cup of hot chocolate. It was quiet now but in less then hour the house would be overflowing with people.

"Jess?" Flynn sat next to her. "How's things?" Jess smiled. Benjamin Flynn had gone to high school with her and Cody. He had always been Benji to them but to everyone else he was Flynn.

"It's all good."

"I like the new man Jess. He's a keeper." He took a swig from his bottle of beer.

"I'm glad you approve."

"I didn't always you know?" She knew Flynn had hated that Cutler took advantage of her so many years ago.

"I know. You always had my back Benji." She looked at her friend. "How have you been?"

"You know me. Snowboards and ski bunnies." Jess knew that was all a bunch a bull. He had a master's degree in criminology and an IQ of almost two hundred.

"When are you going to settle down?"

"The key word in that phrase is settle Jess. I will not settle."

"I know you have your standards." She laughed. Derek came into the room.

"Are you making time with my woman Flynn?" He sat on the arm of the couch next to Jess.

"Maybe back in her younger days but man has she gone down hill lately, with gunshot wounds and joints popping out of place. You my new friend can have this one. I am looking for something a tad newer and a few less miles." Jess kicked him. "Hey be nice. Or I'll start sharing starting from the eight grade." Flynn got up. "I'm going to see if Jackie needs a taste tester.

"You do that Benji and keep the eighth grade to yourself." Flynn went into the kitchen. "Hi." Jess looked at Derek.

"Hi." He slid down next to her and took her in his lap. "You ready for this?" He looked into her eyes.

"You know you don't have to do this Derek. These people like you; you don't have to make a speech." He kissed her.

"I know. I like telling the world I love you." Jess smiled. "This is your family and I want to share how much I love you with them Jess."

"You're scaring me Derek."

"There's nothing to be scared of baby." He kissed her again.

"Oh come on its bad enough I can't look at the couch because of mom and dad. Now you two." Matt came in and dropped down on the chair.

"Sorry Matt. How was the rest of your day?"

"Long and really boring. If it wasn't for those skiers going off course it would have been a really long day."

"We're in for a lot of those until Christmas break." She snuggled closer to Derek. "And it's getting colder."

"Well you'll have lots to do. You need to get that paperwork on the dogs in." Jess closed her eyes.

"I'm so sorry Matt. I just flaked on that."

"You had a lot going on the last few days. You kind of made it up to me with that check." She smiled.

"I didn't give it to you to so I could get away with slacking Matt." Cody came in.

"Yes she did." He sat down next to Jess and Derek. "She'll remind you with every crappy assignment you give her." Jess kicked him.

"You're walking on thin ice mister, I'd watch my mouth if I were you." He glared at her.

"Just wait. One day you'll forget about that and I'll be waiting." He laughed. "So you two making some big announcements tonight?"

"Maybe. Why?"

"Mom's crying." Jess looked at him. "It's happy tears, I think." Jess pushed herself up off Derek and went into the kitchen.

"Mom?" The five other people in the kitchen scatted. Her mother turned her eyes rimmed red. "I guess I forgot to tell you something when I got here." Jackie walked to her and hugged her tight.

"I know. I…I'm so happy for you baby. Robin just let it slip. I know Derek wanted to tell me at dinner." She pushed her daughter away. "Are you happy Jess?"

"Then I ever thought I would be mom." Derek came in.

"Everything okay in here ladies?" Jackie looked up.

"Come here." He walked over to Jess's mom. She hugged him close. "You take care of my baby girl Derek." He hugged her back.

"You know I will Jackie." He took a step back. "I love your daughter. I promise I will take care of her till the day I die." Jess smiled.

"Or till the day I drive him completely insane." She looked at her mom. "You deserve to here what else we have to say before anyone else too mom." Jackie looked at her daughter. "I'm also pregnant mom."

"Well I already knew that Jesse Lynne. The mood swings alone would make anyone wonder." She went back to the stove. Jess looked at Derek. He shrugged his shoulders.

"You need any help mom?"

"You set the table. Derek go downstairs and get two bottles of wine from the far left hand shelf."

"Yes mam." They both said and headed off in opposite directions.

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The table was set and everyone was sitting down. The food was on the table and Jesse Hawkes stood up. He looked at his daughter sitting next to his oldest son and smiled.

"Jess and Derek have a few things to say but before I turn it over to them I would like to thank each and every one of you for a job well done the last few weeks. I know Matt has told all what a good job you've done but backing up my three children deserves an extra thank you." He raised his glass. "Thank you all for everything you do" He looked at Derek. "You're up son." He smiled and stood up.

"Ah, I really had what I was going to say all prepared and then…well it just didn't seem enough. Eight weeks ago I came here thinking I was going to do my job and get out before I froze to death. I met some amazing people that week. I also met one incredible woman." He looked at Jess. "I was never a believer in love at first sight but the first time I saw Jess she took my breath away. I knew then I was in trouble. The next few hours kind of clenched for me. When you get chased by a half ton bear, nearly blown up and repel down a face of a mountain together, you realize what's important. I asked Jess to marry me today and she said yes." Cheers and congratulations were delivered form around the table. Jess smiled when Derek sat down. He kissed and she stood up.

"Bet you can't guess why I said yes?" She looked at her parents. "I was…really scared when I fell in love with Derek. But then I realized that I was surrounded by my family and friends who taught me that love wasn't something to be scared of. You all helped realize that. Thank you. "She went to sit and Derek looked at her. "OH yeah…one more thing. I'm pregnant." She sat down and the table was silent. Then more cheers rang out. Jess took Derek's hand in hers. It was going to be a long night.