By Heather B.
All HMR and Jesse Hawkes characters are property of A Shane Co and Sibling Rivalry. I don't own them. I do own any original characters that are created for this story.
Robin sat at the front desk, watching the rain come down outside the big front window. An updated EMT training manual sat in front of her, open but she was paying no attention to it at the moment. It had been raining for two days almost non-stop and she was sick of seeing the gray skies and dreary looks to everything. There was nothing more depressing than being bored and having soggy scenery to look out upon. She slowly turned her head, looking at everyone in the room, thinking about what the others were doing during this lull.
Tim had the day off and had decided to head to Reno to meet up with a friend who was there for a conference on investigative techniques. Tim didn't say 'who' he was meeting but Robin had a feeling it was an old friend from back home, possibly of the female variety. Robin smiled at that, thinking back to a hint or two that had slipped from Hart's lips when he was talking about going to see his 'old friend'. She hoped he had fun one way or another and he'd have time to relax a little.
Izzy was in the kitchen prepping sandwiches for lunch and setting up a casserole for supper that could hold over if they got called out. She could hear him shuffling around in there, talking to himself, humming a little tune once in awhile and generally being himself. She was just thankful that they had acquired a new coffee maker two months ago. They had shopped for one that even Izzy couldn't screw up the coffee with.
Jim was sprawled out on the couch with his newest romance novel. Robin smirked a little. They all knew for sure now that Jim was a hopeless romantic. Her smirk turned a little sad. Jim couldn't use the excuse that they were for his mother since she had passed away about six months ago. He had been close to his mom, having lost his dad when he was a teenager. He'd become the 'man of the house' for her, helping to take care of his younger brother and sister before going off to college. He'd only gotten his Associates degree before joining the Rangers at the age of nineteen. He'd been here ever since and she was sure there were boxes and boxes of romance novels he'd read over the years since then, stuffed away in a closet somewhere.
Avila was strumming on a second hand guitar he'd picked up a month back, working on his hand dexterity. Three months ago, he'd gotten shot, the bullet having gone through his left hand. He'd only recently been released to go back to work though he'd lost part of his finger dexterity due to the trauma. It didn't keep him from flying though but now they all suffered through his attempts to play. Admittedly, he'd gotten better over the time since he'd returned but it was still painful to listen to at times. Most everyone had learned to ignore him when he was playing.
Matt was nowhere to be seen but that didn't mean he wasn't around. He was hidden away in his office, using the break the weather was providing to get caught up on paperwork and filing reports to the authorities. He was planning on going up the mountain tonight to stay for the weekend with Jesse and Cody, possibly to get some fishing in if the weather cleared up a little. Everyone knew he was looking forward to it so they kept away from his office to give him the peace he needed to get his work done.
Her thoughts would have wandered farther in that direction but the bells on the front door that lead to the little foyer jingled. She looked over to see Clark, their mail carrier enter the enclosed area meant to keep the cold, snow, rain, damp or heat out before entering into the main room via a second door. Clark wiped his feet off as he reached for the second door handle and came inside. She could see Frank and Jim look up at him out of the corner of her eye.
Robin smiled as she stood up, "Hi Clark. Sucky weather, huh…" she stated more than asked.
Clark nodded, his expression guarded. For as long as they had known him, Clark hardly spoke more than a few words, never hung around to chat like previous mail carriers had or the temporaries did that filled in when Clark was gone on vacation or something. He handed a wad of items, wrapped around with a rubber band, to Robin.
"Have a good day," he stated as he nodded to Frank and Jim, then went out the doors, climbing back into his vehicle and driving off.
Robin was surprised by the amount of mail and pulled of the rubber band to let the magazines wrapped around what was inside, flop open. There was a stack of envelopes, most likely bills or junk mail, three magazines and a small box.
She picked up the box and read the label. She raised an eyebrow. "Jim, you've got a package," she stated. Jim hardly ever got mail unless it was something from his brother or sister and that was usually only around the holidays or his birthday. The return address was not from either of the before mentioned.
Jim dog-eared his book and stood up, raising an eyebrow as he wandered over to Robin's desk. He looked at the brown paper wrapped package in her hands, then reached for it. "Who's it from?" he asked.
Robin rolled her eyes, "How am I supposed to know. I don't have x-ray vision you know."
Jim snorted and then flipped the non-descript package over in his hands. The return address wasn't familiar. It had been sent from Cody, Wyoming? Did he know anyone from there? He hadn't ordered anything lately. With a silent shrug he headed back to the couch and flopped down on it before removing the brown paper. Inside was a small brown cardboard box, the kind that had a flap at the top and bottom that you pulled one out to get to the contents.
Robin watched with interest, wondering what he'd gotten and noticed Frank had stopped playing and was watching as well. "Well, what is it?" she asked, unable to contain her curiosity.
Jim looked over his shoulder at her, gave her a deep eye roll and a sigh of exasperation as if to say she was as bad as a kid at Christmas. He turned back and pulled one of the flaps opened. He tipped the box up and felt the spine of a book hit his hand. He pulled it out and looked at it. It was a romance novel.
The title was 'Wild Wilderness' and had a picture of a handsome man standing with his arms around a beautiful, smaller woman, looking out over a canyon. To his surprise, it was from one of his favorite authors, Kathy Thomson. He'd heard she was coming out with a new book and had been keeping his eye out for it in the book rack at the supermarket.
He held it up a little, "It's a book," he stated simply.
"Well who's it from? Did you order it or something?" asked Frank.
Jim shrugged, "I didn't order it and there's no note."
Frank raised an eyebrow and Robin made a frustrated noise. "Did you bother to look inside the front cover?"
Jim looked back at the cover. Something about the scene on the front, hell for that matter, something about the look of the man and woman on the front cover seemed … familiar. He opened the front cover of the paperback and flipped to the inside page. He blinked. There was something written there and it took a moment for his brain to register it.
His eyes read the words then he read them again. He felt his face flush a deep red then heard himself mutter, "Holy crap."
Robin got up as did Frank, having seen Jim's face flush deeply pink then go pale. "Are you all right?" Frank asked, concerned for his teammate.
Jim started, "Uh…yeah, fine," he said, looking suddenly very embarrassed.
Robin reached over the back of the couch and quickly plucked the book from his nerveless fingers. She moved out of Jim's reach as he realized she had taken the book. He'd tried to grab it back from her but hadn't been quick enough.
She opened it to the inside page and saw the writing, reading it aloud for Frank's benefit before Jim could take it from her.
To Ranger Jim Cutler,
I can't tell you how much it meant to me for you to risk your life for me. The time we were stuck together due to the snow storm will always be in my memory. Your kindness, your laugh, my horrible attempt at cooking and the fact that you kept your cool the entire time impressed me more than you know. I find it enduring that you read romance novels, so…I wrote this for you.
Lily Carver, aka 'Kathy Thomson'
Izzy was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, looking between Robin and Jim, seeing how Jim colored again and tried again to grab for the book as Robin kept it out of his reach.
She flipped it over with a wicked smile, sidestepped Jim a little as he got up to pursue her and read the back, "Miss June had always been the hermit of her family, spending more time with her books than with society. Taking a friend up on an offer to do some horseback riding in the mountains, she soon found herself in peril she only thought would be found in the fiction she read. – Ranger Greg Cutter was a no-nonsense man who took his work seriously and was called upon to use his skills to keep June and himself from freezing to death in an early winter snowstorm. This rescue would test their limits physically and emotionally. Will they survive for a happy ending or will their anger and pain push them to endanger their lives for the sake of sanity?"
With howls of laughter, Izzy and Frank clung to each other as they tried to catch their breath. Robin giggled and held the book up over her head in hopes of keeping it out of Jims reach just to torment him and see how red he could get with embarrassment. She owed him for all those times he called her 'Cute Stuff'.
Jim grabbed for the book again, pinching Robin hard on the arm and snatched the book from her grip. He was silent, his jaw set in a hard line as he glared at her in anger. Robin let out a yelp and the look he shot towards her suddenly silenced her and she backed up a step.
Frank and Izzy soon realized that Robin had perhaps gone too far too fast and they parted some, sobering quickly. The laughing and sudden silence brought Matt out of his office, looking in confusion as to what was going on. Robin was getting the look of death from Jim who held a romance book in his hand. Frank and Izzy suddenly looked like little kids who just got caught kicking a puppy. Jim's shoulders were stiff and his spine rigid as he turned on his heel and walked out of the station, very carefully shutting the doors as if afraid he might shatter them in his anger.
Matt looked at the rest of the Rangers. "I hope you guys realize that I've never seen Jim that angry before." He walked over and picked up the plain brown wrapping and box that Jim had left on the couch and folded the paper up, sticking it in the box and taking it to his office with him. He stopped to pick up the mail on his way back to his office and shut the door behind him.
Robin swallowed nervously as she watched Jim walk out, her frightened eyes looking back at Frank and Izzy. What had she just done and why had it affected him so badly?