Caleb – Dale Mayer

BADGER SAT AT the Titanium Corp boardroom table with the whole original crew—Erick, Cade, Talon, Laszlo, Geir, and Jager—which was unusual. Badger said, “Did I just hear that Rowan is coming back to New Mexico with Brandi?” “Yep. The whole crew. Including War Dog Hershey and Brandi’s Lab, Lacey, with her three puppies, which I don’t know if they have names for yet,” Geir said. “Talk about a happy ending.” Talon shook his head. “We’re getting damn good at this, aren’t we?” Badger chuckled. “And trust you to take the credit for something like this,” he said. “What do you mean?” Erick asked. “We’ve all done a hell of a job.” “Maybe so,” Badger said, “but the bottom line is, these couples worked it out themselves, and that’s what matters.” “And the War Dogs get a whole new life,” Cade said. “A whole new life but also a family,” Badger said. “That’s the best part. Not only is Hershey back with Rowan, but Hershey will have a perfect retirement now.


” “We’ll get to see them too,” Kat said, as she walked in. “I’m looking forward to meeting Brandi.” “Why is that?” Jager asked. “She’s into stem cells,” she said. “I want to talk to her about rejuvenating some of the scar tissue at amputation sites.” She gave Badger a sweet, yet sexy, tilt of her head. “You know there could be an awful lot of benefit to having her around.” The men looked at her, as Badger wrapped an arm around his wife, kissed her on the temple, and said, “That’s Kat for you. She always wants to make our lives better.” “Hey, you can’t argue against that,” she said, turning to wrap her arms around him. He reached a hand down and patted her belly. “In case you guys hadn’t heard the news.” Immediately the guys jumped up and gave her hugs. “We’re pretty thrilled,” she said, “but we’ve still got more War Dogs here that need checking up on.” “We do,” Badger said.

“Plus the commander contacted me, and he said that we’ve done such a hell of a job that he’s wondering if we can take on a few more cases.” The men looked at him in shock. “We’re not done with the ones we have yet,” Laszlo said. “I know. I do know that,” Badger said. “So we’ve got to finish these jobs and then maybe take another look at what we want to do. He’s got a few more cases for us.” “I’m game,” Geir said. “Agreed,” said Talon, the rest nodding. “So what have we got?” Geir pulled one of the two remaining original War Dogs folders closer to him and flipped it open. “And what’s with that one?” Erick asked, sipping his coffee. “Texas,” he said. “He’s at the El Paso border.” “And what? The dog has gone to Mexico?” Cade glanced at all the men gathered here. “We have no idea,” Geir noted.

“It was there with a family one day, and, the next day, he was gone.” the Titanium Corp boardroom table with the whole original crew—Erick, Cade, Talon, Laszlo, Geir, and Jager—which was unusual. Badger said, “Did I just hear that Rowan is “Yep. The whole crew. Including War Dog Hershey and Brandi’s Lab, Lacey, with her three “Maybe so,” Badger said, “but the bottom line is, these couples worked it out themselves, and “A whole new life but also a family,” Badger said. “That’s the best part. Not only is Hershey “We’ll get to see them too,” Kat said, as she walked in. “I’m looking forward to meeting Brandi.” “She’s into stem cells,” she said. “I want to talk to her about rejuvenating some of the scar tissue at amputation sites.” She gave Badger a sweet, yet sexy, tilt of her head. “You know there could be an The men looked at her, as Badger wrapped an arm around his wife, kissed her on the temple, and “We’re pretty thrilled,” she said, “but we’ve still got more War Dogs here that need checking up “We do,” Badger said. “Plus the commander contacted me, and he said that we’ve done such a “I know. I do know that,” Badger said. “So we’ve got to finish these jobs and then maybe take Geir pulled one of the two remaining original War Dogs folders closer to him and flipped it open.

“We have no idea,” Geir noted. “It was there with a family one day, and, the next day, he was Laszlo asked, “Kidnapped, coyotes, shot, what?” “No clue,” Badger said. “Do we have anybody we can send?” “Me.” The voice came from the doorway, and they looked over to see Caleb walk in. “You’ve got a connection to Texas?” Badger asked. “I do,” he said. “Family down there. Where in Texas?” “Not too far away from El Paso,” Geir said. “A good friend has a big place down there, lots of land.” “Not a whole lot grows there, does it?” Talon asked. “No, it takes a lot of land to make a living,” he said. “But, she bought it for the peace and quiet.” “Are they down by the border?” Geir asked. “Both sides of the border actually,” he said. “What’s the deal with the dog?” “Not a whole lot to tell you,” Geir said, reading the file quickly.

“It was adopted by a family, and, when the government did the first check, the dog had already disappeared.” “Was it a runner?” “It never used to be,” Badger said. “You want to go down and find out?” “Oh, yeah,” Caleb said. “I do.” “You got a hidden reason for going?” Talon asked. “Not hiding anything,” Caleb said. “I’m going down for my brother’s wedding.” “Oh, good,” Kat said. “I love hearing about weddings.” But Caleb’s face darkened. “Not this one,” he said. “Why is that?” she asked. “Because he’s marrying my ex-wife.” Laszlo asked, “Kidnapped, coyotes, shot, what?” “No clue,” Badger said. “Do we have anybody we can send?” “Me.

” The voice came from the doorway, and they looked over to see Caleb walk in. “You’ve got a connection to Texas?” Badger asked. “I do,” he said. “Family down there. Where in Texas?” “Not too far away from El Paso,” Geir said. “A good friend has a big place down there, lots of land.” “Not a whole lot grows there, does it?” Talon asked. “No, it takes a lot of land to make a living,” he said. “But, she bought it for the peace and quiet.” “Are they down by the border?” Geir asked. “Both sides of the border actually,” he said. “What’s the deal with the dog?” “Not a whole lot to tell you,” Geir said, reading the file quickly. “It was adopted by a family, and, when the government did the first check, the dog had already disappeared.” “Was it a runner?” “It never used to be,” Badger said. “You want to go down and find out?” “Oh, yeah,” Caleb said.

“I do.” “You got a hidden reason for going?” Talon asked. “Not hiding anything,” Caleb said. “I’m going down for my brother’s wedding.” “Oh, good,” Kat said. “I love hearing about weddings.” But Caleb’s face darkened. “Not this one,” he said. “Why is that?” she asked. “Because he’s marrying my ex-wife.” Chapter 1 CALEB DANSWORTH WALKED out of the airport and headed toward the rental cars, when he heard his name called. He turned and stopped in surprise as Lazy—or Laysha, her real name—raced toward him. He opened his arms at the last moment, as she threw herself into them. He laughed, hugged her tight, and swung her off her feet, before putting her down again. “I didn’t expect to see you,” he said.

“I sent you a text, saying I’d pick you up,” she said, “but I know that you wanted a rental vehicle.” “I hate not having wheels,” he admitted. “And I didn’t want you to pay for wheels if you weren’t hanging around for long,” she said stepping back, but her gaze searched his. He reached out gently, stroked her cheek. “Damn, it’s good to see you, Lazy.” “And don’t call me by that nickname,” she said, holding up a hand. “Lazy?” he asked with a lopsided grin. “Man, we made your life hell over that nickname, didn’t we?” “Yes,” she said, chuckling. “So what’s it to be? Do you want to come home with me or do you want to stop and pick up a rental?” He frowned at that. “You can get a rental in town, if you find you need it,” she said. “I can always drive you there later.” “I have to cancel the one I have on order.” “Do it now then,” she said. “No point spending any money if you don’t have to.” He knew where she was coming from because they spent a lot of time growing up without any money.

Plus, she knew what he’d been through this last year—or at least a little bit of it. In response, he pulled out his phone, brought up the app he had used, and quickly cancelled the rental car. He wasn’t sure if there’d be a penalty for that, but, at this point in time, he didn’t really care. She laughed, hooked her arm through his, and said, “Come on. Let’s go.” “You’re looking good,” he said, eyeing the leggy blonde beside him, like he hadn’t really done before. “But then you always look good.” “Ha,” she said, tossing him that big grin that he remembered so well. “If I looked that good, you’d have come back and visited me more.” He snorted. “I had a lot of reasons for not coming back.” She nodded slowly. “Sorry about that.” “And yet you wanted me to come for the wedding. Why is that again?” he asked, hating what lay ahead.

“Because it’s holding you back,” she said immediately. “Like hell,” he snapped. “Yep. The minute you find something that you don’t want to do,” she said, “you know you have to face it.” “No, I really don’t.” “You do. You love your brother.” “Which is why I told him to run when he hooked up with her.” out of the airport and headed toward the rental cars, when he heard his name called. He turned and stopped in surprise as Lazy—or Laysha, her real name—raced toward him. He opened his arms at the last moment, as she threw herself into them. He laughed, hugged her “I sent you a text, saying I’d pick you up,” she said, “but I know that you wanted a rental vehicle.” “And I didn’t want you to pay for wheels if you weren’t hanging around for long,” she said “Lazy?” he asked with a lopsided grin. “Man, we made your life hell over that nickname, didn’t “Yes,” she said, chuckling. “So what’s it to be? Do you want to come home with me or do you “You can get a rental in town, if you find you need it,” she said.

“I can always drive you there He knew where she was coming from because they spent a lot of time growing up without any money. Plus, she knew what he’d been through this last year—or at least a little bit of it. In response, he pulled out his phone, brought up the app he had used, and quickly cancelled the rental car. He “You’re looking good,” he said, eyeing the leggy blonde beside him, like he hadn’t really done “Ha,” she said, tossing him that big grin that he remembered so well. “If I looked that good, you’d “And yet you wanted me to come for the wedding. Why is that again?” he asked, hating what lay “Yep. The minute you find something that you don’t want to do,” she said, “you know you have to She stared at him in shock. “Did you really?” “Of course I did,” he said. “As you said, I love my brother. That woman’s a viper.” “I have to admit she does seem a little different now from when she was married to you. Not that I knew her enough to really tell. Once you married her, I didn’t want to be around you two.” That twisted in his gut too. “So maybe I was the wrong man for her,” he said shortly.

“But that doesn’t mean the treatment I got from her was deserved either.” “Nope, it wasn’t,” Laysha said. “But it is what it is.” “Yep, I’m with you there.” “Besides,” she said, tossing him a sidelong look as they dashed across the road, heading for a parking lot farther out, “it’s been four years since the divorce. Surely you’re over her by now?” “I am,” he said. “I mean, I’ve been divorced longer than I was married.” “Yeah, a time measurement that makes it easier, doesn’t it?” “What about you? You were married for a couple years in there too?” “Yep, I sure was,” she said, as she scrunched up her face. “And I’m glad that’s over too.” “So what the hell is wrong with us that we get married, think it’s the best thing ever, and then, a few years later, we can’t wait to get out of it?” “Because it wasn’t right to begin with.” “I’m not sure I’ll ever believe in that whole getting-married-again scenario,” he said. “I really didn’t think marrying Sarah would be a bad deal.” “And I didn’t think marrying Paul would be a bad deal,” she said, “but I’m not sure either of us married for the right reasons.” “Well, I married fast because I was going back out on missions,” he said, “so I’ll give you that.” “Exactly,” she said, “so you didn’t give the relationship a long enough time to figure out if that’s who she really was.

” “Maybe, but I also thought she was pregnant with my baby.” “Yeah, I heard about that,” she said with a nod. She pointed across the parking lot. “I’m over there at the far end.” They turned in that direction. “Apparently she lost it soon after you got married?” “I wasn’t in town,” he said, “but yes.” “And then you found out it wasn’t even yours?” “True. And, of course, after that, there’s … well it’s pretty hard to get the relationship back on track.” “Did you ever think that maybe she was terrified and was just looking for somebody to help out?” “Then she should have said that,” he snapped. She nodded. “I definitely agree with that.” “Besides,” he said, “I tried hard, but, to know that she already tried to pass off my … somebody else’s baby as mine, well …” “But you didn’t know that right away, did you?” “No. Not right away. Not until we had a couple fights, and she threw it in my face.” “Did she ever tell you whose baby it was?” “No,” he said.

“I asked her, but she never did tell me.” “But you didn’t know originally it wasn’t yours?” “Nope, I didn’t,” he said. “I’m just a fool. I wanted to believe …” “I have to admit she does seem a little different now from when she was married to you. Not that I That twisted in his gut too. “So maybe I was the wrong man for her,” he said shortly. “But that “Besides,” she said, tossing him a sidelong look as they dashed across the road, heading for a “So what the hell is wrong with us that we get married, think it’s the best thing ever, and then, a “I’m not sure I’ll ever believe in that whole getting-married-again scenario,” he said. “I really “And I didn’t think marrying Paul would be a bad deal,” she said, “but I’m not sure either of us “Exactly,” she said, “so you didn’t give the relationship a long enough time to figure out if that’s “Yeah, I heard about that,” she said with a nod. She pointed across the parking lot. “I’m over there at the far end.” They turned in that direction. “Apparently she lost it soon after you got “True. And, of course, after that, there’s … well it’s pretty hard to get the relationship back on “Did you ever think that maybe she was terrified and was just looking for somebody to help out?” “Besides,” he said, “I tried hard, but, to know that she already tried to pass off my … somebody “That just makes you a good man,” she said, patting his arm. “I don’t know,” he said. “After I found out what she’d done, I wasn’t a very good guy about it at all.

” “But that’s a human response to betrayal though, right?” “I know,” he said, “and it wasn’t very much fun to live through.” “Still, it’s past time now to deal with it.” “Yeah.” He stopped. They had reached her truck. He looked at her and said, “Did you ever hear anything about it?” “Not a whole lot, mostly the little bit you told me,” she said. “Yeah, and that was a while ago.” “I did hear a few more rumors since then,” she said. Something in her tone had him looking at her in surprise. “Like what?” She sighed. “I don’t know if I should tell you.” “Tell me,” he said in a hard voice. “Nothing about this is easy.” “She mentioned that the baby she lost when she was married to you was actually your brother’s.” LAYSHA ARKANSAS LOOKED over at the man she had always loved to see his reaction to that news.

He just stared at her in shock. She winced. She pulled her keys from her pocket, quickly unlocked the truck, and said, “Come on. Get in.” She watched and yet tried to ignore his stricken expression on his face as he moved to the passenger side and slowly got in her truck. She turned on the engine and pivoted to face him. “I thought you should know.” He looked at her, still wordless. “I know,” she said. “I know. All kinds of ramifications come from this.” She sat here, hoping he would talk about it. “You’re not kidding,” he said, his voice harsh. “Was I cuckolded from the entire get-go?” “You already know the answer to that,” she said. “It wasn’t your baby anyway.

Now you know who the father was.” “And my brother? Did they carry this on the whole time I was married to her?” “I hope not,” Laysha said. “I would hope that you and your brother have a better relationship than that.” “Well, I thought so,” he said, “but you’re making me wonder.” He turned, looked out the passenger window. “Then ask him about it, while you’re here, and clear the air,” she said, “because nothing is worse than worrying in the background about it all.” “It sucks,” he said, then finally focused on her. “And I had no idea. Or is she just saying that to throw a wrench in the works?” “And that’s possible too. Your brother was out of town for quite a few years. Remember that?” “So maybe they split up, and then she latched on to me?” “I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” she said, “and I get that you probably hate her for everything that went on, but don’t let her destroy you.” He lifted one eyebrow and cocked his head at her. “I don’t know,” he said. “After I found out what she’d done, I wasn’t a very good guy about it at “Yeah.” He stopped.

They had reached her truck. He looked at her and said, “Did you ever hear over at the man she had always loved to see his reaction to that news. He just stared at her in shock. She winced. She pulled her keys from her pocket, quickly unlocked the truck, and said, “Come on. Get in.” She watched and yet tried to ignore his stricken expression on his face as he moved to the passenger side and slowly got in her truck. She turned on the engine and pivoted to “I know,” she said. “I know. All kinds of ramifications come from this.” She sat here, hoping he “You already know the answer to that,” she said. “It wasn’t your baby anyway. Now you know “I hope not,” Laysha said. “I would hope that you and your brother have a better relationship than “Well, I thought so,” he said, “but you’re making me wonder.” He turned, looked out the “Then ask him about it, while you’re here, and clear the air,” she said, “because nothing is worse “It sucks,” he said, then finally focused on her.

“And I had no idea. Or is she just saying that to “I wouldn’t be at all surprised,” she said, “and I get that you probably hate her for everything that She laughed. “Yeah, okay. She has this ugly side, yet surely something about her must be redeeming? Your brother loves her.” “You think so?” he said. He shook his head, fastening his seat belt. “You think whatever you want to think,” he said. “Right now I don’t have a clue how to interpret that news.” “And that’s why I suggest you talk to them about it.” “Do they know I’m coming in for the wedding? And only the wedding? That’s more than enough without having to attend the rehearsal too.” “Well, your brother did want you for his best man, but I hear you turned down that role?” “Yeah, I didn’t want to be around her any more than I had to be.” “I think your brother does understand that. At least somewhat. I think he’s also hoping to make peace.” “Maybe.

I don’t know that a whole lot of peace can be made between him and me. Although maybe, … maybe I’m the fool here. Maybe they’ve been the real item, and I was just the baggage along the way.” “Well, let’s not worry about it,” she said, settling in the driver’s seat, clicking her seat belt into place. “What’s this about a War Dog?” He looked at her for a moment, and she saw him visibly try to pull back from his brother and all the emotions entailed in that. He took a long slow deep breath. “Beowulf. At least that’s his nickname. His legal name is a series of names. He’s a trained War Dog but was released to retire.” She quickly drove through the parking lot, punching her ticket into the machine, paying the tab via her phone, and then pulled out onto the main highway, heading home. “And that’s got what to do with you?” “It’s hard to say. It’s more a case of, I’ll do what I can do. If I pick up his trail, then I’ll carry on. He came to an adopted family, and they let him out to go to the bathroom the next morning, and he never came back.

” She stared at him and then returned her gaze to the road. “So he was only there for one night? Was it that bad?” “Or was it not fenced? Did he get taken by somebody else or did the coyotes get him, whether human or animal? Or did he try to head back home, looking for the war where he spent all those years?” he said. “It’s really hard to know.” “And do you have a picture of him?” “I do,” he said. “It’s in my bag. He looks like a really stocky black shepherd. The only other color on him is a brown and black pattern found on his ears.” “Interesting,” she murmured. “Well, I certainly haven’t seen any dog like it.” “The only thing I have to go on is the place he went missing from.” “And how long ago?’ “It’s been a couple months now.” “Well, that’s a useless trip then, isn’t it?”

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Updated: 12 March 2021 — 08:27

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