Call Sign Candy

Call Sign Candy

M' Lu



Format: 13,5 x 21,5 cm
Number of Pages: 460
ISBN: 978-1-64268-128-4
Release Date: 05.12.2019
Navy SEAL Cain Weston returns home to his familial ranch in Montana after multiple tours in the Middle East. A chance meeting with Cailee Tyler, a raw recruit in cyber intelligence, plunges him into a stormy romance fraught with mystery and political intrigue.
CHAPTER 1
Five years in the past

The evening was hot and humid with a formidable bank of dark rolling clouds overhead that threatened a downpour at any moment. The steady rumble of thunder in the distance along with wind rustling through the trees projected what lay ahead for the inhabitants of Atlanta, Georgia. It was summer, and certainly not an uncommon occurrence, but it reflected the emotions of the young woman close to tears sitting at the table of an elegant old home in the Buckhead District. She was not alone, though she remained motionless and unresponsive to the aging woman who sat opposite her.

Emma Tyler was at her wit’s end in an attempt to engage in a meaningful conversation with her granddaughter. She knew it was futile as the 17-year-old had deemed the subject out of bounds, choosing to bottle up the events that had changed her life forever.

Cailee Ann Tyler, though young, was tough, resilient and intelligent. Having returned to Atlanta with her grandmother following the death of her sister and parents, she understood the aging woman’s pleas to undergo the psychological intervention recommended by the doctors. Her sharp mind balked at the necessity of spending long hours with a psychoanalyst who would give her feel good prescriptions and weekly therapeutic sessions as a course of action. Reluctantly she had agreed, but only to satisfy her grandmother’s wishes.

The teen understood what she was feeling. She was angry. Her family had been brutally murdered and she was grieving. Having compartmentalized her feelings, separating a debilitating emotional response from the reality of pain, she chose to remain intellectually intact and go on with her life by utilizing a trade tool mechanism adopted from her brother’s special ops training related to her years earlier. It wasn’t as easy as it had sounded at the time. Her heart was scarred. It was damaged, having a great big hole in it. Accepting that, she concentrated on the path her parents had outlined for her higher education to attain the goals she had set for herself. It was her way to salvage sanity in a world of hurt.

The teenager raised tearful eyes to meet her grandmother’s kindly features, which expressed compassion and concern with every breath she took.

“I can’t talk about it, Grandma… I just can’t!” she admonished quietly.

“I know, dear child… it’s hard. What happened to them was horrible, and I’m as devastated as you are. But Cailee, if you would talk to him…”

“Grandma, please! I just can’t.” Tears streamed down the teenager’s face with a plea in her eyes that left her grandmother deflated, knowing it was hopeless to go on.

Nodding silently, Emma Tyler covered her granddaughter’s knotted fingers with a shaking hand. Patting them gently, the aging woman’s eyes filled with tears of understanding and defeat. How she wished her grandson were there in her stead. He had a way with his sister, being able to reach her when others failed. The siblings, though separated by a decade, shared a special connection, having all the same interests and many of the same goals. Unfortunately, that bond had been severed in the teenager’s mind and there was little she could say to change that.
“Okay dear, but maybe if Mitch were here…”

“No!” Cailee said insistently, her body tensing as her eyes flashed to her grandmother’s stricken face. The pleading expression on the young girl’s features wasn’t lost on the older woman. She knew the teen wouldn’t listen to reason, but she had to keep trying.

“No, Grandma. You don’t understand. I won’t discuss it with Mitch, not now, not ever!” Cailee blurted, holding her grandmother’s hand in a vice-like grip that left no doubt she meant what she said.

“Hush child… It isn’t right to blame your brother for what happened. It’s unfair to hold him responsible. Good Lord, Mitch was halfway around the world at the time, Cailee. He was saving others. That’s what he does, girl. It’s his job to bring our boys home. What happened to our family was tragic, yes, but totally out of our control, and most certainly out of his. If God saw fit to take my son, your mother, and sweet Deidra from us…Well, we may never know or understand the reason why. We have to accept the Almighty has a plan and that bad things often happen to good people. Those of us left behind must deal with the heartbreak the best we can. It’s done now, Cailee.”

Cailee detected a note in her grandmother’s voice that reflected a rock-solid belief in what she was saying. Her tone didn’t lack empathy, but instead injected a stern no-nonsense demeanor she associated with her father’s attempts at disciplining her in the past.

Covering her eyes, Cailee bowed her head, mingling a flood of tears with mascara, etching black streaks down her pale cheeks. Her voice softened with a telltale warble when she spoke, attempting to control her emotions.

“Grandma… Mitch should have been home. He… he could have made it in time to save them from those butchers. He was on leave! He could have been home! Why…”
Glancing away, the young girl took a deep breath, choking back her tears. “Why did he have to volunteer, Grandma? He didn’t have to go on that mission.”

“Yes, dear, it’s true he didn’t have to go…” the elderly woman said wistfully. “But, child, just imagine how Mitch would’ve felt if those men had been killed. There wasn’t another operational ready team available at the time. He explained all that, Cailee. Remember, he was responsible for saving lives that day even if he was wounded himself. It was important to him. No, dear, don’t put this on him. It isn’t fair. He did the right thing!”

Cailee’s vision blurred as she shook her head in silent denial, sending her hair cascading about her shoulders. Pushing away from the table, she bent low, planting a quick kiss on her grandmother’s cheek. With a tinge of remorse, she embraced the aging woman and stood to face her.

“I’m not a child any longer, Grandma. I’m sorry, truly I am, but I can’t talk about this anymore and I won’t. Not with anyone. It’s time I take responsibility for my own life and put this behind me.”

By the look on her grandmother’s face Cailee knew she had struck a painful blow to the aging woman. She loved her dearly and regretted her abrasive manner. Softening her voice to a whisper, she said, “I love you, Grandma and I love Mitch, but I can’t think about him right now. Grandma, please understand, I need to find my own way now.”

Emma Tyler watched her granddaughter leave the room with a growing sense of sadness. How was she to tell her grandson, garrisoned half way around the world, that his young sister refused to see him, or even talk to him?


Present Day

Though it happened years before, Emma Tyler recalled the incident as clearly as if it had happened the day before. The conversation troubled her as it often did when she thought of her grandchildren. Now in her mid-seventies, the frail woman lived life one day at a time admitting to herself that her health was failing. She deeply regretted having kept her illness a closely guarded secret from her family for so long. It didn’t seem to matter in the greater scheme of things. Only her grandchildren remained to carry on after she was gone.

Sitting at her desk, the aging woman reached for her stationery, placing it in front of her with an unsteady hand. A thoughtful expression lined her face as she glanced at the photograph of her son as a young man in uniform. A deep sigh escaped her lips remembering her sweet boy and the man he had become. No mother should suffer the loss of an only child, she thought sadly.

Taking pen in hand, Emma Tyler stared absent-mindedly at the picture attempting to choose her words carefully before committing them to paper. Her eyes glistened as she began to write her grandson for what she knew would be the last time. Her heart was breaking as she began to write.

My dear Mitchell,

It is with a heavy heart I’m penning this letter, but I feel I cannot in all honesty wait any longer to tell you what must be said.

Cailee is too young and willful to appreciate what I’m about to say, but hopefully, in time, she will come to realize you are not to blame for what happened to our family. I’m an old woman and trust God in his wisdom has a plan for us. Cailee is angry with Him, as I believe she is with all of us. She refuses to listen to anyone, including me, though I have tried in vain many times to make her understand.

Your parents wanted Cailee to go to college realizing early on she was an extremely gifted young lady. There are more than sufficient funds from their estate for her to attend the best schools, and fortunately, she has continued her higher education without any urging from me. She has become a very independent young woman. Very strong-willed like her father, but still, a child in so many ways, Mitchell. Life hasn’t truly touched her yet, except in the broadest and cruelest sense. Because of that, she is choosing to endure the loss of our loved ones in her own way and on her own terms.

My dear, I’m not saying it’s right, but perhaps it’s the best course for her. I know she believes it is. Cailee has built a protective wall around her heart, and in doing so, has found a way to effectively insulate herself by shutting people out. And you, my dear, in particular.

I’m so very sorry, dear boy. I fear I have failed you. I haven’t been able to reach her emotionally. Her doctors have always maintained she would heal in time, but though it is partially true, the pain is forever with us.

But, my darling, unfortunately time is the one thing I don’t have on my side. I want you to know you are very dear to me and have always been a source of great pride in what you have accomplished with your life. I’ve watched you grow into a strong, honorable man and because of those very qualities, you will understand what I’m about to say. I have considered waiting for your call, but I fear I wouldn’t be able to find the words, or worse yet, be able to stop my tears from blurring my message. Mitchell, you are so like your father. I don’t mean just your handsome good looks, but also your integrity and capacity to love. So, dear one, I know you will follow the instructions I have given my lawyer when the time comes.

You and your sister are my sole surviving relatives, and as such, will inherit my estate with all its complexities. My Last Will and Testament is on file with my lawyer, John Shepherd. As you know, his office is in Atlanta on Peachtree Street and will act as my Executor. He is a dear friend and I trust him implicitly. As instructed, he will forward this letter to you after my death; therefore, I wish to say goodbye now. May God bless and keep you safe, precious one.

With all my love,

Emma Rockford Tyler

P. S. Don’t be sad at my passing, Mitchell. I have gone to be with my son, your dear mother and sweet Deidra. I’ve lived a long and wonderful life and pray that you and Cailee are granted the same gifts I’ve been privileged to experience in my lifetime. It is my last and fondest wish that you both will find endearing love and happiness in yours. Make it happen, Mitchell, find her and save her from herself.

Your loving grandmother,

ERT

Major Mitchell Rockford Tyler sat in the Jeep he’d officially commandeered from Command’s motor pool in hopes of freeing up a few hours of alone time for himself. Leaving his teammates to follow later, he fell in with reinforcements expanding a forward base digging in to secure the area against a coming surge.

He needed space, a breather in which to mull over a tough decision regarding his career and upcoming reenlistment. And then, there was a feeling of foreboding that hung over him receiving the letter he purposely hadn’t opened the night before.

The sun beating down on him from a cloudless sky was exceptionally hot without a wisp of a breeze to cool the air. The temperature already exceeded the day before, sucking his lagging energy and draining him mentally. Looking through the cracked windshield of the battered vehicle that had seen better days, he viewed the placid lake of sand with disdain. Instinctively, he felt he wasn’t alone, but that was a gut reaction after multiple deployments. Things hadn’t changed much since the days of Operation Enduring Freedom. They were the invaders.

The outpost was a natural fortress having the advantage of high ground overlooking the valley floor. It was a staging area the marines had taken at a high cost and held for months. Because of its strategic location, it became the primary target for every militant group known to be in the province. The day ahead was not going to be an easy one for anyone involved, but that was a given on any day in this region.

Major Tyler’s apprehension reflected an uneasiness that weighed heavily on his mind as he pulled the crumpled manila envelope from his pocket. Tapping it against the steering wheel, he studied the return address hesitantly. Receiving a letter from an attorney seldom brought good news, but one from Shepherd, Lloyd & Associates couldn’t be good. John Shepherd wasn’t just any lawyer, he was his grandmother’s trusted friend who’d handled her finances, business transactions and family trust since the death of her husband.

Tearing the envelope open, he found a brief hand-written note on the firm’s letterhead expressing the solicitor’s deepest sympathy and an explanation outlining his duties as the Executor of Emma Rockford Tyler’s estate. He enclosed a copy of his grandmother’s will along with a letter addressed to him on her familiar lilac stationery. His chest tightened as he broke the seal, unfolding the parchment pages disclosing the handwriting he knew well.

Major Tyler was a hardened soldier, but a tear furrowed his cheek, leaving a grimy scar on his stoic face. He felt a profound regret at the loss of the frail woman he pictured sitting on the porch swing as she often did when he visited. He should have realized she was in poor health when he saw her last. She looked frail and tired, though she claimed to be fit as a fiddle. I should have known, he thought. I should have known.

Death wasn’t anything new in his line of work. He commanded a Search and Rescue Unit and saw it in the eyes of men wounded and dying in the field. He was proud to be one of them, to do his part, but it wasn’t a panacea for the pain he felt in losing a beloved family member. He hadn’t been there to say goodbye or pay his respects before she passed. It brought a sense of loss he couldn’t rationalize.

Cailee, his pretty little firebrand of a sister, was another matter altogether. He hadn’t seen her in years. Emma Tyler had been the link between them, reporting the girl’s accomplishments and achievements, but now that had come to an end unless he made a change in his life. His sister was alive and the only family he had left. There were no aunts or uncles or distant cousins that he knew of. It was ironic that the one closest to his heart had come to hate him. He had been her hero as a Special Forces warrior fighting the good fight. In her adolescent mind, he could have saved the world. Only he hadn’t saved hers.

She’s got to know it wasn’t my fault, he thought, recalling the day the team waited for transport to begin the journey stateside.

The men had been in high spirits, joking and laughing sitting on the tarmac after their earlier mission had been scrapped. The team was due to be rotated out after a prolonged deployment and finally heading home for some well-deserved R&R. It didn’t happen. Not that day.

Major Tyler watched the progress of the commanding officer’s aide striding toward them searching faces before settling on his. That look he’d come to know well over the years, and it sent a chill down his spine as their eyes met. The young officer’s body language spoke volumes, and Mitch recognized the advent of trouble before the man opened his mouth.

His gut proved right. The transport bringing in their replacements had been delayed for hours with mechanical problems. They wouldn’t be going home anytime soon. The team was technically on leave but remained operational ready. Command had received an urgent request for the extraction of a small group of Navy SEALs, and it was Mitch’s team that jumped into action, volunteering to a man. There had been little room for choice. It was what they did.

The SEALs were taking fire from a large force of Al Qaeda fighters that had been trailing them for days. The four-man team had taken casualties. Their equipment was damaged, causing initial loss of radio contact. Climbing off the mountain to a more defensible position, they managed to reestablish a line of communication to secure an extraction but there was no doubt they were fighting for their lives.

The details had become blurred. The successful rescue, a millstone around his neck, defined the reason for his sister’s estrangement. He hadn’t been able to come home as promised. For years, her rejection served as his way to pay back and save the lives he could. A chance to compensate for the shitload of guilt he inherited from the grief-stricken teenager searching for answers to the indefensible. He felt duty-bound to ensure his brothers-in-arms would live to go home to their loved ones even if he hadn’t been able to be there for his. His grandmother’s letter reminded him of his responsibility to his sister. The fact remained; she hadn’t forgiven him. He had to do something before it was too late.

The never-ending war had been a justification for leaving his grandmother to care for his sister. But now that she was gone, he realized Cailee was alone, having lost the woman who had been her rock. Saddened, the hard-edged warrior carefully folded the pages tucking them close to his heart.

Pondering his grandmother’s loss, the warrior had profound regrets. He hadn’t been there for his family when they needed him. Nor had he been aware the aging matriarch was ill or how she had managed to deal with a troubled teenager. Unfortunately, it was too late to pay his respects and thank her for carrying the burden. Her funeral had taken place weeks ago as she had wished. Her solicitor had followed her instructions, and in doing so, delayed notification. The postscript written in her shaky hand made her last wishes clear.

Making the decision he’d been struggling with for some time, he no longer felt torn between staying with his unit or taking a position stateside. His commanding officer had recommended him for a training position, arguing there was more than one way to kill a jihadist. Perhaps he was right. It was time to go home.
5 Stars
Call Sign Candy - 21.06.2021
Thomas Manley

could not put it down, awesome read!!!!!

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