Beyond the Ocean's Depths (Not an Average Shifter Romance)

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Chapter 10: Celery

TOBIE

We’d run out of canned chicken noodle soup and I wanted to get Anne a different type of throat lozenge, since she hated the cherry-flavored ones I already had. Leaving my bed-ridden, but not deathly sick daughter with her sketchpad and the TV on, I jumped in the car and headed down to the little grocery mart up from the house. As I pulled into the parking lot, a few more items I could use came to mind, and I wrote them down on the back of an old receipt I found stuffed at the bottom of my purse before heading in.

I had only been inside the Navarro Beach Grocery once before, when Anne and I came to do our initial grocery shopping upon moving into the new house. So, since Anne would be fine on her own for a while, I decided to walk the aisles a little slower, concentrating on what they had for future reference.

So far, I had three family sized cans of Campbell’s soup, some tomato sauce for spaghetti, and pasta in my cart, and was aimed for the produce section to get some extra veggies to add to the soup, in an attempt to make it somewhat homemade.

Looking for celery specifically, I scanned the wall of cooled produce, spotting the elusive green stalks partially hidden behind another shopper. I started that way, not going too fast, as I was going to have to wait for the guy to move out of the way before I maneuvered my way in.

Glancing upward to the stranger’s profile, as he was analyzing the cucumbers before putting them in a clear plastic bag, I was suddenly struck by the attractive man. He was wearing a ball cap, but I could clearly see his finely chiseled and probably freshly-shaven jawline, and a distinctive, but narrow nose. His skin was dark and his complexion smooth, though he had a few fine lines out from his eyes.

“My, my!” I said to myself, as my eyes unabashedly traveled down to his broad shoulders and chest, which were covered by a nicely fitting grey t-shirt that slightly hugged his defined biceps. He wasn’t huge, by any means, and probably wasn’t a gym freak, but he definitely had good genetics and healthy habits.

I’d stopped across the way, obviously just to wait my turn, NOT to try and determine how old he was. Probably late thirties, early forties I guessed anyways. “Just about right,” I purred in my head.

I hadn’t even noticed that he’d finished with the cucumbers, placing them in his cart, until he glanced in my direction. He looked kind of familiar now that I saw him straight on - where had I seen him before, I pondered, still under his spell.

Then he frowned. A scowl that would have frozen hell itself decimated his handsome features, and I instantly recognized him as Rhonda’s son, Torin!

“Crap!” I said inside, trying to look like I hadn’t actually been staring at him. So instead, like an idiot, I gave him a weak smile, hoping to maybe save face and make peace at the same time. But he just stared at me, with that hateful look. What did I do to make him so angry?!

Finally, I decided to be the bigger person and made the first move. After all, I was in this section for celery and I wasn’t going to let him intimidate me out of my celery - I had a sick baby at home who needed the nutrients!

“Excuse me, but I’d like to get at the celery, please.” I managed to get out smoothly enough.

He glanced down and behind him to where the celery was, then reverting his attention back to me had the nerve to say, “Thought your kid was sick. Shouldn’t you be home taking care of her?”

I had to admit, I wasn’t even expecting him to talk to me. But to condemn my parental abilities was a shocker. So, I snapped back, “You’re just full of nice assumptions about me!”

I promptly reached around him, trying hard not to get too close to the vicious man, and swiped the closest stalk of celery I could reach. I accidentally swiped his hip with the vegetable coming back around, but deliberately said nothing as I angrily returned to my cart parked across the aisle and left as quickly as my short legs would carry me.

I stopped to grab a bag on my way out of Produce, quickly bagged my celery that I didn’t get to inspect, threw it in the cart, and drove off to find the medicine aisle. As soon as I was out of his sight, I pulled my cart over into an empty aisle and clamped my hand over my mouth.

“Holy shit!” I said under my breath, totally freaked out that I’d been checking Mr. Rude out and hadn’t even recognized him, then boldly going to claim my celery. I hated confrontations, and my heart was racing.

Gathering my courage once more, I cautiously turned the corner, looking to make sure I didn’t run into him. Thankfully, I made my way through the last bit of shopping without seeing him again. But by the time I’d gotten to my car, I’d ran through the scenario a dozen times, and I was furious. I could have forgiven him for yesterday - maybe he was having an off day. But why all the hatred towards me? I hadn’t done a thing to him, but apparently my very existence was a problem.

Was I going to have to have a sit-down with Rhonda when I got back to work? Damn, I didn’t want to!

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