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

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Chapter 28: A Continued Internship

TOBIE

“What a night,” I sighed to myself as I tossed my navy-blue flats into the closet and started getting ready for bed. Overall, the dinner was a huge success and I know I felt good about it.

After the awards presentation Gary and Ida asked Rob and I what our thoughts would be about extending out the kids’ volunteer program for the rest of the summer. With a month and a half left until school started in September, Kyle hadn’t really been looking forward to going back to the Summer Center. They even offered to pay the rehab the amount they would normally pay the Summer Center, though we’d offered this last week free - being community service and all.

Rob looked at me, and I knew that while this was originally intended to be a means to get the kids back to the Summer Center, Rob, Rhonda, and I had seriously talked about making it a several-week long program starting next year if this trial-week was a success.

I looked at Vickie and Chuy, knowing they’d have more time invested in the kids than anyone, and they seemed to like the idea. “There’s always something we could have them do,” Vickie piped up. This was true, as we were trying to fix the place up to take on more animals and officially open to the public, which it was far from close to being ready yet.

I didn’t even need to ask Anne and Rainie, who both excitedly said they loved the rehab and would rather go there over the Summer Center any day.

Well, a unanimous vote made it easy! The only person I hadn’t asked was Torin, who I had been trying to forget even existed for the remainder of the evening. And I wasn’t about to give him one more word. Even though I knew I talked too much, he didn’t have to say it like he had.

Looking at Rob, but addressing the entire group I said, “I’ll give everyone the weekend to think it over, but will send out an official email addressing the dates, times, and conditions for the continued internship program. If you agree to the terms, have your child at the rehab no later than 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning with the agreement printed and signed by a consenting adult.”

Taking my earrings out, I knew for sure that Anne and Kyle would be there. But would Torin allow Rainie to come back? I sure hoped so. By the time everyone said their goodbyes, Rainie seemed to think she was definitely going to see the other two on Monday morning. I would hate to see her disappointed because her father had some sort of hang-up and was a big fat jerk.

}<<(((}> * <{)))>>{

TORIN

“But Dad!” Rainie pleaded as we walked in the house after the dinner party.

“You do more at the Summer Center and you’re a shifter - you’ll learn more about sea life and ocean animals than they can ever teach you soon enough.”

Mom greeted us from the living room couch, probably expecting Rainie to show her the certificate and award that she knew Rainie was getting. But that was spoiled by October’s decision to extend the internship.

Okay, it wasn’t necessarily all her decision, but she was the one I wanted to blame.

“How’d it go?!” Mom asked expectantly.

“Grandma, they’re going to keep the internship going for the rest of the summer, but Dad says I have to go back to the Summer Center! I don’t want to go back there!”

Mom looked at me, obviously already against my decision. “Torin?”

I knew I’d sound petty if I kept making the excuse that the place was full of ‘bad people,’ and that I didn’t trust the aquarium’s staff, because after tonight I knew not one of the staff members had scheming or malpractice on their minds.

I had seen the Newport Aquarium’s reviews and website, and knew what a real aquarium in the 21st century was supposed to be, and it was nothing like the old 1960s version that Navarro Beach used to house. Tonight, I’d listened as Rob talked about his aspirations for the Gulfside Aquatic Rehabilitation Center, or GARC as he liked to call it, and to be honest I thought it was a great idea. Sandy and Jayde would be proud of all they’d accomplished to right the wrongs of the past.

The one and only reason I didn’t want my daughter going there was because she was falling in love with the idea of October and Anne Davis. Even if my Rainie was dark and lean, in contrast to October and Anne’s fair complexions and sturdier builds, the three of them seemed to fit together - as though they were meant to be. Their hugs and laughter together weren’t forced or awkward - it was as though they’d known each other forever.

“I’ll think about it, okay?” I decided to say, safely trying to appease both of the women I lived with, while not making a commitment. I also didn’t want to ruin Rainie’s night, so I effectively changed the subject, “Rainie, did you want to show your award to Grandma?”

After reliving the highlights of the evening as Rainie told her grandmother all about the food, people, and ceremony, and did a show-and-tell of the pictures I’d taken, I relented, telling Rainie that if she wanted to go, and Grandma agreed, that I’d sign her form so she could go back to the aquarium for the rest of the summer. The hug I received was worth the effort on my part to be agreeable, and I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

That night as I lay in bed, I pulled out the photo of Sandy that I’d kept on the nightstand. My heart ached for her - it always did, but it especially did when our daughter did something grand and I’d wish that she were here to share in the moment.

Tonight should have been all about Rainie, and I felt ashamed for having spent a portion of it trying to get rid of October from my mind. But even more, I felt guilt for having a second soul mate altogether. A big part of me longed to love again, to know what love felt like again in heart, mind, and body. I was torn, and I wept like I hadn’t wept in a long time.

I cried into my pillow, “Sandy, what should I do?!”

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