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

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Chapter 30: Strike!

TORIN

I couldn’t believe I was sitting at the same table at the bowling alley with October Davis!

When Rainie had suggested we go there for supper, I’d jumped on the chance since we hadn’t been bowling in a while and I used to love playing. We’d taken her since she was about three, and it was only about a year ago she started to forego the guard rails for the gutters.

I just about died when Rainie came up to me towing Anne Davis with her, which only meant that her mother was somewhere nearby.

When they both gleefully announced that we’d be bowling together as a group, I didn’t think my evening could get any worse. Though I did feel slightly better when I saw October’s expression as Rainie pulled me to our new table. The drop-dead gorgeous woman who’d just changed into her clown-like bowling shoes looked like she was ready to puke. Yet, she put her figurative big-girl pants on and managed to shock me as she challenged Rainie and I to a bowling competition.

Okay, I wasn’t getting out of spending my evening with her, but if I was going to be miserable, she would, too. And I would beat her at her own challenge. I wasn’t necessarily sure how good at bowling she was, but I wasn’t necessarily terrible myself.

Rainie and I beat the other pair on the first round, and I felt very smug indeed as our pizzas arrived and we took a break to eat. We all didn’t necessarily have to interact much during the bowling match, though October and Anne were gracious enough to congratulate Rainie and I on winning the first round.

I was interested in seeing how eating would go, as I knew October was going to feel uncomfortable. From my police training and after studying her thus far, I knew she wasn’t the type to maintain a comfortable silence, even when things were going well. No, I wasn’t going to be rude in front of the girls, but I wasn’t going to be chatty either.

Then she began to eat, and for a minute I was kind of worried about the rate in which she wolfed down not one, but two slices of pizza. Did she even breathe, I wondered? I was tempted to ask if she had eaten at all today; but we weren’t talking, so I forewent the question.

Finally, I think she realized what she was doing and proceeded to gulp down half of her soda, probably to push down the large piece of crust she’d just ate in literally five seconds. I’m not entirely sure she chewed the whole thing!

Her eyes got kind of big, and she inhaled sharply before standing up and quietly excusing herself to head for the restroom. I smiled slyly - if she had indigestion because of her hatred towards me, then my plan was working.

She returned looking more normal and silently sat back down, sipping on her drink this time. But as soon as she sat down, the girls jumped up. I was still eating (purposefully slowly) and should have been listening to their conversation instead of plotting my own devious plot against October while she was away.

“Since you’re still eating Dad, Anne and I are going to go play in the arcade for a bit if that’s okay?” Anne looked at her mother for approval and Rainie at me. October nodded her head, a twinkle of concern flickering in her eyes, and I couldn’t resist putting the pressure on her, knowing that being alone with me was her least favorite idea at the moment.

“Sure, be back in a half hour, okay?” Stupid me, didn’t remember that being with HER alone was also MY least favorite idea as well!

As the girls left, October simply kept nursing her drink nervously, watching other bowlers and sitting silently as I finished my last slice of pizza, which I no longer felt very hungry for. I also ensured that I maintained no eye contact with her, unsure of what to do now that I didn’t have any food to eat.

Finally, I felt her eyes on me, and not just a glance, but full-on studying me.

“What?” I finally said trying to sound uncaring, as I looked back at her.

She set her cup down, crossing her hands in front of her on the table as she leaned towards me. She didn’t look mad nor scared, but like she was going to have a nice visit with me. I had to admit her calmness seemed a bit scary at the time.

“Tell me,” she said. “What exactly is it that you hate so much about me?”

You would have thought she was chatting with her best friend, as her tone was upbeat and curious. And her friendly composure almost made me want to deny any hatred at all.

Yet I knew I couldn’t feign ignorance at this point. “What to say, what to say?!” I echoed in my head knowing I couldn’t say, ‘You’re my soul mate and I want you to hate me so that I don’t have a chance of falling in love with you and disparaging my love for my dead wife.’

“I hate what you do,” I simply said, trying to sound unemotional.

She looked a bit confused, then pressed, “What I do? As in do for a living or as in something I’m doing in particular?”

It was exactly what she was doing to me and my heart and soul, and my dolphin’s heart, and even my daughter and mother’s hearts that was all wrong, but I couldn’t say that either. I tried to roll my eyes, “It’s what you represent in your job at the aquarium. We don’t need your kind in Navarro Beach.”

God, that sounded stupid!

“My kind?” She sounded a bit offended now. “Like highly trained and established veterinarians at a facility that supports the health and betterment of aquatic animals who are elderly or have health problems and would otherwise not survive on their own in the wild?”

I already knew I sounded like an idiot, but she just closed the case with that reply. I started to open my mouth again, but she leaned closer, pressing her hands flat to the tabletop, looking directly into my soul.

“You’re full of shit!”

I clenched my jaw then said the only comeback I could muster, “How do I know that you’re not like the so-called veterinarians that used to work there. The ones who sold dolphin organs to the highest bidder for pharmaceutical and biological experimentation and captured wild dolphins for illegal trading to other freak-show aquariums!?”

She smirked, “Did you know that LinkedIn shows you who’s looked at your profile when they’re logged in?”

Damn! I’d been caught internet stalking her and I paled, as she suddenly went from friendly to someone who was winning at poker.

“I know you’ve seen my work record. So, you should know that I’ve always worked at nationally accredited and very reputable aquariums and zoos. As a law enforcement officer, you probably have access to my medical credentials, which are very much up to date. And you would have clearly seen on my LinkedIn account that I am a certified veterinarian and a paying member of not only the American Veterinarian Medical Association, but the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums, and the World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association.”

I hadn’t dug that far into her LinkedIn profile, chickening out before reading the whole thing, but as a dolphin-shifter who usually looked up to people like her, I felt stupid, stupid, stupid.

“You - Are - Full - Of - Shit!” She spelled out viciously, anger boiling from her eyes.

That’s for sure, I thought in my head. What would she say if I told her the truth?!

But I didn’t have the chance. The girls came back early and were ready to begin our second and final round of paid bowling. October had the upper hand now and knew it as she’d turned the tables and made me the uncomfortable one. Why she’d held out as long as she had this evening, I wasn’t sure.

“Are you ready to get your rears kicked?” October, back to her usual self, joyfully teased Rainie as she got up from the table.

And kicked our rears they did, as October was apparently on a roll, pulling off a 112 score and Anne an 80. Rainie did pretty good for herself at 93, but I managed to get more gutter-balls than anybody. I was a beaten man in more than one way.

October Davis had just pulled a Strike on my little mind-game. She’d called me out on my irrational behavior and given Onyx just that much more ammunition towards his case, proving that she was an above and beyond specimen for my second soul mate.

Beautiful, smart, and had more going for her regarding dolphin care and protection than most dolphin-shifters put together. She was perfect for me and I knew it.

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