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

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Chapter 33: Hot and then Cold

TORIN

“Two out of three!” I couldn’t help myself. I hadn’t expected the 5′2" white girl to know how to lay on the Latin moves, and I was craving more. On the other hand, my competitive dolphin spirit wasn’t going to let me lose that easily. So, to legitimize the situation, I told myself that I couldn’t let Rainie down, as she’d been voting for me to win the challenge that I had so eloquently presented.

“You’re a glutton for punishment,” October replied with laughter - beautiful, genuine laughter, as both of our daughters gave her a round of applause and a flood of compliments after her rousing solo Salsa exhibition.

I had barely moved my feet through her routine, awestruck and fascinated by this unique side of October Davis, who was apparently a worthy Latin dancer. Wasn’t she from Cincinnati?! Did they even know what Latin dancing was up there? I thought Ohio was just corn fields and pigs or something like that.

But little did she know that growing up near Naples, the Cuban influence of southern Florida had prompted me to take a few classes in my time. Though I doubted I was as good as her, I did know how the moves were supposed to go - maybe I could catch her off guard with the element of surprise.

As another upbeat tune began, October stepped back out, preparing to dance on her own again. Every ounce of willpower I’d presented over the past few weeks to keep my distance from her had eroded at this point. And I hadn’t even had a sip of alcohol to embolden me! Without asking, I took her hand, “This time we dance together.”

“Did her eyes just jump a shade darker?” I was sure mine had by the sudden shock I felt to my core as the electrifying heat from her fingertips pleasurably zapped my entire being. And we were hardly holding hands at this point, merely grasping each other’s fingers. Damn, that soul mate connection was strong!

Her tiny smile quivered slightly, and I felt her hesitate just a bit. I didn’t blame her for not trusting me - hell, I didn’t trust me or my feelings around her. But as physical touch is so much more intuitive for shifters and their soul mates, I was suddenly privy to all the reasons why I should be able to trust her.

It were as though my animal senses were attuned to her, and just as animals can sense whether a person is good or evil, my instincts found her to be an honest and worthy human. Much more worthy than me, and I swore to myself that I wouldn’t be cruel or rude to her anymore. Even if I still didn’t want to accept her as a soul mate just yet.

I pulled her in a little closer, leaving about a foot of space between us so that she could hear me. It was a decent, platonic distance, comfortable enough for me to focus on what I suddenly wanted and needed to say. And boy, did I have something to say!

Taking a deep breath, I confessed aloud, “I want to apologize for being a jerk before. I’m sorry, October.”

The song had already started, yet she didn’t move as she looked back at me with surprise and then searchingly. Her dark green eyes met mine, trying to read my thoughts, and I knew she wasn’t sure if she could believe me or not.

“You don’t have to answer that - you don’t even have to accept my apology,” I blurted again, worried that she wouldn’t. “Just dance with me - I have a competition to win!” I teased, giving her a crooked smile to lighten the mood and move along my awkwardly timed apology.

She opened her mouth in surprise as I took her other hand in mine and started a basic salsa step forward, pushing her backward, then pulling her forward with me stepping back. She shook her head slightly, then smiled not looking me in the eye anymore, a soft blush creeping up her neck as she continued to follow my lead in the super simple steps.

I knew she was still processing my words as we took it easy on this upbeat, but tame song, and her focus wasn’t nearly as much into the music and rhythm as it had been in the previous song where she’d let loose. She hadn’t replied to my apology, and we simply stepped out the song, playing it safe.

As the song ended, I spun her around nice and slow, and we both nervously smiled, acknowledging the end of our dance. I gave her a slight bow as the girls applauded, still trying to gauge her feelings about my apology as my eyes never left her face. Surprising myself by my actions, I suddenly wanted to see if we could move forward and at least not cringe every time we saw each other.

“You guys did good, but the last song was better,” Anne, the bright redhead voted, grabbing our attention away from each other and the looming question in the air.

I looked at Rainie, the competition coming back to the forefront of my memory, as I just knew my child would vote for me. But it was apparent that I let her watch too much America’s Got Talent, and in perfect Simon Cowell fashion she shook her head, “I’ve seen better. This round was a tie.”

Anne laughed in return, “Yep, a tie for sure. So far Mom’s winning!”

I could hear October audibly take a deep breath, and with her exhale she released all the tension she’d built up inside after my offer to dance, then subsequent admittance to being a jerk.

She visibly relaxed, then giving me a breathtaking grin she asked, “Ready to lose this competition, Officer Waters?”


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


TOBIE

I only lost that match because, to my utter shock and amazement, Torin Waters actually apologized for his behavior! I was floored.

Maybe that was his intention - to catch me off guard and win his little dance competition. Though I was really hoping that he legitimately felt bad for being so rude and was seeing the light. I didn’t need us to be friends, but something that wasn’t enemies would be nice.

So when the girls - who both claimed to be bad dancers - chimed in that this round was a bust and we had tied, poorly at that, I decided to get my head back in the game. If Torin wanted a competition, he was going to get one, and if he could still come out truly being sorry for his jerk-attitude after the fact, then I would go ahead and let him off the hook.

But first I had to win.

“Ready to lose this competition, Officer Waters?” I asked smoothly, my glee at the opportunity to beat him yet very much apparent.

I had to admit, the look he gave me in return made my heart do a double-time - a bit of the sexy side of him was peeking through with a gaze and smirk that went straight to my soul; and it both thrilled and scared me at the same time! Come to think of it, he’d already given me a stomach flip from the moment he said we weren’t dancing on our own and took my hand. Yikes! How did his fingertips send such electricity through my body, just barely holding onto my hands?! Maybe it was the sexy look he had in his eye at the same time, but I wasn’t used to this.

I was going to have to keep my head in the game. He’d still been a jerk for weeks and I wasn’t going to get all soft on him now, not having accepted his apology just yet anyways. This dance was going to be all business.

“And as for you judges, be prepared to be wowed!” I winked at Rainie and Anne, who giggled and cheered in return as the song we’d taken a break through was coming to an end.

“Torin, Torin! Long time no see!” I heard a voice from a ways off behind me. We all turned, and a smiling older woman was headed in our direction, most likely her husband trailing behind her, a pleasant but wore out expression on his face.

I glanced back to Torin who seemed very happy to see whomever this was.

“Auntie Beverly!” He exclaimed as the woman with long, gray braids made her way to him and gave him a giant hug.

She, in turn, squeezed him tight before backing off and admiring him from head to toe as if she wanted to see how much he’d grown.

“Uncle Ted, how are you?!” Torin shook the older man’s hand as he greeted him kindly.

Then Beverly turned to Rainie, “Oh this can’t be Rainie?! You’re practically all grown up and so tall and pretty!”

Rainie blushed and gave them both hugs and I felt like Anne and I were intruding on a private moment with the father and daughter. But then Beverly turned to me and looked at Torin, who obviously knew that he should make introductions, “Oh, uh, this is October Davis and her daughter Anne.” He pointed to us in turn, then continued, “Rainie and Anne are friends from school, er summer, uh what’s it called?”

“Youth internship. They’re interns together at the new Gulfside Aquatic Rehabilitation Center,” I aided, while noting that he didn’t say that we were friends, just our daughters were.

“Oh! That’s real nice,” Beverly nodded a bit apprehensively, which I thought was a little odd. “I’m Beverly Waters and this is my husband Ted. We’re Torin’s aunt and uncle from his father’s side.”

“It’s nice to meet you both,” I said as I shook their hands politely.

Beverly turned back to Torin, “I hear Rhonda’s still working at the aquarium, is that true?!” I sensed a tinge of controversy in her question and wondered why Rhonda’s working at the rehab would be gossip-worthy.

“Yeah, she’s still there,” Torin replied shortly, though not unpleasant.

Beverly nodded again as though she didn’t approve, and I was becoming a bit irritated as I really thought highly of Rhonda. So, I said matter-of-factly, “I also work at the rehab - I’m the staff veterinarian.”

Torin looked slightly pained as his aunt blinked at me in apparent surprise, smiled tersely, then looked back at Torin, changing the subject. “We were a bit surprised to see you here Torin! Weren’t we Ted? When I saw you dancin’ I thought, ‘that can’t be my Torin!’ Why it was like old times seeing you out there. You and Sandy used to come every week or so. We had so much fun with you both in those days!”

I saw Torin set his jaw firmly as he tried to push back some deep set painful emotion, before giving her a tight smile, “Actually Rainie and I were just leaving; I have to work tomorrow so we need to be getting home.”

Wow, I thought to myself - a lot just went down here and I’m not even sure I knew the half of it.

“Well, we should be getting back to our table anyways, they should be bringing our food any minute,” Ted interjected before Beverly could say anything further. “It was good seeing you both [he said to Torin and Rainie], and nice to meet you, October and Anne.”

“Nice to meet you both as well,” I replied as the couple gave Rainie one more hug then disappeared into the depths of the restaurant.

“Come on, Rainie, time to go home,” Torin muttered. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to know that something Beverly had said had killed his evening.

“But Dad, you haven’t finished the competition yet!” Rainie stated questioningly.

“We can do a rain check, and finish this...” I started, looking at both the girls who looked sad about ending the evening. Not that I didn’t feel a little dejected as well since we’d just started not being enemies.

“No!” Torin interrupted, “We’re done here.” Without even looking at me, he started walking off angrily, “Rainie!”

The girl looked distraught, and I gave her a little smile and Anne gave her a quick hug before she hurried to catch up with her father.

“What just happened?” Anne asked with surprise.

“I’m not entirely sure, but I think Aunt Beverly knows how to stir up trouble,” I replied irritated at the situation.

Anne looked at me as we started back to our table, “But wasn’t that rude of Rainie’s dad to just leave like that.”

I sighed, trying to figure out exactly what I thought happened and how to explain it to my daughter.

“Maybe a little, but I think his feelings were a little hurt, and that was his way of excusing himself before he got angry in front of everyone.”

Anne nodded and I grabbed my stuff, “Why don’t we call it quits, too? We can see if Dusky and Dawn are down by the dock.”

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