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

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Chapter 37: Nice to Meet You

TOBIE

I splashed my face in the sink still trying to process what had just transpired between Torin and me. “I guess the only way to get past our tension was to let it all out at full blast,” I thought to myself as I took a deep, slow breath and studied my face in the mirror, drying the water with a paper towel.

So, Anne was right - Torin did like me and was lashing out because of it. I could take that a few different ways. Was he being childish? Probably, carrying it as far as he had. But, if I had been in his shoes, I would have probably felt extremely guilty about liking someone else, too.

Then there was the blatant fact that he admitted that he liked me! Torin liked ME! The thought gave me the smiles and some not-often-felt butterflies. It wasn’t often that I had guys admit they liked me. Hell, most of the time I tried so hard to be invisible to anyone’s admiring eyes in the romance department, that when someone did notice me, it was surprising. And unfortunately, when they did, they tended to be unappealing weirdos who I had no desire to like in return.

Now, this exceptionally good-looking man, who didn’t seem to be the standard weirdo, had apparently caused himself much anguish over liking me because of his past. This thought made me suddenly realize how holed away I’d become since my divorce eight years ago! Shoot, I had him trumped in hiding from seriously liking someone else by a total of three years! It sounded like we both had some hang-ups that precluded a very slow entrance into the dating world. Was I ready to explore life as a single woman, not just as a single mom?

I knew what I should do, and so I fluffed my hair and smudged my eyeliner, so it looked more purposefully smudged and not cried over, and opened the restroom door. Stepping outside the store, I found Torin out of the way of the door and leaning against the brick wall, watching the rain come down in the parking lot. As soon as he saw me, he stood up, wiping his hands on his green-gray uniform pants and giving me an awkward smile.

I approached and extended my hand. “Hi, I’m October Davis, but most people call me Tobie. I just started as the new veterinarian over at the aquatic rehab and am new to Navarro Beach.”

A big smile spread across his lips - a smile like I’ve never seen on him before - and I found him suddenly even more heart-meltingly attractive than I already thought he was. Taking my hand in a firm and warm handshake he easily met my gaze. “Nice to meet you, October. I’m Torin Waters, the Marine Patrol Chief here in Navarro Beach. Welcome to Florida.”

I can’t say I didn’t feel something spark inside of me at the touch of his hand as we stood there for a moment, unsure of where to go from this point. Finally, breaking the spell of whatever the heck this was, Torin pulled his hand away. “I have to get back to work, but, uh... if you’re free on Tuesday evening, there’s a relatively new hamburger diner just up the street. Maybe we could, you know, grab a bite to eat. Just acquaintances testing out a possible friendship,” he posed. “Maybe get to know more about each other since our daughters are ‘besties’ and all.”

“I’d like that,” I returned comfortably and easily to my own surprise. At which he suggested that if I brought Anne over to his house Tuesday evening, she could have dinner with Rainie and Rhonda, and he’d drive the both of us to the restaurant. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about her being alone and the girls could have some together-time - as though they didn’t get enough at the rehab.

It sounded like a great plan, and I waved goodbye as he trotted in the rain to his truck and I ventured back into the store to grab the prescriptions I had originally went to get. I was floating on cloud nine! What started out as a complete disaster ended with the possibility of a nice friendship. Friendship. That’s what I was going to go with in my mind right now. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to date, and I wasn’t sure if I really liked Torin like that yet. After all, he’d just shed his icy exterior and I had yet to get to know the Torin that Rainie and Rhonda both loved.

Despite my reservations about dating, I still couldn’t wipe the smile from my face by the time I left the drug store. My self-esteem had been boosted beyond words just by the fact that someone was interested in me - and that it was a hunk like Torin Waters!

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

ANNE

~~~~~

“We’ll be eating in a half hour,” Mom said as she left my room upon returning from the store. Tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches - the perfect rainy-day lunch.

As soon as I heard her start down the stairs, I grabbed my phone, pulling up my messaging app and inputting Rainie’s name.

TEXT MESSAGE:
ANNE: OMG! My mom just got home and guess what’s happening on Tuesday?! :)

RAINIE: What?

ANNE: Well, first I’m coming over 2 ur place for dinner.

RAINIE: Yay!! :) That will be fun! What’s the occasion?

ANNE: U better sit down!!! :) My mom and ur dad have a DATE!!! :)

RAINIE: OMG!!! :) <3 R u for real??!

ANNE: Yeah! It’s true! I couldn’t believe it either!

RAINIE: Where r they going? Someplace romantic? <3

ANNE: No, just a hamburger place. :/

RAINIE: That could be romantic!

ANNE: LOL, true! ;)

RAINIE: I can’t believe it! I’m so excited! :) <3

ANNE: Me 2!! They actually ran into each other in town. Without our help this time! ;)

RAINIE: Wow! see that’s fate!

ANNE: Got 2 go, mom’s calling. See u tomorrow!

RAINIE: See you Soul Sister!! ;)

ANNE: Bye Soul Sis! :)

Rainie had told me about her conversation with her dad after yesterday’s Salsa Nite catastrophe, and we both had felt pretty bummed out thinking that all our hard work to try and get these two together was for nothing. She had been pretty upset and I could tell more was on her mind, but I didn’t want to push her to talk about anything she didn’t want to.

I was still sighing inside at how Mom came in from the drug store all happy-nervous. “Ah, new love!” I cooed in my head recalling the conversation I’d just had with her before texting Rainie.

“Sooo, Tuesday evening you’re going to go have dinner with Rainie and her grandma, because Torin and I are going to go get some dinner and talk.”

“You’ve got a date?!” I’d jumped up in elated surprise.

“No, not a date, just hanging out.”

I laughed before telling her matter-of-factly, “Mom, it’s a date.”

“It is not a date, Anne. If it were, you’d be the first to know!” Mom smirked.

She was totally blushing though, and even if they weren’t calling it a ‘date,’ it was definitely a date!

“You think he’s cute?” I asked.

“Anne!”

“What?!” I returned. It was a reasonable question. “Do you think he’s cute?”

Mom blushed even more, and I called her out, “You do think he’s cute! Ahh, this is so exciting! My mom has a crush!” I sang out the last part while she shook her head in resignation. She knew she couldn’t change my mind.

Then, I asked how it happened before she could deny her obvious crush. Lucky for me, the close relationship I have with my mother paid off and she spilled the beans about their encounter at the drugstore.

“Nooo!” I gasped at the end of her story. “Oh, congratulations Mom!”

She tried to brush it off again, saying it was nothing, just dinner and I teasingly rolled my eyes. “I love you, Mom, and I’m happy for you no matter what you call it!”

I knew Rainie would be really thrilled to find out that something she must have said to her dad worked if he was changing his tune and taking Mom out. This was a good sign, a very good sign indeed!

The next day at the rehab, Rainie spilled her own beans, telling me about how her dad nonchalantly announced that he’d invited me to have dinner with Rainie at the house on Tuesday, but that he and my mom would be eating out. She played it cool, pretending she didn’t know already, which she’d said was really, really hard.

So, for the rest of the morning and afternoon, we’d discussed ‘the date’ every chance we got. What they should wear, what they’d order, when he would kiss her - you know, that kind of stuff. We’d stop talking about it whenever someone else was around, and Kyle finally got suspicious when we shut up one too many times whenever he’d walk into the enclosure we were painting.

“Are you guys talking about me or something?” He finally said with a frown.

“No!” We both exclaimed at the same time.

“Well, how come you both get all hush-hush every time I come in here? You’re acting weird!”

“It’s a secret,” Rainie tried to explain, which only made Kyle more curious.

“What kind of secret?”

“You probably wouldn’t be interested since you’re a guy,” she retorted.

He gave us an I-don’t-believe-you look and begged, “Come on. I can keep a secret. What is it?”

I smiled at Rainie, “Should we tell him?”

Rainie shrugged, “It doesn’t really matter either way. It’s not like his knowing is going to change anything.”

“Our parents are going to go on a date tomorrow night!” I blurted out with excitement - I was dying to tell someone else!

Kyle knew both of our parents, and he thought for a moment, then simply nodded his head with a thoughtful look and said, “That’s cool.” Then he asked, “Why’s it a secret?”

I wasn’t really sure, come to think of it. So, I looked at Rainie for the answer.

“Because they think they’re just going to dinner as friends, but Anne and I have been getting them together for a whole week making them think they’ve been running into each other by accident. So, really, we’ve set them up. That’s the secret.”

Kyle nodded again with interest. “You guys really want them to get together?”

We both nodded in agreement and giggled.

“Okay!?” He said, obviously not understanding our excitement. Then he changed the subject. “Um, I actually came to see if you guys wanted to see what I found. It’s a lot more interesting than your parents. Come on!”

I highly doubted it would be that much more interesting, but it had to be more interesting than painting walls. So, we put the lid on the paint and set down our paintbrushes, then followed Kyle out of the enclosure. He perked up when we agreed to go with him, and something inside me knew that he was starting to really trust that Rainie and I would be okay friends.

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