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

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Chapter 39: Baring His Soul

TORIN

I went back to work yesterday a new man. A giant weight had been lifted after my confrontation and eventual truce with October. Rainie’s words in the truck from the night before echoed in my mind after October asked to start fresh.

October was my soul mate and I found that I really did care about how I was hurting her. Seeing her suffer as badly as she had in that bathroom tore my heart out, and I couldn’t do that to her anymore. I knew I had to reevaluate myself and be a bigger person in this. I may not be ready to step up to the altar with her and take her for a mate, but punishing her for being her was just wrong. She couldn’t help it that fate and nature chose her.

But being the new Chief at work was laborious and I had to stay late Sunday to catch up on paperwork that had somehow gotten piled up. I didn’t leave until after the night crew had already come in, and Mom and Rainie were already in bed by the time I got home, so I didn’t get to tell them about my dinner plans for Tuesday evening until the next morning.

I’d struggled with exactly how I was going to approach it with them. Frankly, it was going to be a bit embarrassing to admit that I was changing my tune towards the veterinarian after so many weeks of lashing out against her. Finally, I decided to put more emphasis on the girls having dinner together instead of myself and October.

Addressing Rainie, but ensuring Mom could hear as well, I started, “So, I ran into October at the drug store yesterday afternoon, and since you and Anne can’t seem to get enough of each other, I’ve invited her to come have dinner tomorrow night.”

Rainie perked up, a large grin spreading over her face. Mom was at the sink drying her hands, sporting her own small smile. “That was an awful nice thing to do!” She said, then to Rainie, “Is there anything in particular you think Anne would like to have for dinner that night?”

They mutually agreed on Mom’s lasagna, as Anne supposedly liked Italian food and Mom hadn’t made her famous lasagna in forever. I knew Mom had other questions she was on the verge of asking, as neither girl had gone to the other’s house before, and she’d want to know what the occasion was, how Anne would be getting here, and if October would be joining us. To quell further questions (I hoped), I nonchalantly added, “October will be bringing her over, but don’t fix anything for us. October and I will be eating out.”

There was dead silence for what seemed like forever. But the growing smiles on the faces of both of the women in my life were far from silent.

“Dad, you’ve got a date!” Rainie proclaimed.

I’d practiced this conversation in my head since yesterday, and I still didn’t feel prepared. I wasn’t ready to divulge too much just yet. So, trying to maintain my cool and nonchalant composure when the outpouring of questions came, I attempted to persuade them that this was not a date for the remainder of breakfast. October and I had simply come to a truce and were definitely in ‘acquaintance status,’ nothing more. To my chagrin, Rainie still insisted that I let her help me pick out what I was going to wear.

I spent the rest of Monday with my mind half on work and half on my impending dinner with October. By the time I got home, I knew I was going to have to be honest with my mother about the soul mate situation. If she was on the same page as me, then she wouldn’t pressure me where I didn’t want to be pushed just yet.

While Rainie was busy upstairs, I sat my mother down for a heart-to-heart. “Mom, we need to talk.”

She looked at me, knowing from my serious demeanor that whatever I had to get off my chest was heavy, and waited patiently as we sat partially facing each other on the couch. “Go ahead, son. What is it?” Her expression was equally serious.

I struggled with how to start. “Well, you know how Onyx found his soul mate, Gina, recently?” Mom nodded again. “I... well, it’s not exactly... Ah-hum,” I cleared my throat, then spit it out as fast as I could. “I guess I have another soul mate, too, and it’s October Davis.”

I think that was the first time I’d ever said it out loud - telling Onyx in my mind and myself a million times in my head didn’t count. But something about allowing those words to flow over my tongue seemed to have the strength of finality, and my heart thudded louder in my chest than it already had been. I might as well have shouted it from the mountain tops, the way the words echoed in my head!

Mom was silent for just a second, then to my surprise, she laughed! At first, I thought she didn’t believe me, then her eyes began to crinkle more and an uncontainable smile held what was left of her laughter. The next thing I knew I was being tackled in the tightest hug I can remember as an adult. I didn’t really hug her back; just sat there stiffly, waiting for her to unlatch herself from me as she continued to laugh. I was just learning to accept this fact as something I couldn’t change, not wholeheartedly embracing it, and I wasn’t going to get all soft now.

Finally, she released me. “You know, Torin, the way you’ve been acting towards her, I was about to suggest that very thing pretty soon! Son, you should have told me sooner; when did you find out?!”

Ashamed, I admitted to officially knowing the day of Rainie, Anne, and Kyle’s fight, when we had to sit next to one another in Mrs. Williams’ office. I also admitted that Onyx and Gina had known even before I did, and that they’d been visiting October and Anne for some time now, apparently getting acquainted on the sly.

Surprised, Mom relayed that apparently Onyx and Gina had also been keeping it a secret from her dolphin, Penny, too, for there would have been no way for Penny to have hidden that information from her - very sneaky indeed! Mom was beside herself, saying how she couldn’t wait to tell her inner dolphin that evening. Then she laughed again. “Oh goodness, October and Anne have been talking about a pair of dolphins who’d been hanging around their dock in the late evenings. I never once thought it would’ve been Onyx and Gina!”

After a moment, she queried a little more seriously, “So, I take it that Onyx approves of Tobie?”

“Yeah,” I replied sheepishly. “He’s been pushing me towards the idea since he realized it was her.” I didn’t admit to just how he’d been trying to pique my interest in the woman by playing tantalizing X-rated dreams in my mind almost every night since he’d started.

Moving along, Mom patted my leg, understanding my reservations about taking on a new soul mate - it didn’t matter who it was. Sandy was loved dearly by my mother, too, and she felt for me. And so, despite the stress of revealing my deepest, darkest secret, it really did feel good to tell her my frustrations. Onyx was biased, having recently re-mated, and my own mind was simply too overwhelmed to be fully trusted. So, her perspective was helpful.

“Why the change of heart now?” Mom asked more seriously, sincerely ready to listen.

I opened up, telling her about what happened at the drugstore yesterday and about how bad I felt about hurting October to the point where she finally lashed out and broke down, unable to take it any longer. “I thought I was doing the right thing by pushing her away,” I explain. “But now I know that was just causing more damage. And she made me realize that Sandy wouldn’t be proud of my actions.”

Mom snorted, “I haven’t been proud of your actions either, Torin. Second soul mate or not, you’ve been a loose cannon with all of us!”

I hung my head in shame before Mom asked what my plans were now. I truthfully told her that since October was a pure human and wouldn’t likely know about real animal-shifters, especially us lesser-known dolphin-shifters, I was going to take things extremely slow. I wasn’t completely ready to jump into any kind of relationship outside of friendship at this point anyways and had a lot of area to cover in making up for my previous transgressions to gain October’s trust period.

If I came out with the truth about what we were now, she’d probably freak out and that would be the end of that. And while I trusted her completely, I couldn’t just tell her about shifters before knowing she’d keep it a secret, without potentially exposing our existence to the rest of the world, causing who knows what harm to the few of us that were left.

But even more importantly, I didn’t want her to know anything about biological soul mates. If I weren’t going to take the relationship further than friendship, there was no point in putting the idea into her mind.

If - and I repeat, IF - I changed my mind in the future and decided to pursue her as more than a friend, then so be it. But right now, I just wanted to make things right with her and stop the fighting before we hurt one another or our families in the process. If we just remained friends for the rest of our lives, then I would be quite okay with that.

Mom at least agreed that it was probably best for everyone involved to take it slow - not only for me and October, but our daughters as well. Regardless of species, human or shifter, it was never easy moving into new relationships when you had young ones to consider, and being that October and Anne weren’t shifters, that only made it more important that they be eased into the idea.

“Speaking of kids, I’m not ready to let Rainie know officially. This is just between me and you, okay?” I begged Mom. I admitted that Rainie had correctly guessed about the soul mate thing Friday night when she’d gotten mad at me after leaving La Azteca, but that I had never confirmed her accusations. From her rant in the truck that night, to the way she excitedly reacted this morning about my taking October out for dinner, I knew she would be thrilled if anything were to blossom from all this. And I guess that’s what scared me the most.

I didn’t want her to get her hopes up thinking that October and Anne would be a permanent part of our lives if it wasn’t going to happen - at least not in the way she was hoping. I also didn’t necessarily want Rainie to be thinking too much about soul mates in general anyways, wishing we could let her be a child for just a little while longer. After all, in just a few years she’d be off looking for her own soul mate and didn’t need all that drama on her mind just yet!

Now that my guilty conscience had been aired out with my mother, I could breathe a little better. It didn’t really change anything, just made the facts a little easier to bear.

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

Tuesday came and I woke to the sound of something pawing through my closet. Being my day off, I’d set my alarm for eight and was supposed to have another hour of sleep left. I squinted in the morning light, my line of sight focusing on Rainie going through the shirts hanging up.

“What are you doing, Rainie?” I groaned, giving her a one-eyed scowl for interrupting my sleep.

“Don’t worry, Dad, I’m just picking out your clothes for your date tonight. I’ve got to leave with Grandma for the rehab soon and might not have time after I get home!”

“It’s not a date,” I grumbled, before finally propping myself up on an elbow to see what exactly she was doing. While I’d gotten Mom on the same page, it was apparent that Rainie was not only on a whole other page, but another book altogether! Why me?!

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