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

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Chapter 43: First Kiss

TORIN

We pulled into the driveway and I put the car in park. I’d had more fun in the last couple of hours this evening than I’ve had in a very long time. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to just relax and talk, and how good it felt to really laugh - and laugh a lot, I did. Not that spending time with Rainie and Mom wasn’t fun or good, but this was different.

“...and so, he ended up being our pet for nearly three months!”

October had just finished telling me about the tadpole she’d ‘saved’ from the pond near their house when she was little, thinking that it wasn’t old enough to survive on its own. We both laughed again and when no one moved to unbuckle their seat belts, it suddenly became more serious and quieter. Looking at the house, the lights were dim, and TV flickered from behind the blinds.

I cleared my throat. “Hey, I had a real good time. Thanks for coming.”

She smiled that smile that I’d become extra fond of this evening. “I did, too. Thanks for the invite!”

I’d felt the weight of my wrongdoings lift from my shoulders tonight with her adamant acceptance of my horribly done apology. Of course, with her threat to take it back and end our evening early if I didn’t quit my uncontainable confessional, I had no choice but to let it all go. I’m sure I’d sounded like an idiot. Yet, it was as if everything was alright when she reached out and grabbed my hands, holding them tightly between hers, consoling me. And I was on a high from this new freedom in my soul.

My mind wandered back to that moment when October stopped me from apologizing further, literally gripping me back to reality with her touch. While I know she felt something between us as she pulled away embarrassedly after the fact, even more so, I connected with her on a very different level than mere physical and sexual attraction - and without the fear or walls I had put up against her every other time I’d come into physical contact with her in the past. Through her sincere handhold, I could feel everything that she was. I could feel her beauty. And I’m not talking about her gorgeous eyes or smile, nor her petite, yet naturally curvy body - though they were definitely there, too.

No, her soul and mind were beautiful. Her thoughts and ambitions were beautiful. Her very being on this Earth was beautiful! She didn’t realize it, but at that moment she might as well have put her soul mate mark on me, for I knew I would never be content with life until we’d actualized our status as soul mates.

But now that we were home, my nerves suddenly returned with the newfound shift in the atmosphere and my own realizations. There were now so many things I wanted to do and say before we entered the house where the current moment would be ruined by the charged and excited, but wonderful energy of both of our girls.

“You looked real nice tonight,” I offered, hoping it wasn’t too forward for an acquaintance to say. Why had I suggested that this not be a date?!

She smiled and blushed slightly, then laughed softly looking down at her blouse before turning her seaweed-green eyes back on me. “Thanks! Actually, Anne picked it out.”

I smirked; she was in the same boat as me. “Well, that makes two of us,” I admitted. “Rainie also selected my attire for the evening.” I waved my hand up and down my torso as I finally unbuckled my seat belt.

She smiled. “Well, I guess she has a good eye then. You look nice yourself,” she complimented. Then she reexamined me in the dimness of the streetlight and giggled. I thought she was going to tell me what made her laugh, but instead she simply reddened in the cheeks and unbuckled her seat belt, ready to exit the car.

“Wait, what’s so funny?” I really wanted to know what had made her blush, but I wasn’t going to say that.

“Oh uh, it’s just that... Nothing.” She shook her head, trying not to laugh again, obviously not wanting to tell me.

“That’s not fair!” I complained “You can’t laugh at a guy and not tell him why,” I teased as I looked down at my shirt, expecting a mustard stain or something.

When she could tell I really didn’t understand, she leaned over the console between us as though she had a secret. “It’s not you,” she paused. “Okay. I... Well, did you notice that we’re both wearing the same color?”

Oh! I was catching on! Our matching dark blue tops were a definitive sign that Rainie and Anne had coordinated our outfits very purposefully. While I had thought Rainie’s teasing about this being a date was between her, me, and her grandma, it apparently involved Anne even more so.

I could do the math: Rainie (+) Anne (=) 2 romantic-minded preteens (x) 2 parents with whom they both decided to select outfits for tonight’s dinner. Take that to the soul mate power of 3 and you have 2 matching dark blue tops and 1 couple that look like they’re meant to be together. A well devised plan from two unsuspecting and seemingly innocent girls.

Still, I gave her a questioning, yet prodding look because I didn’t want to be the one to say it out loud. Actually, I was nervous about how she felt about our girls trying to make us look like a matching set, and I could see her trying to determine whether or not to continue voicing her train of thought. Swallowing noticeably, October continued carefully, “Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but I think our daughters were trying to do more than help us look nice.”

I glanced at her face, determined to read her thoughts on the matter. She didn’t seem mad nor disgusted, to my relief. Was she embarrassed? Or even worse, did she think it was the silliest idea ever?! It mattered what she thought - a lot! I was desperate to know, and I was praying that she wasn’t unhappy! Oh my God, how, within only a couple of hours, did I go from not wanting to have more than a friendship with her, to wanting her for my soul mate?! And now I needed and wanted her to acknowledge that someone out there (our daughters) thought that we had the potential to be more than friends. I had a deep hunger to hear her vocalize it so I could sense her reaction to the idea, and I waited.

“Well, I think the girls were trying to make sure we matched, if you get what I’m saying,” she finished as tactfully as possible and I had to give her credit. Yet, pushing my own feelings aside, I knew there were moments tonight that she felt something more than friendship for me. So, I inched, “Am I safe in assuming that Anne has been teasing you about tonight, too?”

Now her blush was full on and she tried to hide the embarrassed smile that took over her lips. “Those girls,” she simply said in return, rolling her eyes in humor as she tried to brush it off while confirming that Anne had also posed tonight as a date.

She still looked embarrassed and I was beginning to determine that she wasn’t ready to think that far along, so I tried to soften the situation. I could wait for as long as it took for her to come to the soul mate realization. So, I started, “I know you didn’t necessarily want this to be a date...”

“I didn’t say that,” she cut me off suddenly, and we both looked a little surprised. Was she saying what I thought she was?! My heart was thudding now.

When I didn’t continue whatever the hell I was going to say (I’d forgotten now), she cleared her throat again. “If I remember right, you said that this was supposed to be just two acquaintances testing out a possible friendship.”

She was right, her memory was impeccable, but it wasn’t her memory that had me suddenly feeling warm all over and I couldn’t stop my mouth from turning up just a bit more. Yet, I had to confirm, “So, if I had asked you to go on a date...?”

October bit her lower lip, then smiled nervously, the route this was going was definitely running outside her comfort zone. “I’m not sure what I would have said then,” she stated. “But after spending this evening with you, I wouldn’t turn you down.”

She sounded and looked hopeful, then the sparkle in her eyes faded and she frowned. “I’m sorry, that was probably too forward. You don’t want to go down that road at this...”

No! I did want to go down that road! And as her mouth was moving only about a foot away from me, I decided that now was the time to show her that I didn’t want to hold back any longer, no matter how scared I still felt about it all.

So, like the dolphin inside me, I swiftly and smoothly closed the distance between us, stopping her from uttering the rest of her sentence by planting a soft but sure kiss on her tender lips. I felt the impact of her warm breath and skin from my head to my toes, a wave of desire mixed with contentment washing over me. Unexpectedly, she immediately relaxed into my kiss, not necessarily giving much more back, but allowing me to take what I wanted, which wasn’t much just yet.

As I pulled away only a second later, I searched her face for signs of distress, sure that my impulsivity had overstepped boundaries. She was no dolphin, nor shifter, and surely wouldn’t understand such a blatant show of affection. But instead I’d found that while she looked a little surprised, she didn’t look displeased at all. The tip of her tongue wet her lips briefly, before she drew her lower lip between her teeth, taking in the implications of what I’d just done as she sat back in her seat again.

She took a deep breath, folding her arms across her chest, and while she still didn’t look upset, I could sense a seriousness coming over her. I was prepared for her to retaliate on my actions, telling me why I’d been wrong to kiss her, but again she surprised me.

“Are you trying to tell me something?” Then with an almost, but not quite shy smile, she continued, “I don’t do very well with subtle hints. You have to tell me what’s on your mind.”

I laughed, all my defenses and walls having disappeared. Oh, I’m sure she got my message, but as our relationship had started on some pretty unstable and rocky beginnings, it was only fair that I spell out my intentions, and she had managed to devise the perfect balance of good-natured honesty to broach the subject without ruining the moment.

She smiled back at me, waiting for my response.

“October, I’d like to ask you out on a date.” I did it! I couldn’t believe it, but I’d managed to subdue all my fears and made the first step in what had been a monster of a precipice to climb.

Her smile broadened, and it was apparent that she wasn’t averse to the idea, as she had already stated before. “I’d like that very much,” she affirmed, her eyes sparkling again like the ocean on a sunny day.

We settled on the moment for a bit before she seriously regarded me again. “Torin? How come you don’t call me Tobie like everyone else?”

It was true, everybody called her Tobie, and she even introduced herself to others as so. While at first, I called her by her given name just because I didn’t know what her nickname was to call her that. Then, it had been because I just figured only friends and family called her Tobie, and I wasn’t putting myself in that category at that point, even if my own family did. But even after she’d ‘introduced’ herself to me anew at the drugstore on Sunday, giving me the okay to call her Tobie, it just didn’t feel natural.

I returned her gaze, already knowing I wasn’t going to tell her my original thoughts on the matter, for I no longer felt the same about her. Instead, I honestly replied, “I like your name just the way it is. ‘Tobie’ is a cute little play on it, but ‘October’ is unusual and pretty, just like you.”

I could see her heart melt just a little in her expression as I told her my thoughts, then I worried. “Don’t you like it?!”

She breathed out a small laugh, “Yeah, I like my name just fine. It’s just that only my mom and people I don’t know call me October. My little brother started calling me Tobie because he couldn’t say ‘October’ when he was first starting to talk, and it was so cute, coming from him, that everyone started using it. I was only five then and was starting school, so I just started telling people to call me Tobie for short and it stuck with me ever since.”

I smiled and nodded. “Is it alright if I keep calling you October?”

She laughed softly again. “Yeah, I like it coming from you.”

She’d made my heart skip at that, and I felt like I now had something special - the okay to call her something most people didn’t. Then she broke my little spell, teasingly pushing her fist into my shoulder. “It’s probably nicer than some of the other names you’ve called me in the past!”

Then she giggled, crinkling her eyes in amusement, and I just shook my head as I took her honest, yet harsh assessment and lightly laughed in return. She had me there! But I suddenly realized that she wasn’t trying to put me down or dredge up our differences again. No, instead, here she was putting our past differences on a shelf, out of her heart and away from the present, yet on display so that they wouldn’t be forgotten - not in a bad way, though, but so that they could be examined from a different perspective and so that we (probably mostly me) could learn and grow from mostly my mistakes. And that, I fully intended to do! Wow, what kind of woman was this?!

“Come on, Torin,” she woke me from my thoughts. “Let’s get inside before the girls break the blinds trying to spy on us. I can’t wait to tell them that dark blue is my new favorite color!”

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