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

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Chapter 44: Rules of Engagement


“Come on, Torin. 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!” And with that I hopped out of Torin’s car, feeling like a new woman. I couldn’t believe it; the man who had been my mortal enemy only a handful of days ago had spent a couple of the most enjoyable hours I’ve had in a while with me, then asked me to go on a real date with him. And to top it off, he kissed me! Me! October M. Davis!

“Wait up!” Came Torin’s voice from behind me. “You’re not really going to tell them that are you?!”

I laughed as I waited on the driveway for him to come around the car. “No, I’m teasing.”

“I didn’t realize you were so full of jokes,” he teased back.

“Only to people I like,” I replied as we continued our way slowly to the door.

We could see two distinct silhouettes behind the blinds of the living room window and Torin pointed his chin in the direction of our not-so-secretive daughters. “What do we tell them?”

I thought for a moment, knowing I couldn’t keep much from Anne. We’d been too close and each other’s confidants for too long to start hiding things now, plus there wasn’t much I was good at hiding, being one to wear my emotions on my sleeves. Though I wasn’t necessarily planning on going into details with her either - a woman’s gotta have some privacy.

“Well, simple is probably best, I guess. I mean this wasn’t a date after all, and we both had a good time eating good food.”

He nodded stiffly, a far away look in his eye, and I suddenly realized that he was going to be thoroughly questioned tonight, living with both Rhonda and Rainie. “Poor him!” I laughed to myself.

We stopped on the stoop and I turned to face him. The porch light was on, and now seeing him in better lighting and still thinking about the delightful evening we shared at the burger place, then that heartfelt moment and kiss only minutes ago - well, I guess I melted just a bit as I stared into his deliciously dark eyes and took in the slightly worried expression dampening his striking features.

Taking a breath, I realized that really, I had no idea what I was going to tell Anne because I wasn’t exactly sure what Torin and I were doing. Hesitant to be talking about relationships already, but knowing that as a mother I couldn’t afford to play around with sort-of’s and maybes, I nervously asked him directly.

“Um, not that I go around getting kissed by too many guys, but uh, since we... uh, you did... kiss me, that is... Does that mean we’re past the acquaintance stage?”

The apprehension that had laced Torin’s face disappeared and he smiled unexpectedly. His gaze was soft as he studied my confused face momentarily. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to move into friends status. That is if you’ll have me for a friend, of course?”

Okay, friends I could do. Kiss or not, I wasn’t sure I was ready to go any further than friends anyways. I needed more than one exceptionally wonderful evening to be sure I really wanted to date this exemplary specimen of a man. The fact that we’d been enemies until recently still played in the back of my logical mind.

I relaxed and smiled again. “Friends it is!”

Mutually smiling back at me, he turned to reach for the door to let us in the house, and I grabbed his arm, before he could take the door handle. “Wait!” I said hurriedly.

He looked down at me questioningly and I continued, needing to be sure we were on the same page. “I just want to make sure you knew that I don’t do the friends-with-benefits kind of thing. So, you know, we can’t go and be kissing like that (I waved my hand towards the car) if we’re just friends, okay?”

His lips twitched at first and a hint of humor came to his eyes, while I knew my nerves were as plain as day. This was sure an awkward way to end the evening! Was I killing the moment by being too - brutally - upfront and honest?!

Then he suddenly grew more serious, and again his eyes softened as they connected with mine, drawing me into his warmth. He turned to completely face me again. “October, I would never ask that sort of relationship of you. I’m still working out things in my own mind with my past and all, so I couldn’t do that kind of relationship either. I’ve got a daughter to think about being a good example for, too, so I get it.”

I let out the breath I’d been holding, and knew he was being honest and sincere. And to hear him talk about Rainie and Anne’s interests, only made me feel that much better. Relaxing again I nodded, “Okay. Thanks.”

But then his serious honesty turned to concern. “That kiss back there, well it was unexpected for me, too. But I meant every bit of it. I didn’t mean to infer anything about you or, uh, the situation between us.”

We’d done traded places and now he was fretting! What a pair of confused and inept people we turned out to be! As he sputtered along, apologizing not for the kiss, but for the way it might have come off, I had the crazy desire to kiss him again. And I swear I would have if I didn’t catch a glimpse of somebody’s fingers pulling the blinds down again at the window.

“Torin,” I halted him from going any further. “I got you. I understand what you’re saying, really! And I promise, I didn’t take it the wrong way, at all.”

His face turned red knowing he was the one babbling again, and then I turned red, realizing that I’d just admitted, in not so many words, that I was definitely okay with him kissing me. We were an embarrassed mess and I decided we’d better end this now before something crazy happened. Biting my lip, I smiled up at him and simply said, “I think the spies inside the house have gotten enough of an eyeful, shall we?”

He turned just enough to see the living room window, at which the person pulling at the blinds jumped back, the entire shade shaking in their wake. “Very subtle, huh?” Torin laughed.

“Yeah, definitely FBI material,” I joked back as he opened the door.

To our amazement, both Anne and Rainie somehow managed to hurtle the living room couch just in time, getting their bottoms planted on the sofa as if they’d been there the whole time. In the absolute worst act of nonchalance, they both echoed each other, “Hey! You’re back?!”

Rhonda, equally suspicious-acting (had she been at another window?!), came from the kitchen, throwing a hand towel over her shoulder. “Hi you two! How was it?”

With three pairs of eyes on us, I felt like a teenager just come home with a boy from school for the first time, and I had a feeling Torin shared in my discomfort as he piped up, “Uh, it was... The burgers were real good!”

Ohhh, she was talking about the restaurant - not our date, I mean our not-date! “Jeez, get on board, Tobie!” I chastised myself, finally adding my two cents, “Yeah, it was real good! We’ll have to take you all. You girls will love the way they’ve got it all decorated like an underwater 1950s diner!”

That broke the tension (at least the tension Torin and I were feeling) and everyone relaxed, easing into a comfortable, sociable moment. Soon, it was finally time to go and Anne and I said our goodbyes. As Anne headed out the door, I quietly thanked Torin again for a nice evening. He smiled sweetly in return, “No, thank you. Next time’s on me.”

I smiled back, knowing that meant the next time we went out, he was treating me to a date, and my heart fluttered. I waved again to Rainie and Rhonda, telling them that I’d see them at the rehab tomorrow and followed Anne to the car.

Getting in, we buckled up, starting off down the darkened road and I decided to see how well I could try to get the topic onto Anne instead of me. “So, how was your evening? What’d you guys watch?”

Anne smiled. “Oh, we had a really good time! Rhonda’s lasagna is to die for,” she said dramatically. It did smell good when we arrived earlier, I had to admit.

“We watched that fairytale movie, um, The Shadow Adventure. You know, the one we wanted to go see at the theater, but we were too busy getting ready to move, then it was out of the theaters already when we were going to go?!”

“Oh yeah! How was it?”

“It was awesome! We’ll have to rent it so I can show it to you!” Her eyes lit up and before I had a chance to ask any more questions she turned in her seat so that she could face me completely. “Soooo, how was your date?!”

I smirked, shaking my head and I was glad it was dark enough in the car that Anne wouldn’t be able to see my cheeks redden. “It wasn’t a date, remember?!”

When I didn’t say anything else, she pressed, “Okay, so how was dinner with the guy I know you think is cute? Was it ohhh so romantic?!”

I gave a little breath of a laugh. “I wouldn’t go that far, but it was really nice. The food was super good and we just had a nice time talking.” There, simple - just like I told Torin to do!

“And what’d you talk about?” Anne went on.

“Oh, just stuff. What we’ve done in life, a lot about you and Rainie, and you know, stuff.”

She leaned in closer. “Stuff, huh?” She sounded like a parent, wondering what mischief “stuff” entailed. Then she let loose the question that had probably been on her mind all night. “Did you kiss?!”

My eyes went wide for a moment and while I thought I was going to easily smooth over that particular question, for some crazy, obnoxious reason I simply could not contain myself and I giggled, unable to wipe the big, stupid grin off my face.

“Mom! You did!” Anne sounded shocked, then laughed as though I was going to be in trouble.

“Anne, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” I cleared my throat and shifted in my seat, pretending to seriously watch the road, looking in my rear view mirror for no reason. “I just laughed, I admitted to nothing!” I tried to cover my upset.

“Nah-uh, you did; I can tell, Mom!” She smirked. “Was it romantic? Was it just one kiss, or did you kiss a few times?”

“Oh my goodness, Anne!” This was a bit too much of an interrogation for a thirteen-year-old! “I’m sure you two saw everything there was to see from the window. We could see your shadows as plain as day.”

Anne smirked again and shook her head, “We didn’t see anything, just you guys talking. It took you forever to come in the house. Come on, please tell me!”

Ugh, it wasn’t like I had anyone else to tell, so I tried to smooth it over gently, “Okay, so he gave me one little kiss at the end...”

Anne squealed with delight and I cringed embarrassedly from the driver’s seat.

“So, you’re gonna start dating him?!” She sounded way too excited, and even though I was on my own little high from the implications of this evening, I had to get her head out of the clouds. She was going to blow this out of proportion if I didn’t lay it on the line.

“Look, we spent the whole evening just talking, getting to know each other a little better. It wasn’t anything romantic, just a very nice dinner. But yes, I might go back out with him again - on a date. But no, we are not dating. There’s a difference between going on a date and dating, you know.”

Then reality hit me, and my motherly instinct realized that I needed to be sure that one important detail was clear to the budding young woman next to me. “Anne, I’m going to be completely honest with you because someday you’ll be seriously looking at guys and wanting to go on dates, and I want you to remember that you have to use your head along with your heart, okay?”

She nodded with big eyes, wondering where I was going with this.

“You know how at the bowling alley, when you asked if I liked Torin?” She nodded again, “And I said that he was rude. Well, the only reason I agreed to even go have dinner with him tonight was because the other day he sincerely apologized for all the times he’d been rude.”

I took a breath. “Then this evening, he apologized again when we first sat down and was never rude the whole time. Do you see where I’m going with this?” I glanced over to the thoughtful girl next to me. “Anne, I wouldn’t have even thought about going anywhere with him if he hadn’t said he was sorry and meant it.”

Anne nodded again. “I know what you’re saying, Mom.” Then she gave me a sincere, soft smile. “I’m glad he said he was sorry.”

“Me, too,” I said softly, a part of me wanted to sigh.

In usual Tobie-fashion, I knew how to kill the moment and proceeded to continue my teaching soap box. “But if he ends up going back on his apology and treats me like he did before, that’s it, okay!? He’ll wish he never met me. I won’t stand for a guy who treats others badly and you shouldn’t either, do you understand?”

She nodded, sinking into her seat just a bit at my mini tirade. It wasn’t the first time that I’d talked to her about abusive relationships and I wanted her to understand that if Torin showed any sign that he wasn’t just acting out on internal guilt over the wife who’d left him as a widower, and ended up reverting back to his bad behavior, then he had no future with us.

We only had a moment before we were home and as we exited the car I realized that 1.) I’d managed to get out of telling Anne about my kiss, and 2.) I had a lot of thinking to do. Torin was far from the only one of us who had hangups.
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