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

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Chapter 5: Trouble with the Law

TORIN

“Oh, my goodness, Rhonda, you should have seen the three of us try to get him to hold still! I’m already sore from wrestling with him! But I will say, I’m very proud of that tiny bit of blood I got out of him in the end!”

I heard my mother laugh with whomever was talking as I walked down the hall of the newly renovated aquarium, or “Rehab Center,” as it was called now.

Whatever they were talking about sounded horrible: wrestling... blood... I slowed my pace as I neared Mom’s office, hoping to catch more of the conversation.

Today was my first time in the new building, and the only reason I came at all was so I could pick up Mom from work since her car was in the shop. She’d promised she would meet me at the truck no later than 4:45 p.m.

I’d been waiting for her for over fifteen minutes, and the office phone line was already set to go directly to voicemail by 5:00 p.m. So, with no other option, I decided to be brave and haul my 5′8" frame into the building I despised with every ounce of my entire soul.

“Well, he’s got another thing coming if he thinks I’m going to tolerate too much of that behavior. I have my ways and will have him following orders before long. Mark my words!”

I couldn’t take it anymore! What kind of person was this?! Talking about not tolerating the animal’s behavior?! I knew these two dolphins had been through a lot, but the last thing they needed was an overbearing, intolerant, and abusive trainer!

Coming around the corner, I could see my own dolphin-shifting mother smiling from her desk at this...this woman... sitting across the desk with her back to the door, visiting away about mistreating animals as though she were talking about her adventure at the park.

And I lost it.

“I’ll let you know, if you dare raise a hand, or stick, or whatever it is you supposedly train these dolphins to do tricks with, on that defenseless animal, I’ll have you thrown in jail so fast you won’t know what hit you!”

Surprised, I’m sure, by both my angry declaration and sudden appearance behind her, the petite blonde literally jumped a few feet into the air onto her feet, spinning to face me.

“Torin!” My mother exclaimed, frowning at me as only a mother can do. “What are you doing?”

“I’m here to pick you up! Come on, let’s go!” I barked.

I wasn’t typically one to order my own mother around; that’s not how I was raised, but I was angry, a bit fearful of being in the place where Sandy and Jayde had died, and nervous as hell as the little blonde wearing an Aquatic Center polo and khakis stared at me with her piercing kelp-green eyes, a look of surprise, concern, and anger crossing her distinctly pretty features.

I started to back up, trying to leave as quickly as I’d entered, but for some strange reason, I felt compelled to study her for a moment more. Onyx - he was trying to tell me something, deep within my mind, but I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to let him speak, and so I pushed him back and tore my eyes away from her.

“Torin, wait. Let me intro...” But I cut my mother off, as I prepared to make my grand exit.

Staring as cold-heartedly as possible back again at the stranger, I spit venomously, “I don’t know where you get off torturing animals, but I will arrest you if I ever find out you hurt any animal at this facility. You got that, Trainer?”

And with that, I turned on my heels and walked out as fast as I could, my poor mother speedily walk-running after me, after she’d apologized profusely to the trainer who she’d left behind in her office. I made it in record time to my work truck and started the engine as Mom rushed to the passenger side and jumped in.

“Torin, wait just a minute!” She cried out loudly. It was all I could do to hold back my emotions, but I did as she asked and waited with the truck in park. My decidedly Native American mother, who now had mostly gray hair and laugh lines along her eyes, took a deep breath, knowing that she had gotten through to me, even if only a tiny bit.

In a more even tone she said, “Torin, sweetheart. That was totally uncalled for! What the hell were you thinking?!”

I rubbed my hand over my face, then irritably scratched my head, leaving my cropped dark black locks tussled on top. Mom reached over to gently brush them back into place, before giving me a weak smile.

“Son, I don’t know what...”

“How could you, Mom?!” I interrupted. “You let her talk like that about a dolphin, then laugh with her about it?!”

Mom’s eyes narrowed, as she began to come to her own conclusion about what I’d heard and then done, “Torin, that was October Davis, the new veterinarian that I told you guys about last night. She’s no trainer. We don’t have any trainers here! And she was talking about that hardheaded, badmouthing dolphin, Dan.”

I swallowed guiltily, knowing all about Dan. Had he been human, he would have definitely been on the most wanted list for theft and violent behavior. And boy did he have a mouth on him - if he’d been in the wild, his language would have even made the sharks blush, and they were akin to motorcycle gangs.

Mom put her hand on my arm, trying to make me relax a little, knowing that I had every right to be uptight and angry. But she taught me better than to jump to conclusions and show my negative emotions so irrationally.

“I’m sorry for not being out here on time, son. I shouldn’t have made you wait so long, and I know you were worried.”

I heaved a big breath, then decided to lay it on the line, even though we’d been through this before, “Why are you working at this place, Mom? How can you do it knowing...?”

I couldn’t finish and Mom reached over to brush my bangs up, as mother’s do when their children are upset.

“Torin, I want to work, and this job is good. But I also want to make sure nothing like what happened to Sandy and Jayde can happen again. And at this point, all I see are honest people who really do care about the animals. If I see something otherwise, you’d be the first one I’d tell.”

I still felt sick about it and retorted, “Well, I still don’t trust any of ’em. For all we know, this veterinarian is trying to conduct experiments on them and will sell Dan’s organs for science once she’s done ‘wrestling’ him.”

For some reason, the image of October Davis wrestling a dolphin suddenly gave me a thrilling feeling in my gut and I quickly pushed it aside with disgust. I didn’t want to think about October Davis at all, let alone think of her as anything but the lowdown, evil woman I’d already pegged her to be.

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