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

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Chapter 65: A Rescue Plan

RHONDA

“You girls go ahead to the living room and turn the tv on while I finish up in the kitchen.” I stood from the table, collecting my own dishes as I watched Rainie and Anne push away from the table and rise sulkily.

“Thank you for dinner Ms. Rhonda,” Anne responded with the best smile she could muster before following Rainie to the living room.

It had been one of the worst meals I’ve ever sat through, as none of us were hungry, our minds and stomachs too filled with worry for both Torin and Tobie. Where were they? Had Jimson hurt them? Were they alive?

Kat Romero, Torin’s second in command, had called just before we sat down to the light soup I’d made from a can, kindly reporting that Torin’s team had fished Detective Barrett out of the water this afternoon. He apparently had accompanied Torin in pursuit of Hank Jimson.

The detective’s report detailed how my son had jumped to Jimson’s boat in his attempt to rescue poor Tobie just before their boat flipped. The images that Kat’s retelling brought to my mind frightened the hell out of me—on both Torin and Tobie’s behalf. Now with the storm and night moving in, they still hadn’t located the stolen boat or the three passengers.

“They’re still looking for them,” was all I told the girls.

This was going to be one long, difficult night, I told myself as I swallowed the tears that stung their way into my eyes while I washed the dishes. But I had to stay strong, not only for myself, but for the two girls who were now in my keep.

My mind kept working through the events of the day as I cleared the rest of the table and I couldn’t help but sense the subtle thoughts of my sweet dolphin, Penny, as they bubbled into my mind. She, like myself, was elated and scared to death about Rainie and Ruby’s transition today. What a traumatic event for the two of them, she acknowledged.

I’m not sure who came to the conclusion first, Penny or I, but simultaneously an idea popped into our minds. If Torin and Tobie were still in or near the water, perhaps Penny could go in search of them. Dolphin sonar was far superior to any search and rescue Torin’s Marine Patrol Unit could do in the dark and bad weather.

The girls, I reminded myself. I couldn’t leave them alone while I allowed my dolphin to go in search of their parents. What to do? What to do?

I leaned against the counter, my chin resting on my fist as I watched the girls huddled together watching tv in the other room. Then I realized there was one other family member who hadn’t even been informed of the dire situation. Gina!

I quickly pushed off the counter, grabbing my rain jacket from the coat closet, and entered the living room. “Girls, I need to step out for a minute.”

The two peered at me with giant, sad, and suddenly frightened eyes and I knew I had to explain. Any bit of hope would help at this point—for all three of us. Addressing both of them, I focused a bit more on Anne as she was so new to the Shifter world. I also knew I had to choose my words carefully, not sure just how much Rainie knew about Torin and Tobie being soul mates either. This was going to be more difficult than I thought, the experience beginning to become like explaining ‘the birds and the bees.’

“Anne, you’ve heard of soul mates, right?”

She nodded, looking a bit confused at how the topic correlated with my need to leave the house.

“Well, everybody has a soul mate, but in...uh, with shifters, well, we’re able to find our soul mates a lot easier than pure humans. Our animal side makes us more intuitive to them. Do you understand?”

Rainie sat a little straighter, her eyes sparking with recognition. She proceeded to elbow her friend. “Remember how we figured out our parents were probably soul mates a few weeks ago?”

Anne smiled suddenly, “Yeah, and that if they were soul mates, then made us ‘soul sisters!’”

Rainie giggled before continuing, “Well, what Grandma’s saying is that they’re like really soul mates.”

Oh no, this was not going where I was planning on taking the conversation at all! I had fully intended to leave the humans out of this, focusing solely on Onyx and Gina. How the heck did Rainie know already?

“O-M-G, really?” Anne proclaimed, covering her mouth with her hands in excitement, her saddened exterior melting away. She squealed again and the two preteens forgot their despair for their parents momentarily to giggle conspiratorially. Poor Tobie was going to be the last one to find out, I feared, and I didn’t want her learning about it from her daughter. No, that was a conversation that needed to be between her and Torin.

I cleared my throat to get the girls’ attention. “Hold on you two. We’ll discuss this later. But please, please promise me that if we don’t get to talk about it before your parents come home, neither of you bring it up with them. Not until we’ve talked about it, okay?”

Rainie cocked her head. “I already told Dad I knew a while back. You didn’t know?” she asked, suddenly worried if she’d spilled the beans.

I took a deep breath, “Yes, Rainie, I knew. Now, we have more important things to do. Please, quiet girls.” They settled down, waiting expectantly for me to continue. “Alright, so Anne, I don’t know how much Rainie has told you about her dad and his dolphin Onyx...”

“Dusky,” Rainie again elbowed Anne, as though that explained everything. When Anne didn’t respond, Rainie continued. “Dusky’s real name is Onyx and he’s my dad’s dolphin, like Ruby is mine. I knew it was Onyx as soon as you showed me your pictures, but couldn’t tell you then. And Dawn, she’s his wife, or soul mate, Gina.”

Despite my own befuddlement over this conversation, Rainie and I both saw Anne’s face turn to confusion, and she interjected, “Uh, so if Dusky, or uh Onyx already has a soul mate, wouldn’t her human person be your dad’s human soul mate? Or doesn’t it work like that?”

“Oh no, Gina doesn’t have a human side. She’s pure dolphin,” Rainie explained quickly. “See, that’s why your mom can be Dad’s soul mate, er the human part of him anyways. She’s pure human, and both parts of him have their own soul mates. It’s easier if you think of them all as different people. Onyx and Gina, and Dad and your mom. Get it?”

“Ahh. Okay.” Anne’s eyes sparkled with understanding. “Oh, that’s so cool! This is so amazing!”

“Anyways, girls,” I interrupted again as they both were gearing up to burst with delight. I had to get them back on track. “I have an idea. I need to tell Gina about what happened. If, and I repeat if your folks are both on or near water, she might be able to connect with Onyx, as his soul mate, and track them down. It’s too late tonight for the patrol to do anything, but not Gina.”

“Yes! Gina could do it, I’m sure of it!” Rainie wrung her hands with excitement. “Let’s go see if we can find her!” She jumped up with Anne following suit, not quite sure what that all entailed, but ready to find out.

“No, it’s too stormy out there. You girls stay here and I’ll go find her. Okay?”

They both looked a bit bummed, but Rainie took the lead and nodded her understanding. “Yes, Grandma.”

I gave them both a tight hug, then swung my raincoat over my shoulders and headed for the door. As I entered the downpour outside, I could hear the two girls inside and my heart melted.

“Do you think she’ll be able to find them?” Anne asked, worry evident in her voice.

“I sure hope so! They say the soul mate connection is pretty strong, so she should be able to sense Onyx pretty easily, even if Dad’s in human form.”

“Wow, this is all so amazing! I can’t believe Dusky was really your dad’s dolphin all this time! How, I mean what, or why did he come to our dock?”

As I closed the door, I heard the mood lighten again with soft giggles as the two girls put two-and-two together.

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


GINA

Gina had sensed something was off ever since this afternoon. Perhaps it was the weather, she surmised for a while, until the evening set in. In hopes that Torin would let Onyx out after work, she had sped off to the Waters’ family beach, pacing to and fro in the waves for a few hours. But no one showed. It was raining pretty hard though, and she knew humans weren’t so predisposed to rain—even shifter humans who didn’t mind the water.

Still, her anxiety grew. Even if she just got to see and talk to Torin, she would feel relief, she thought as she sent out a few mournful squeaks and clicks into the now dark night. The soul mate connection she had with Onyx was still so new and never having known her mate to be in trouble, she wasn’t exactly sure what to make of the distress she felt inside.

Yet, her human counterpart, Tobie also continued to play on her mind apprehensively as the evening progressed. Her connection to Tobie had gotten progressively stronger over the last few days as the human allowed herself to open up to her own soul mate, Torin. As they neared their first official date night, Tobie’s tentative emotions regarding her budding romance had no choice but to emanate out to sea where Gina could pick them up. As strong as they were, Gina wondered if everyone around the nervous woman could feel her energy. But today’s vibes were different—erratic and full of fear. In the short span of time Gina had come to know Tobie, this was not normal.

Now floating close to Onyx’s beach, something inside told her that Onyx and Torin weren’t home tonight. Yet, she knew answers were here. But if someone didn’t come soon, she would have to go back to her pod for the night. Staying out alone wasn’t all that safe, and the anxiety she felt made her feel extra vulnerable right now.

She let out one more desperate cry against the whipping rain and wind as she bobbed in the choppy water, ready to turn back to go home. But then she saw it—a tiny dot of light making its way towards the beach and coming from the Waters’ home. Clicking in hopes that it was one of her human family members, she darted closer to the beach, waiting for the light-bearer to arrive.

Rhonda! Gina recognized Penny’s human by her shiny yellow and pink raincoat and the way she walked, though barely discernible in the haze of rain and darkness. What was the older woman doing by herself out here in this awful weather?

Waving her flashlight across the water, Rhonda soon spotted Gina, loudly clicking to get her attention. Meeting each other partway, Gina’s belly gently brushed the sandy bottom despite the rough waters, while Rhonda waded knee-deep into the rushing waves, trying to maintain her own balance. Approaching Penny’s human, Gina squeaked a small hello before the intense emotions she’d been carrying all afternoon ushered out. I don’t know what’s wrong, Rhonda. Please tell me, is Onyx or Torin sick or hurt? Did Torin have a fight with Tobie? I just sense so much stress.

Rhonda steadied herself against the waves, then grasped Gina’s head as gently as possible between her palms. Gina tried to listen to the woman’s verbal words, irritated with her pure dolphin self because she was unable to understand the human’s language. But she did understand Rhonda’s soothing shushing, and the usually chattering dolphin quickly stopped clicking and tried very hard to concentrate on communicating through her mind, like Onyx had taught her to do and as she’d been practicing with all three members of her human family members of late.

Rhonda’s thoughts seeped with surety into her intelligent mind, and when her human mother-in-law had finished, Gina’s own thoughts tumbled out in rapid fire. “Oh, not Torin and Tobie! I don’t know how well a small boat like that would hold up in this weather, and at night! You want me to do what? Is that even possible? What if they left the boat and moved onto land?”

Then something snapped inside of her. If ever there was a time to be her usual level-headed self, now was it, she determined. Onyx, Torin, and Tobie’s lives might truly depend on her and panicking was only going to delay things. In these conditions, every second counted when dealing with the ocean, and now she needed to focus.

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