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

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Chapter 66: Fishing and a Near Rescue

TOBIE

Coming out of what could have been a hazy dream, I stretched slightly, pain shooting from my ankle, into my toes, and up my calf. I grimaced as I drowsily lay where I was, determined not to move the offending appendage again as moving would only make things worse. How I yearned for one tiny pain pill.

Otherwise, my limbs were cold. Very cold. Yet, as miserable as I felt physically, I also felt more comfortable than I had in years. Inhaling deeply, the warm cocoon that my upper body had been wrapped in gently enveloped me a tad tighter, while the delightfully sinful scent of masculinity wafted into my nostrils. Dim sunlight emanated through my closed eyelids and the downpouring rain and crackling fire had been replaced by echoing drips of water and birdsong. Was it morning already?

I couldn’t contain my sheepish smile at the memories of my passionate moment in Torin’s arms, at which my offending injury ultimately led to me simply falling asleep tucked into his warm and tender side. I tilted my face up slowly to see if he was awake.

His head was cocked to the side and slightly down, his chin resting on his shoulder as he drew breath evenly. In sleep he looked more peaceful than I’d ever seen him and I thought him to be the most handsome man I’d ever laid eyes on. What I would give to wake up to the sight of him every day. Goodness Tobie, where did that thought come from?

As I unconsciously smoothed my free hand over his still-bare chest—the chest I had no problem cuddling to through the entire stormy night—he tensed slightly. His own free hand covered mine, as his breathing hitched just a bit. It was his turn to stretch, and as my eyes fell across the length of his body I was suddenly taken aback as he murmured something unintelligible into my hair then released his grasp on my hand and proceeded to adjust himself down below. His breathing evened out again—he hadn’t fully woken.

Oh God, he’s turned on right now! I nervously swallowed as all the chill I had felt before from the cool morning air suddenly disappeared with the sudden and shockingly pleasant heat I now felt between my own legs, whilst my heart thumped loudly against his side. I didn’t even notice my fingers digging into his soft, yet muscular flesh at his flank, just above his navel with hungry, nervous energy, until he murmured again in a near moan. Jerking awake, Torin’s hand went from the front of his uniform pants to my hand as he gained his senses. With heated cheeks, I forced my eyes to move along, hoping he hadn’t realized I witnessed his current state. Kissing each other was one thing, but I wasn’t sure I was ready to be thinking too heavily on anybody’s nether regions.

“What are you trying to do to me, woman?” His voice was raspy with sleep and sexuality. “Don’t you know you can’t touch a guy like that in the morning without consequences? I thought you studied biology or something.” Apparently, he had no shame whatsoever.

I was caught red handed and red faced. But something about his reprimanding jest tickled my senses in the most unexpected way and I couldn’t help it as my own shame dissolved. Had he just taken a page from my book, trying to make the most serious of situations fun? Or, were we really more alike than I’d realized? And if so, how had he covered this part of himself up for so long? Lord, this side of Torin made me feel young again. I felt free. Free to be myself, and even more so, to let myself go. My stomach fluttered as I giggled lightly and a tantalizing desire to both play and make love entered my mind.

“I actually got an A+ in Anatomy and Physiology,” I finally replied, feigning haughty pride as I tilted my face up towards his with a smirk.

“So, you’re an instigator, huh?” He laughed from deep inside his throat, then leaned down to kiss my lips. I reached up, grasping his neck and furthering what he probably intended to be a quick good morning kiss.

His warm lips were starting to become familiar already, and I welcomed his taste and feel—morning breath be damned on both of our parts. Before I could linger on that though, his stomach rumbled with a ferocious growl, emanating through my shirt and to my own hungry gut. “When did you eat last?” I asked as I pulled away from his lips with a soft smile.

He helped me sit up, as he thought for a moment. “Gosh, I guess it was my quick quarter of a sandwich around noon yesterday. I was late for the briefing, so the rest of my lunch is still sitting on my desk waiting for me.”

We both swallowed at the same time, the lack of food being our next problem.

“Well, lunchtime yesterday seems like a long time ago after everything that’s happened. Do you think there’s any fish or crabs in the tidepool?”

“You read my mind,” Torin grinned back at me, leaving me to sit on the rocks with my aching bum ankle while he rose to check it out. I allowed a tiny sigh as I leaned back to watch him begin his foray for food.

Unsure of the time, I surmised that it was still pretty early in the morning. The sky above the tidepool was bright, but the fluffy cumulus clouds still had that soft morning glow about them. At least it wasn’t supposed to rain anymore and I hoped that meant Torin’s patrol unit would be out this way soon. As romantic as it was to be locked away from the world with Torin, my ankle was aching worse and I knew I needed to get some medical attention soon. Before my worries could drag me down, Torin gave a loud yelp. “Crap! You little...”

My attention snapped up just in time to see what looked like a decent sized crab go flying towards the middle of the deep pool. “You’re supposed to catch them and bring ’em back here, not throw ’em back into water,” I called out, watching him standing ankle deep in the water holding his hand in pain.

He playfully glared at me. “So says the one who’s chilling on her behind while I do all the hunting.”

My lips quirked up in mirth. “I’ll make it up to you. When we get back to civilization, I’ll fix you my world-famous shrimp alfredo. And you won’t even have to hunt for the shrimp, I promise.”

“You’re on,” he called back before turning his attention back to something in the water near his feet.

In the meantime, I leaned my head back against the rock face and closed my eyes, willing the pain in my ankle to at least subside. Thank God it wasn’t truly broken, but regardless, I felt like crap. My mind wandered to the worries of our situation, then to Anne. Where had she spent the night? Did she have access to the house to get clothes, her toothbrush, her allergy medicine? Oh, my poor baby...

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

TORIN

I’m not sure how long it was before October had dozed off, but she needed the rest in order to heal. Once I saw her nod off, I quickly went to work using my dolphin senses to reach out to the slim pickings of marine life in the pool. If only I could have told her about Onyx already, I would’ve had several fish done caught and ready to cook. But I was going to have to do this the hard way.

Bending at the waist, I stretched out my palms, laying them atop the water then breathed deeply as if going into mediation. The unnatural movements humans, as land mammals, make in water tends to spook most sea life, so I opened my mind to allow Onyx’s telepathy to send out his thought patterns to the fish further into the darkened portion of the tidepool. Before long, several shiny fish scampered closer to the surface, a few making their way closer to me.

Slowly pulling the sharp stick I’d found earlier from my belt loop, I again froze. Continuing to block my own thought patterns, Onyx sent his soothing psychic echolocation frequencies down into the water. Using both of our skills simultaneously, I plunged the stick down hard and fast. To my relief, as I pulled it back out of the water, a still flopping fish had in fact been impaled and was now all mine for the taking. I stepped out of the water and quietly went back up to where October slept to prepare our meal.

For a moment I paused, watching her slumber. Her breathing was steady enough, but she had moments of sharp inhalation and I knew she was in pain. We needed to get out of here, and for a moment I felt frustrated at my inability to get us out without a rescue team.

On the other hand, as her breathing evened out again, I acknowledged my appreciation for the time I have had to really be alone with her for a change. In my attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, I realized how our relationship had seemed to blossom in the midst of our dire situation. Onyx, still alert within my mind, not having hidden away after our fishing quest yet, piped up inside my head, interrupting my own thoughts.

“Make sure you present her the fish. Remember, you’re trying to court her.”

I laughed under my breath. If I weren’t human that would be alright. But human girls, especially non-shifters, like flowers and jewelry and that kind of thing, not fish. I wouldn’t have even given Sandy a fish for a present. That was definitely something more up Jade or Gina’s alley.

Onyx clicked and squeaked his disdain for such frivolties, and I rolled my eyes having heard it before. “Fish are a sensible gift, Torin. Think about it. They show that you can provide for her, while giving her a tasty treat to build up her strength. Then, when she’s not hungry for fish anymore she’ll have the energy and an appetite for having fun with you.”

Okay, okay. Now, I’ve got to get busy. I tried to push Onyx back some, knowing he wouldn’t stop until I agreed with him.

“Promise me you’ll gift her the fish, Torin,” his request came in loud and clear.

“Alright,” I growled aloud by accident, turning quickly away from the woman in question, setting my now-still fish aside and pretending to ready our cooking space instead of arguing with the dolphin in my head.

Hearing her moving to sit, I turned back to her afresh, offering her some assistance as she winced in pain. Once she was sitting properly, I stood and my eyes lit upon her smiling up at me in gratitude. I again spoke out loud without necessarily intending to. “You know you’re pretty when you sleep.”

Oops, oh well, I meant it.

“Ha,” she breathed out with a slightly embarrassed huff. “We need to get your eyes checked when we get outta here. I’m pretty sure I look a mess.” She rubbed at her leg as her face soured a little with pain again.

“A beautiful mess,” I countered a little more seriously, and she couldn’t help but smile in return, taking my compliment to some degree despite shaking her head dismissively.

“You’re not so bad yourself. But good looks won’t get you far if you came back without bringing me something to eat.” She quipped with humor.

I laughed at her unexpected return and without thinking, instantaneously grabbed my fish, still on the stick, and proudly held it out to her. She looked a bit surprised at the near medium sized fish, freshly harpooned, and I instantly felt embarrassed. This was exactly what I was trying to explain to Onyx. You can’t gift a fish to your human woman.

"Trachinotus carolinus!” She clapped her hands with excitement, eying the short snouted silver fish with sudden delight.

“Trachi-what?” I was confused by both her words and reaction. Was she actually excited by my present? Maybe Onyx was onto something.

"Trachinotus carolinus. It’s the scientific name for the Florida Pompano fish. They’re supposed to be plentiful in these waters and can grow up almost four feet long, although most reach no more than half or two-thirds of that size. Like this little guy.” She looked endearingly at the dead fish, then blushed with obvious embarrassment. “Sorry. I’ve been working on my Florida fish names and facts, and well, you know, I guess I have a bad habit of getting really excited when something I just learned about pops up. You know, being a Marine Biologist and all.”

I laughed. “Well, if that’s your worst bad habit, I guess I can work with that.”

“Gaw, I’m such a fish nerd—probably the only girl who’d be overly excited about getting a fish handed to her. And not just as food in a time of crisis.”

Oh lord, Onyx was right. I definitely need to listen to him a bit more.

That’s when we heard it—a low whir, steadily building in intensity. “A helicopter!” I shouted and we both looked at one another with excitement. A rescue team was on its way.

Soon, the loud aircraft was upon our location, and my heart raced at the implications of being able to get October out of here and going home as the bright orange US Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin sped over our cave in the direction of the open sea. It had been so close that the shadow briefly drenched the cave in darkness as it passed by.

We both held as still as possible, waiting with baited breath for the now-softening chop of the blades to return. Surely, the pilot had spotted the bass boat outside and would be swinging the chopper around to get another look at the crash site.

Finally, the noise faded completely from earshot and my hopes of rescue were stifled just a bit. October, on the other hand, looked whipped.

“Where… where did they go?” She looked at me with worry. “Aren’t they coming back? Are they going to get some help?”

I met her pained expression silently and quickly knelt next to her still seated on the rocks. Looking so distraught, I put my arms around her and she encircled me tightly as well.

Her voice trembled with anger this time. “What happened, Torin? Where did they go?”

I pulled away, closing my eyes briefly to compose myself, then took her face in my hands, eying her with a renewed sense of calm. “October, listen. The storm must’ve blown the wreckage out to sea. The dumb boat was barely hanging onto the rocks as it was and when tide came in this morning...”

I didn’t need to continue. She got the picture. But I did anyway. “They’re searching elsewhere. They’re not going to find us unless we can make some kind of signal through the roof of this cave.”

“But they won’t see our signal if they don’t come back! They have to come back! They have to!”

“October, they’ll be back. They’ll be sweeping the area again, but probably not for a while. There’s a lot of beachfront to cover and they’ll sweep the entire thing before making a second round. In the meantime, let’s not worry and just relax. We’ll eat this wonderful Trachi-whatever-it-is that I worked so hard to catch, then put together a solid plan for when they come back. Okay?”

I gave her a soft smile, and she did in fact relax some. The level-headed woman I knew was in there returned as she took a few deep breaths before taking my hands in hers. “Okay. I’m fine. We can do this. Let’s eat.”

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