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

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Chapter 67: Shifting to the Truth

TOBIE

Torin went to work cleaning the fish as best as possible with a sharp rock, then cooking it over the small campfire he’d built, while I watched in silence from my rocky step. I wondered what was on his mind as he worked—he seemed to be lost in thought. Finally, I just asked. “Penny for your thoughts.”

He shrugged, “Oh, just how we might send out a signal of some kind. And about how we’re going to physically get out of here. It’s got to be either going through the rubble blocking the cave’s mouth or up through the hole there.”

I nodded, not liking either scenario. I wasn’t a fan of heights and waiting for people to clear all that heavy rock from the entrance would take a long time.

He sighed a little before continuing. “I’m also wondering how Mom and Rainie, and Anne, and that other kid, too, are doing. Are they hurt? The girls are probably worried as hell about us, and I don’t like that either. And I’m wondering where the hell my team is.”

I simply nodded again as my stomach growled with the delicious smell of cooking fish filling the cave. Looking around us for the hundredth time, a thought popped into my head. “Hey, do we have enough driftwood to build a big, smokey fire? They should be able to see smoke coming out of the hole up there, right?”

Torin looked panicked as he shook his head. “Oh no. I was actually going to put out the fire right after I was done cooking. Driftwood contains a lot of salt and the smoke is considered toxic, and the ventilation in this cave is close to what it is on the open beach. That’s why I let it die out last night. I just wanted it to get us dry and to get you warm enough not to go into shock. But we definitely do not want to make a bonfire out of it, not inside this place.”

My eyes were wide with amazed fear. “Oh! I had no idea.” Then, glancing at the fish, “Um, is it safe to cook our food with?”

“Yeah, we’ll be alright with just a small amount for a little while. I’m not going to cook the filets too hard anyways. But yeah, probably not the best plan for signaling.”

“Jeez, what about all those people who do beach bonfires all summer? I mean, I guess… Come to think of it, I hadn’t seen many, if any, people cooking or partying with fires on the beach since we’d moved here.”

Torin shook his head, “No, you have to have a permit to have a bonfire nowadays. Open fires are illegal, so most folks are using gas grills when they cook on the beach. Some places have even made it illegal to burn driftwood.”

“Oh,” I frowned, “When did all this happen?” Then I laughed, “Probably when I went and moved to the middle of the United States all those years ago. Well, that’s a bummer since it’s the only plan I’ve come up with so far. Having all this driftwood and not being able to use it is a horrible tease.”

“Don’t feel too bad,” he returned kindly. “I haven’t come up with anything better, either. But we will,” he interjected quickly, probably not wanting the situation to seem any more dire than it already was. The pain in my ankle throbbed again and I winced. Think, Tobie, think. How can we get outta here?

Then I leaned back again, closed my eyes and sent out a silent prayer to God, hoping that my thoughts and energy would be like a beacon to the rescue team. That someone, somewhere would be able to tune in to our location and know that we were here.

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

TORIN

I let October rest again as I doused the fire and took my time cleaning up from our meal. At least we wouldn’t go hungry if we had to stick it out here for a couple of days. I had no intention of spending longer than that here.

After a while I decided to examine our cave while stretching my legs. There wasn’t a lot to see, but as expansive as it was, it afforded me a slight change of scenery. Jimson’s foot was still peeking out from the rubble opposite of where we’d set up camp, and I quickly moved along after investigating the giant pile of boulders and debris. There was no way out without some heavy equipment.

With a heavy heart and no solutions, I moved to the deep tidepool’s edge. My mind wandered as I stared down into the clear, blue water. It was moments like this when I wanted to allow Onyx to come out so I could bask in his usually peaceful presence. That was when clarity and peace of mind would find me. Or, as I’ve found since Sandy’s death, escape from my own reality.

I glanced over to where October was resting and briefly wondered if I could slip into the water and let my dolphin out for just a moment. No, it was too risky. I wasn’t even sure if she was asleep. Instead, I sat at the edge of the water, dragging my fingertips through the cool liquid, allowing myself to meditate. There had to be a way out of this that I hadn’t considered.

Eventually, October began to stir again and I returned to sit with her. “How’s the ankle?”

She grimaced, wiping the sleep from her eyes, “Not good, but could be worse I guess. How about you? You took a lot of punches yesterday.”

“Meh, I got a few bruises, but nothing serious.”

We sat in silence for a moment, then I ventured, “I have a feeling we’re going to miss our date this evening. If everything went well tonight, I was going to ask you then, but I guess I’ll just go ahead and do it now.”

She eyed me speculatively, but with a hint of humor in her eyes.

“Do you wanna be my girlfriend?” I didn’t doubt what her answer would be at this point—not after the way she kissed me this morning—but I had to be sure we were on the same page and I knew she would want to be clear about it as well.

Her eyes sparkled as her lips turned up into a grand smile, then she softly laughed as her cheeks turned red. I could see her attempt to not get emotional. “Yes,” she blinked as she bobbed her head up and down, “Yes, I would definitely like to be your girlfriend.”

Relief flooded my system as I hadn’t realized how nervous I had actually been about making our thing official. We were making this official—no, we just made this official! This was a huge step for me, and I supposed it was for her as well.

We both laughed, a little nervous and a little relieved and a lot elated. “I’m sure the girls are going to be thrilled,” she smiled, resting her chin on her arms wrapped around her good leg as she leaned forward.

“Mom will be, too,” I added, soaking in the moment.

I was about to go on, when a strange bubbling noise erupted from the tidepool. Panic flashed between us as I rose to see what was going on. What if Jimson’s cave in had caused some other weakening of the rock under the tidepool? We could potentially be crushed if the entire thing came down.

“What is it?” October voiced as we both witnessed definitive bubbles surfacing at the far side of the tidepool. I didn’t answer as I helped her to her feet, ready to get her out of the way if necessary. Not that we had many options in that regard.

Seconds after the surge of bubbles began a large object burst to the surface, and with it a loud whistle, followed by several clicks that echoed around the cave. “A dolphin!” October cried out with relief.

But this wasn’t just any dolphin—I knew that voice, or rather Onyx knew her better than anyone could. Taking hold of October around the waist, I helped her hobble to the water as the bubbles disappeared and the dolphin in question swam to our side of the pool, continuing her excited chattering. It didn’t take us long to meet the familiar dolphin at the pool’s edge.

“Gina!”

“Dawn!”

We both called out to our mutual friend simultaneously before questioning one another.

“Dawn?”

“Gina?” Then October interjected, “You know this dolphin?”

Oh boy, how would I explain this? “Uh, yeah.” I kept it super simple. Then an even more important thought occurred. “How’d she get in here?”

We both had the same thought, but October voiced it first, “There must be an underwater passage leading out to the ocean!”

That was exciting news. If we could get out of this cave, then we would be able to signal to the rescue crew when they made it back out this way. “Do you think you could swim?” I asked, pretty sure I knew she wouldn’t be able to with her ankle.

She furrowed her brows and shook her head, “I could float alright, but not swim. Not like this.”

“Damn,” I cursed under my breath, then a thought occurred. I could pull her along with me. But, I wasn’t sure what the supposed passage was like, or if it was even still there. What if it had caved in while Gina was coming through and was impassable now. And how long was it? Dolphins can hold their breath much longer than humans. Would we be able to make it? I needed to talk to Gina.

Of course, doing so was going to be easier said than done. October would think it weird if I communed with the dolphin. And if I were to really get detailed information from her, I needed Onyx to come out. I helped October to sit next to the edge of the pool, while I let out a shaky breath. I knew I was going to have to cross this bridge at some point, but frankly I was scared to death. What if she didn’t accept me for what I was? I wanted to slowly introduce her to the idea of shifters, and even then I had no idea how I was going to go about it. Now, I was being forced to come out with it as our only means of rescue.

“Are you okay, Torin?” October must have noticed my worry as the thoughts ran frantically through my mind.

“Uh, yeah,” I answered as my stomach sank. I looked her in the eye, pondering my options—or lack thereof—and saw concern and a flicker of something more. Then it hit me. This woman was my soul mate. She’d just accepted me as her boyfriend. We had more going for us than most because she had already been willing to try to make something of a relationship with me after the rocky beginning we had. And at this point, if she couldn’t accept me for what I was, well… I didn’t want to go there, but this was going to have to be the moment of truth.

“October,” I sat on my knees in front of her as Gina bobbed in the water behind me, “do you trust me?”

She blinked at me in confusion then nodded, “Yeah. Why?”

“Listen, I am going to tell you something that’s going to be hard to believe. But you’re going to have to trust me and really open your mind, okay?”

“Okay-” she answered with confused hesitation, allowing me to continue.

“I, uh- Well, you know how- Okay, so I’m what’s called a shifter,” I ran my hand through my hair. “It’s where, uh, a human, like me, has an animal that lives inside them. At certain times, the animal comes out and the body shifts into the animal form. Does that make sense?” I looked at her in ernest.

She knitted her brows with determined concentration and definite confusion, “What are you talking about? Are you saying you’re a werewolf?” She looked incredulous.

“No!” I kind of laughed, “Definitely not a werewolf.” Then I sobered up, realizing that that’s exactly what it sounded like I was saying. “Um, actually something like that. But not a wolf. Definitely not a wolf.” God, I was nervous.

“Torin, are you okay?” Then her eyes flashed to the dead campfire. “The driftwood! Did you breathe in too much of the smoke? We need to get you some air!” She looked genuinely worried.

I ran my hands over my face in frustration, then reached out for her hands.

Quit acting like a flounder, Torin! Onyx sounded loud inside my mind.

“October. Listen.” I looked her in the eyes again, more determined this time, then just spit it out. “I’m a dolphin shifter. There’s only a few of us families left here in Florida, but our people go back thousands of years. Basically, we’re human with a dolphin spirit. But that spirit can take physical form. When the dolphin is in form, the human side becomes the dolphin’s spirit. My dolphin, Onyx, is mated to Gina here, and that’s how I know her.”

Her face softened slightly as she regarded me with a slight smirk, “Okay, so there’s only one problem with your story. As a marine biologist, I have to inform you that dolphins don’t have mates. I mean they mate and all that stuff—quite a bit actually—but they’re not monogamous by any means.” She laughed, apparently thinking I was messing with her.

I let out a frustrated growl, “I’m serious. I’m a shifter and Gina here knows if or how we can get out of here. But I need to talk to her. I mean Onyx needs to talk to her to see what we need to do.”

October pulled back a little and I was sure she was thinking about how she was going to have to commit me to the mental hospital if we got out of here. “What’s this all about, Torin? You’re kinda scaring me.” She was telling the truth.

Scaring her wasn’t going to win me any points in her book, so I took a calming breath and swallowed back my frustration. Leaning in, I took her face between my hands and gently kissed her forehead. “Sit right there. I’ll show you.”

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