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

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Chapter 7: The Truth of the Matter

TOBIE

The following morning my phone buzzed with a call from Rob. I exited Anne’s room after having delivered her breakfast of chicken soup and told her I’d be back to check on her after my call. She’d looked a bit pale this morning, and her throat still hurt, but I hoped the broth would help.

“Hey Rob!” I answered.

“Hey, how’s Anne doing?”

“Oh, her throat’s all sore, but she’s not coughing or sneezing, so that’s good.”

“Well, Amy said to tell you that she’ll send over anything you want her to cook up.”

Amy, Rob’s wife, was a wonderful lady and a wonderful cook! The couple, being a bit older, had taken me under their wings like a little sister when I was going through my divorce in Ohio. I loved and respected them both highly.

“Tell her thank you, but I don’t need a thing right now. But if she ever finds she has too much cherry cobbler on her hands, I’d gladly help her out!” I teased in return.

Rob laughed heartily, knowing that I was a sucker for his wife’s cherry cobbler.

“No, we’re good though,” I continued. “I just know Anne and figured the next three days would be sick days. By this weekend she’ll be back to her usual perky self. But I do plan on swinging by the Rehab Center later this afternoon to help administer Delilah’s antibiotic.”

“Yeah, Rhonda gave me your report on the dolphins. Good catch on the lung infection. See, I told you we needed you here!”

I smiled, thinking that any vet would have figured out her respiratory problem soon enough, she just hadn’t been seen by a doctor at all, poor thing.

“Hey, while I’ve got you, Rhonda told me about what happened with her son, Torin, yesterday. I guess she was worried when she got your email about not coming in today, thinking that it was because of that. She felt really bad, saying it was all her fault.”

I sat down on the couch in the living room and wrinkled my nose. I didn’t want drama starting between anyone here - I’d hoped to have left all drama behind in Cincinnati.

Smoothing it over, I truthfully replied, “Oh, yeah. No, I don’t blame her! She couldn’t help it, and she tried to step in. No worries. Please let her know that I’m good and that Anne really is sick.”

Rob paused, then continued, “Tobie, she told me what he’d said to you, and if you feel upset, it’s okay.”

Goodness, I thought! Sure, I’d felt upset afterwards, but I didn’t want it to be such a big deal that the boss got involved!

“Uh, yeah I was a bit taken aback at the time, but I’m good now, Rob. At least I don’t have to work with the guy!”

Rob cleared his throat, clearly not letting this go so easily. “Rhonda also filled me in on Torin’s history. I guess his wife passed away a few years ago. She had been heavily involved in uncovering the abuse at the aquarium before she died.”

I cringed more than before, suddenly feeling bad for the guy - I mean he lost his wife and she obviously worked at the aquarium! No wonder he didn’t want anyone manhandling the dolphins. Yet, a part of me still thought he was an inconsiderate asshole.

Was I being cruel? Shoot, the man carried a pistol and was a lawman for a living - surely, he needed to have more control over himself and not lose it on an unsuspecting veterinarian out of the blue!

Instead, I simply replied, “We’re good, Rob. I understand, and no hard feelings. So long as Rhonda’s okay, I have no problems on my end.”

Rob breathed out in relief, apparently praying that he didn’t have to deal with drama in his own business. “Alright, well I’ll let you go, but please holler if you need anything! Give our love to Anne for a speedy recovery!”

“Thanks, Rob, I will.”

I pressed the end button on my smartphone and ran my hand through my pixie cut. “Jeez, what a mess!”

I felt bad for Rhonda, having to deal with that sort of drama in her personal life, and I really did feel bad for what’s-his-name... Oh yeah, Torin. “That’s an unusual name,” I mused before continuing my thoughts. I wouldn’t wish a spouse’s death on anyone. Well, maybe if the spouse were anything like my ex. Okay, not even that - as horrible as he’d been, he wasn’t abusive or anything, just beyond frustrating, and I guess he didn’t necessarily deserve to die. (I only say that now - eight years after the divorce.)

But seriously, this guy must have really loved his wife to still be so tore up over her. As sad as it was, a part of me wished that I knew what that kind of love felt like. I thought I had had that at one point in my marriage, but it apparently wasn’t mutual. And honest to God, soul mate-type love was mutual, right?

“God, how’d I turn this around to make it about ME,” I suddenly wondered in disgust. I hated the victim-game! Yet, thinking about someone else’s marriage and love always made me reflect on my own regardless.

Once I’d finally (mostly) pulled myself together after the divorce, I kept telling myself that true love - my soul mate - was out there, because Rich was apparently not The One. But throughout these last eight years, the right time to consider a Mr. Right had never arrived. After all, I had a daughter to raise, a career to accomplish, and if Prince Charming didn’t waltz in right away, so be it.

Guiltily, I knew that I was really avoiding Prince Charming altogether. Part of my weight gain after the divorce was probably psychological, I reasoned when I started getting serious about losing the weight later on. My cheating husband had planted a whole garden of self-doubt in my heart. By the time it all came out, beauty or desirability was the last things I saw in myself. And no matter how many times your mother and daughter tell you you’re beautiful, it’s not necessarily unbiased information, and therefore unreliable.

But a deep-seated part of me wanted to make sure no man would think me attractive ever again. Sure, I wanted to enjoy my life, but I also wanted to hide from the possibility of love. By doing so, I wouldn’t have to go through the stress of getting to know a guy, falling for him, then have him up and leave me and our beautiful daughter in the end.

I was too old for all that now and I was wore out in the heart department. Did I know that this was Stupidity-personified talking inside my head? Yeah. But it didn’t stop me from listening.

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