Chapter 71: Going Home
From the moment Torin truly began opening up about what he was, I was captivated. I’m sure I forgot about any pain I might have been in—what ankle? In all seriousness though, I felt quite humbled. I’d always had a deep appreciation of animals and life in general, but even more, a definitive awe for those residing within the ocean. Now, I—October Davis—was being privileged with the knowledge of life few knew really existed.
“Oh my God, that’s why you all eat anchovies on your pizza!” I exclaimed at the end of my torrent of questions about what being a dolphin shifter entailed.
Torin laughed out loud, “There’s lots of pure humans that like anchovies on their pizza. That doesn’t mean a thing.”
“Sure. They’re probably all marine animal shifters and you just don’t know it,” I teased back. We’d shifted from more serious, technical stuff to the mundane and silly, and were laughing like two teens. “I haven’t felt this relaxed in decades,” I finally mused after catching my breath from giggling again.
“It’s been a while for me, too,” Torin’s laugh lingered, ending with a sigh and a faraway look. I made a mental note to dig a little deeper there in the future, our encounter at the Mexican restaurant when his aunt had mentioned Torin’s wife coming to mind. How much strife still resided within him over her death?
My thoughts were interrupted as the distinctive whir of a motor could be heard in the distance. Together, we cast our eyes to the horizon for our rescue party. “There!” Torin pointed up the coastline.
“Oh thank God!” I breathed, spotting the motorboat coming our direction. Thankfully, being summertime, we still had a lot of daylight left, but it was still getting later in the day and I was really ready to get back to my baby, get my ankle attended to, get showered, and get some rest.
Torin stood, taking his green-gray blouse off again and waving it in the air, while I thought about standing, then decided I’d better just stay put. I’m not sure how long it took for them to get close enough to spot Torin’s incessant waving, but we knew it the moment they did. Instead of the seemingly slow and steady crawl along the coast, the boat shifted and picked up the pace considerably.
When he was sure they saw us, Torin put his shirt back on and returned to me with a twinkling smile, “We’re going home.” He kissed me on the temple, as I leaned into him with tears in my eyes, unable to speak. I just nodded into his shoulder.
Gina appeared in the water ahead of the patrol unit, and I couldn’t help but burst into tears. My dolphin friend of the last few months had helped rescue us and now had come back, bringing help up from behind her. Torin must have understood my tears, for he didn’t ask, just pulled me into a tight hug as we sat on the rocks watching our rescuers approach.
The next several minutes were a blur as Torin’s patrol unit landed and immediately began assessing the situation. Torin led the way, detailing the officer taking notes on everything that happened leading up to Jimson’s death and our escape from the cave, minus anything to do with dolphins. I, on the other hand, received some basic triage on my ankle and a nice dose of painkillers. The questioning on my behalf was minimal, much to my relief, and mostly dealt with the events between the rehab and Torin’s daring rescue.
Phone calls and plans were made to get a team out to carefully unbury Jimson’s body from beneath the rubble, and the Miami detectives would be on their way to collect the diamonds that would eventually be recovered with the body. More importantly to me, someone would be notifying our family members back home to let them know we were found and to meet us at the police station.
I don’t know if it was the pain meds or the weight of the situation being lifted from my shoulders, but as I tucked myself into Torin’s body on the bench of the patrol boat as we finally left the cave behind, I drifted off to sleep. Wrapped in a warm blanket and the sense of security Torin provided as he held me, along with the gentle bouncing of the boat and the knowledge that I’d see my baby soon, the last of my energy crumbled.
“October,” I felt his warm breath at my temple, and heard the slowing of the boat’s engine. “Wake up. We’re here.”
Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I felt like I’d just closed them, and tried to cuddle back into Torin’s side and ignore everything around me. Then, remembering that Anne would be waiting for me, my brain jolted awake.
“Anne!” Now that my ankle wasn’t throbbing anymore, I felt more energetic and would have jumped up if Torin didn’t have his arm around me still.
A wheelchair had been waiting for me at the dock and once I was seated, Torin wheeled me inside after I profusely thanked his team for rescuing us as we left them at the dock.
“Mom!” I heard Anne’s voice first as we rounded the corner into the waiting area.
“Dad!” There was Rainie.
“Torin! Tobie!” Rhonda’s shaky voice came next as we were suddenly attacked by our loved ones.
“Your leg! What happened?” Anne asked with worry as she quickly found my open arms and embraced me tightly.
“Oh, it’s just sprained. It’ll be okay.” I uprighted her, feeling her arms and shoulders, then cupping her face in my hands as I searched her for visible injuries. “More importantly, are you okay?”
Anne’s happy face crumbled and tears quickly fell from her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Mom! It’s all my fault. I thought he was going to…,” but she couldn’t finish, bursting into despair and burying her face in her hands.
All my talk of grounding her for life before fell away as I was just grateful that we were all okay and together again. I pulled her back into my arms, shushing softly into her hair. “It’s okay, we’re all okay.”
I looked up to see Torin embracing his own family, making my heart swell even more. He could have died out there, coming after me, and I was beside myself knowing that the Waters family was reunited as well.
“Glad to see you made it in one piece,” Torin broke away from his family when Detective Barrett appeared with Detective Flores coming up behind her partner, a large smile on her face as she took us all in. Barrett made a beeline for Torin, shaking his hand vigorously.
“I’ll second that on your behalf,” the older man chuckled, patting Torin on the shoulder. “We’re gonna head out to the site momentarily and see what we can collect from Jimson’s body. I’d invite you along, but I think you need a moment to recoup—and shower,” he added with a smirk, lightening the mood of the room considerably. I was sure both Torin and I stunk to high heaven.
Once the detectives headed out, Anne quickly wiped away her tears as everyone gathered around my wheelchair.
“I’m just going to tell Alice that I’m back and to let her know to call the house phone if they need to get hold of me since my cell phone was lost. Then we can all head out,” Torin addressed the group while squeezing Rainie’s shoulder. “Is my truck still over at October’s house?” he asked Rhonda as he backed out of the room.
“Yeah, you still have the keys, right?”
Torin nodded in answer. “Great! We can all ride together to drop you ladies off at home,” he motioned to me and Anne, “and I can drive my truck back to the house from there.”
Before long Torin was helping me out of the passenger seat of Rhonda’s car in my own driveway. I’d been relieved to learn that Anne had stayed with Rainie while I was away, but I think she was glad to be home as well. The short ride there was awkward though, with everyone unsure of what to talk about. We’d all been through so much, yet the events of the last couple days was the last thing any of us wanted to broach. Then, of course, there were things I now knew that I couldn’t speak of—not until Torin told his family that I knew about them being dolphin shifters, and not until we could tell Anne. And now was not the time to delve into those waters.
Anne let us in with her key, then took Rainie and Rhonda to the kitchen to see what food we had to heat up for supper. She would be up momentarily to help me get cleaned up. In the meantime, Torin gently picked me up bridal style, silently carrying me up the stairs. At the top, he paused and I motioned to the right where my bedroom lay. The girls could be heard giggling downstairs as he let me down at the foot of my bed, the energy between us palpable as he maintained a gentle hold of my waist, ensuring I didn’t fall over.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, wanting to say so much more, but unsure of what or how.
Gazing into my eyes, he finally responded, leaning down to plant a tender kiss on my lips. I returned the favor, wrapping my arms around his neck. How things between us had changed so drastically over the course of only several days. And where would this relationship go now? I hoped it would go far and maybe even permanent. I don’t remember ever wanting to be attached to someone so heavily and with such surety, ever. I’d been sure with my previous husband, but there still had been jittery nerves. Perhaps, it was my maturity this time around. Or was there something else? Regardless, I’d already fallen hard for this man, and I could easily envision not only making love to him here in my bedroom, but an entire future before us.
“Mom…,” Anne’s voice came bounding just down the hall, then stilted as she entered my room. There was no way to pretend we weren’t kissing, and I heard her surprised yelp before catching her broad smile as my face reddened. Rainie bumped smack dab into Anne, bubbling over with happiness, obviously on the same train of thought Anne had originally been on.
“They were kissing,” Anne whispered loudly to Rainie over her shoulder, who in turn broke out in her own giant smile, while Torin and I embarrassedly turned to face them. Yet, Torin didn’t let go of my hand.
“I knew it!” Rainie proclaimed to Anne, not even trying to hide her words from us. “As soon as I saw them, I knew it. They’re officially a couple!” Then the two of them squealed and giggled profusely, and all the nerves I had about admitting my new relationship status to Anne dissipated.
“Hush, you two,” Torin broke into a grin of his own, then wrapped his arms around my waist once more. There were absolutely no reservations between us now, and I pulled him towards me again, planting another kiss on his lips and eliciting another flurry of giggles from the girls for the short moment it lasted.
“Yes, we’re dating,” I admitted to the girls with a grin of my own. It felt so amazing to be able to say that. “Now, you two,” I motioned to Torin and Rainie, “should be scooting home yourselves. Anne and I can handle everything from here.”
Torin was just as worn out as me and gave me one last kiss on my temple. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Get some rest.”
Before long he and Rainie were headed home in his truck, while Rhonda stayed for a little longer to be sure supper was all but ready to be served and that I didn’t need any help getting cleaned up. “Anne and I’ve got it, Rhonda. You go home and take care of those two. Thank you for everything!”
“I’m just glad you’re both home safe and sound, Tobie. I was so scared for you two,” her voice wavered as she simply gave me a giant squeeze.
I had thought of her as a friend before, but now that we’d both been through the horrors of Jimson’s hold up and worrying that the other might not make it out alive, well, there was a new bond that I didn’t think could ever be broken.