It's too late by the time she realizes that she's in trouble.

The worst part is that she knows it. Knows it like she knows her ABCs, like she knows the sun will rise in the eastern sky tomorrow morning. Like she knows her partner will show up with their favorite coffee orders and some heavenly pastry treat for her. And right now, Kate knows that if things continue at this rate, she's going to get herself into a sticky situation. She'd bet money on it in fact, and it will be entirely her own doing.

It was already late when they departed for the Old Haunt, and they've been here for, what, an hour and a half? Two hours already? More than half of the precious bottle from Beau James's reserve is gone, happily drunk by a couple of cops and their writer tag-along, who also happens to be the new owner of the very bar in which they're doing their carousing. She's been nursing a beer since her third glass of whiskey burned its way down her throat, pleasantly blurring her senses and warming her from the inside out. Warmth that had nothing to do with the fact that Castle had been tightly pressed against her side in their overcrowded booth. Nothing to do with the way he couldn't seem to pull his gaze away from her mouth every time she spoke, the way he watched her like he hung on every word. The way his lips practically grazed her ear every time he leaned in close to speak to her over the din of the crowded room. Nope. It had nothing to do with that.

Now she finds herself watching the boys play pool in teams, Montgomery and Espo against Ryan and Castle. From her vantage point in the booth, she can't tell who's winning, but she doesn't much care. She only has eyes for one of the players at present, anyway.

Her attention is divided between the ongoing match and Lanie, her only companion in the booth now; Espo had insisted upon calling and including her in the festivities. What's that all about, anyway? she wonders. She decides to ponder that particular subject at a later time. Right now, she needs every available sober synapse to make sense of what Lanie is saying to her.

"…and obviously I said there is no way a cheesy, frat-boy pick-up line like that is going to work on a woman like me, and I'm telling you girl, I thought the man might cry when all of a sudden…"

Lanie trails off then, their table falling into silence, but Kate's too busy staring unabashedly at her handsome partner (and his fine backside as he bends to make his next shot) to notice.

"Ahem!"

Kate whips her head back to look at her, quickly taking in Lanie's scrutinizing expression. "What?" she says innocently (too innocently).

Lanie glares at her, shaking her head. "I should be asking you that very same question. What's going on with you tonight? You're awfully distracted." She finishes with a head bobble and raised eyebrows and no small amount of sass.

Kate has the reflexes of a ninja though, doesn't even flinch at her friend's blatant fishing expedition. She simply blinks lazily, shrugs her shoulders nonchalantly. "Nope, just glad the case is closed and everyone's having fun. And that whiskey is awfully good too."

"Mmmmhhhhmmmm." Lanie demurs, knowing she's completely full of shit. She watches as her friend's eyes unconsciously drift back over to the pool table once again.

"So how's Josh?"

That question does get Kate's attention, and she jerks her head back in time to see Lanie lifting her glass to her lips, her smirk hidden behind the rim of her vodka cranberry.

Kate narrows her eyes at her and her obvious ploy, but there's no anger behind her expression. Keep your answer brief and to the point, she reminds herself. You're the master interrogator here, not Lanie. Although Lanie could be awfully persistent. And persuasive. And downright manipulative. Honestly? It was impossible to keep a secret from her.

But in the meantime…brief and to the point.

"He's fine." Or at least she's fairly certain that he's fine. They haven't spoken in five days, haven't texted in three. The only thing that's bothering her about that is the fact that it isn't bothering her at all.

"Uh huh." Lanie deadpans. "And where is he this evening?"

"On shift."

She lets out a grunt of disapproval at that. Kate already knows that she's gearing up to give her a piece of her mind, like it or not. Lanie's all tipsy and wound up now, so she decides to let her go until she either runs out of gas, or their companions return to the table and rescue her from the onslaught, whichever comes first.

"Do you realize that is exactly what you've said the last five times I've asked you why Josh hasn't joined us for an evening out? Is that man ever not working? I mean c'mon, Kate! When do you two spend time together?"

She rolls her eyes and forces a smile in an effort to diffuse the head of steam behind Lanie's not-completely-off-base rant about Josh and his conspicuous absence from his girlfriend's social life. "Lanie, why are you suddenly so concerned about my relationship status with Josh? We're fine. We both work a lot. We've accepted that about each other. We're compatible that way. Everything is fine." Her voice sounds watery, her answer a little too forced and hollow, even to her own ears.

Lanie sniffs at that. "It might be the only way you two are compatible," she grumbles.

Kate looks down into her pint glass, worried that she's just tipsy enough for her eyes to give away the truth of Lanie's statement. The fact was, their busy schedules had already become a point of contention between her and Josh, but she wasn't about to admit that. Just last week, they had argued about it briefly, only to tumble into bed and work out their frustrations there instead. She wasn't proud of it, but it had succeeded in pushing the argument to the back burner, if only temporarily. It was bound to resurface again, probably sooner rather than later.

As it turns out, Lanie isn't finished with this topic. "And that's it? You two have just 'accepted it'? That sounds romantic. A real happily ever after kind of story."

Kate just sighs, still staring into the contents of her glass, the beer probably as lukewarm as her feelings for her boyfriend right now.

Lanie's voice is softer when she speaks next. "Kate."

She drags her eyes up to meet her friend's. Lanie's looking at her with…oh God, is that pity? Sympathy? No, that's not right. That's not how things are supposed to be. She's supposed to be the envy of her girlfriends, right? She's the one with a successful career and an endless closet of fabulous coats and shoes. The one with a hot cardiologist boyfriend. The one being shadowed by an equally handsome, best-selling mystery novelist who is basing a series of wildly successful books (more like 300-page love letters, really) on her. Perfect, right?

More like perfectly fucked up, her mind supplies.

"Listen, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to put you on the spot. I just want to see you happy, and if Josh is the guy that makes you happiest, then you know I'll be your biggest cheerleader."

She pauses, and Kate can tell that she's simply gathering her thoughts. Apparently, she's not done with her yet, but Kate is squirming in her seat now. She's feeling a bit exposed under her friend's scrutiny, and Lanie isn't pulling any punches tonight.

"But Kate, I think there's someone else out there for you. Someone better suited to your lifestyle and your dreams and your desires. Someone whose schedule you don't have to just accept. Someone who you can laugh with, preferably a lot. Someone who thinks you're extraordinary."

She doesn't even have to say his name. They both know whom she's talking about.

She closes her eyes and shakes her head. "Lanie…" she begins, her voice barely a whisper.

Lanie takes her hand then, squeezes it tightly. "Kate."

Her eyes open on Lanie's, whose expression has changed once again. She's being entirely too serious for Kate's liking.

"I'm not telling you to do anything about it tonight, or tomorrow, or this week even. I'm just saying…think about it. Think about what you're doing, where you're going. Think about what you want for once. What would it take for you to have that? And would it be so terrible to take that chance?"

Kate can only scoff at her, all at once terrified and thrilled by what she's implying. "You make it sound like I'm dating a monster, Lanie."

"That's not what I'm saying at all." Oh…so no cracking jokes to avoid the conversation tonight. "Josh seems like a great guy. But he's the safe choice, and you know it."

Kate does know it, knows it in her bones. But, no…not tonight. She cannot deal with all of this tonight. And right about now, she's done with this conversation.

"There's nothing wrong with safe." She manages to infuse her voice with enough conviction to satisfy herself, at least.

Lanie won't even grace that statement with a comeback. She makes a disapproving sound in her throat, tips the rest of her drink back, and excuses herself to go to the ladies' room.

Kate just sits there, statue-still, trying her damnedest to keep her eyes and her mind on her drink and away from the pool table. Her thoughts are such a jumbled mess of feelings and regrets and impulses, and she should know better than to act upon them when the alcohol is flowing so freely within her veins. She doesn't need her best friend to tell her she's completely full of shit; safe is fine, but it grows old quickly. In spite of her on-paper compatibility with Josh, the reality has been a complete let down.

She runs her hand through her hair then, flustered in more ways than one. It had been over a week since their argument and the fix-it sex that had followed. It had been good, of course; great, even. There had been no small amount of anger and frustration behind it and damn if it hadn't felt amazing (both times, in fact). But while Josh had no complaints about the way their disagreement had been resolved, she had felt swamped by an influx of guilt afterward. She feels like she's using him; using his body to end conversations she isn't comfortable having, using his companionship to avoid dealing with her unresolved feelings for her partner.

Her eyes flick up to said partner then, watching him surreptitiously through her lashes, no desire to be caught staring at him by Lanie, or anyone else for that matter. He looks so good tonight; relaxed, smiling, having a damn good time drinking fine liquor with this extended work family of theirs. There's some light scruff on his chin after the long day and it's unbearably sexy. She knows now that there's more to him than his carefully fabricated public persona, and she can't help but think that the man she sees here tonight is far closer to his true self: fun, generous, and accommodating to a fault; a man who would give anything to those he cares about, whether it be the shirt off his back or a pricey, prized bottle of whiskey. She watches him intently, watches how his eyes crinkle with mirth, how he works to put his guests at ease. She watches his body move around the pool table, the stretch of the fabric over his biceps and broad shoulders, or the curve of his ass, and she finds herself wondering, not for the first time, what he would look like minus the tailored clothing and civilized façade. The jolt of heat to her core at the thought of a naked Castle makes her slam her eyes shut again, and her thighs squeeze tightly together.

Of course, there's more to her feelings for him than mere sexual attraction, but they're all tangled up and she just can't bear to open that box and rummage around in those complicated thoughts. Not today. Today, she has a boyfriend and carefully constructed walls in place and well-defined rules that must be observed at all costs. She swallows thickly, not entirely comfortable with the places her mind has been venturing tonight. The festive atmosphere and tasty liquor has lowered her inhibitions, and she begins to wonder if she shouldn't get out of here soon, because if she doesn't, she worries that she might…

"Hey."

Her head snaps up to find Castle standing in front of the table, watching her intently. Damn, are his eyes always that blue? she wonders. It's that shirt. Damn.

"You okay? You looked pretty deep in thought there."

"Yeah, fine," she squeaks, mortified at the high-pitched, breathy tone her voice has taken on. She clears her throat with as much dignity as she can muster and tries to give him a tight, controlled smile when he slides into the booth next to her, but she knows it ends up being far more warm and welcoming than she intended. He comes to rest on the bench, not nearly as close as he had been earlier; it's just the two of them now, after all. She quickly shoves down the pang of disappointment that nudges at her gut.

"So, who won?"

Castle launches into an animated sob story then, of how he and Ryan were on the brink of the win when Montgomery swooped in with a shot for the ages and snatched the victory from their clutches.


Oh yeah. She's definitely in trouble.

After Castle's return to the table, one more drink turns into several more. Their group slowly drifts out of the bar, departing one after the other. Ryan and Montgomery beg off first, explaining that they have significant others to get home and cozy up to. Then Espo volunteers to walk Lanie up to street level and help her catch a cab, something that Kate is fairly certain is a one-person job. There is definitely something going on there, but she doesn't dare spare it another thought. She needs every last shred of sobriety to get her out of here without mauling Castle.

It's approaching their 2am closing time and the bar is rapidly emptying. The employees are going through their nightly rituals to shut the place down, but she and Castle continue to sit tucked away in their booth, sharing way too much and laughing way too loudly and flirting way too blatantly. They know they can stay as late as they want; one of the perks of knowing the owner, she smiles to herself. It's around that time that the tequila finally makes an appearance. Two shots in and they've somehow erased the distance between them in the booth. She can smell him for God's sake, and she can't bring herself to scoot back to a respectable distance. He just smells so damn good.

He's not your boyfriend, she reminds herself.

He could be, comes her own internal reply. She's suddenly reminded of something straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon, an angel sitting on one of her shoulders and a devil on the other.

He's in a relationship. So are you, by the way.

And whose fault is that? There's that devil again, ruining her denials with the truth.

Distraction…she's in desperate need of a distraction. She points and smiles at the picture of a much younger edition of Richard Castle up on the wall.

"So, what do you think that version of you would have thought about the fact that you'd one day own this place?"

He drops his chin, chuckling and pondering her question. When he finally answers, he sounds far more wistful and much less cocky than she expects. "That's an excellent question. I'm guessing…I would feel elated to know that I had done well enough for myself that I could afford to buy this place. That I hadn't been a one-hit wonder."

Kate eyes widen with genuine surprise. A one-hit wonder? He had shown such a prolific talent so far in his career, and he wasn't even done yet. Had he honestly worried about that?

He jars her from her musings. "You seem surprised."

"That you doubted your abilities? Frankly, I am surprised."

"Why? I was young and unproven then. One best seller does not a successful author make."

"Tell that to Harper Lee."

The shy, self-deprecating smile on his face vanishes, only to be replaced by a wide, awe-struck grin. "Your literary knowledge is so fucking sexy," he says in a low, rough voice that resonates somewhere deep within her, the vibrations setting off a flush of heat that spreads outward, tingling in her extremities.

He doesn't often use profanity around her, and she's surprised by the effect it has on her entire body. Or maybe it's the fact that he had just said that he finds her intellect sexy, although even she can't deny that the way he looks at her leaves no doubt that he finds every last little bit of her sexy. Or maybe it's the citrus and sandalwood notes of his aftershave, emanating from the warm, soft-looking skin just above his collar, that patch of skin right below his ear that she wants to press her lips to, dart her tongue out to taste. Her gaze drops to his mouth, and somewhere in the back of her mind a strangled voice is screaming at her to stop staring, but she can't seem to tear her gaze away from his plump pink lips, all the while wondering what he would taste like, and…dear God, is it getting warm in here?

It isn't until Castle clears his throat that she realizes she was beginning to lean into him, that she had come within mere inches of smothering his mouth with her own. She slowly leans back a respectable distance, unable to look him in the eye. Oh God, she needs to get the hell out of here. Now.

Castle beats her to the punch. "Hey, I'm going to step into the men's room for a moment and then I'll walk you out and get you a cab," he explains as he slides deftly from the booth.

He's gone before she can protest, and she snorts, a little indignant at his presumptuousness. She sure as hell doesn't need an escort. She's a cop, for Christ's sake. But more importantly, she needs to escape, and she knows it. She flushes a whole new shade of crimson thinking back to only a moment ago when she came precariously close to thoroughly kissing the man. She most certainly would have had he not interrupted her reverie. Dear God, where are her filters tonight? How is he so good at getting her defenses down? But that's the thing about him. She doesn't feel like she ever needs to defend herself. His default setting is eternal acceptance, understanding, and…love.

The word pops into her head unbidden. Whoa. That same flush of arousal washes over her again, and Kate takes deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth, in a desperate effort to calm her rattled nerves in the remaining moments before Castle returns to the table.

That calm vanishes upon his return, when she can see that he splashed water on his face and neck when he was in the restroom. There are a few small drops on his chin and neck, his hair is slightly damp and slicked back, and there are a few dark spots blooming on his shirt where some water landed. That's when she notices another button on his shirt is undone.

Shit.

But then he smiles at her, loving and warm and wanting, and her desire to escape suddenly evaporates. He offers her his arm. "Ready?"

As if on autopilot, she smiles back and takes his arm as soon as she's cleared the booth. "Lead the way."


Okay, now this is just getting ridiculous.

The moment she rises to her feet, she realizes that she's far more intoxicated than she initially believed. The shift in her body position renders her unsteady, and she clutches Castle's elbow tightly and pushes her body in closer to his to balance herself. He turns to her almost immediately with a sly, sexy grin that she either wants to kiss or slap off of his face. Maybe both.

"Steady there, Detective."

She purses her lips at him, trying to project an attitude of disapproval, but all her muddled mind can muster is oh dear God that button is still undone and oh shit I'm staring again.

He helps her into her coat, his fingers lingering just a moment too long on her neck while he's pulling her hair free of the collar, then turning her about and taking extra care to make sure she's all buttoned up, twirling her scarf around her neck, mumbling something about the outside temperature dipping into Arctic numbers. She snatches his scarf away as he slips his own coat on next, returning the favor of wrapping it about his neck, and he can't not make a joke about her strangling him with it while she simply shakes her head and smiles.

The rest of their walk up to the street level is remarkably steady, considering the pound of her heart and the rush of her blood making her slightly watery-kneed. Castle is the perfect gentleman though, opening the door for her, offering his elbow again as they climb the stairs together, and she finds herself wishing that sometimes, just sometimes, he wouldn't be so goddamned chivalrous. That he'd just grab her by the shoulders and back her up against the wall and press the weight of his body against hers and slip his tongue into her mouth while he slides his hand between her legs and makes her forget her name and…wait, no.

No! No no no no no.

By the time they reach the street, she's literally shaking her head in an effort to clear the rebellious thoughts from her mind, but she's not paying attention, so when Castle stops near the curb, she stumbles and rocks on her heels. He grabs her instinctually, his hands bracketing her waist, while hers land on his biceps. She has to take a moment to orient herself, her head spinning slightly and her eyes tightly shut. When she's finally steady enough to open them again, he's right there. His face is close, so close to hers. Too close. How did he get so close? she thinks inanely.

They're close enough that the condensation from their exhalations in the frigid January night air are mingling now; close enough that she can feel some of the warmth of his breath against her own mouth and smell the whiskey and tequila that they had been indulging in, and something sweet too, like the mocha he drank late that afternoon. Her body vibrates with the tension she feels at having his body so near, the chill of the night air completely lost on her because all she can feel is the pounding of her blood coursing through every last tiny capillary, a slow hot throb traveling the length of her body in waves. She can feel his fingers grasping her waist to steady her, ten individual points of contact sending electricity straight to her belly, and his warm, wide palms resting against her hips. Her fingers flex against the muscle of his arms, and goddamn, what writer has any business having arms like this?

She's staring at his mouth (again), and when she finally gets a shred of control and forces herself to look him in the eye, she regrets it instantly. Everything he feels for her, everything he holds back from her on a daily basis is right there: he wants her, badly, but it's so much more than that. His pupils are huge, making his eyes appear darker than usual, making the whole of him appear darker, and another wave of arousal encompasses her body, makes her shiver forcefully in his embrace before she can tamp it down.

His eyes widen slightly when he feels her physical reaction to his touch and proximity. The voice in her head has returned, albeit slightly muffled this time, as though her out-of-control libido is forcefully muzzling it: Abort! Abort! But instead of heeding her conscience, her eyes tilt downward, her gaze once again locked on the plump flesh of his lips. For all the drinking she did tonight, her mouth is remarkably dry, and suddenly her tongue darts out to moisten her own lips, hoping for some hint of him there that she can taste. That's when she finds herself leaning into him again, his entire being seemingly drawing her in, his mouth a lodestone to her own, and he's so close and so warm and smells so damn good, and what would it hurt if she just…

"Kate." His voice is soft when it finally registers to her. She can hear the strain in the one syllable he utters.

She looks up to meet his eyes again, but they're tightly closed now, his head lowered slightly and his brow furrowed, every inch of him tense and tightened, and what…what just happened?

Wait…oh God. That's when she realizes what he's done, what she's done. She did this. She forced him to do this, to be the strong one and step back and not allow either of them to do something that would have almost certainly been a mistake. A cooler head prevailed tonight, and she's mortified that it wasn't her own. She's suddenly grateful for the relative darkness of the street; he won't be able to see the bright stain of red creeping up her cheeks, the sting of the tears that have sprung up in the corners of her eyes at her abject humiliation.

And then the voice is back, and this time it refuses to be ignored. Leave. Now.

A flood of sobriety hits her like the cold rush of the tide coming in, and she makes a sudden step back from him, surprised at the newfound steadiness in her legs, and releasing his arms at the same time. He withdraws his hands from her waist reluctantly, obviously still concerned about her stability, but unsure of how welcome his touch would be anymore. He stuffs his hands into his pockets stiffly as he takes a small step back of his own, removing himself further from her personal space.

Desperate to make her exit before she embarrasses herself further, she gravitates toward the curb and hails the cab that's conveniently passing by at that very moment. She's about to jump in the backseat without another word when she realizes that Castle is still standing there, and she just can't do it, can't turn her back on him and desert him after pulling that on him, putting him in that position.

Kate turns to him then, his hands jammed in his pockets and his eyes locked on the pavement at his feet.

"Castle."

He doesn't move, doesn't acknowledge her at all. She's drowning in her despair, worried that she screwed up irreparably tonight, that she might have pushed him too hard and too far and that there's no coming back. Suddenly, she's frantic to see his face and look him in the eye, to seek reassurance that all is not lost between them.

"Rick."

It feels underhanded, using his given name, but it's effective. It takes a moment, but he finally drags his eyes up to meet hers. Her heart drops into her gut with a thud when she sees the sadness and disappointment he's too drunk to hide.

"See you tomorrow?" She hopes he hears the desperate apology in her question.

His voice is as thin as his smile. "Sure. Tomorrow. Good night, Detective."

"Good night, Castle. Thanks for sharing your whiskey."

"Of course. Anytime."

Her heart clenches at his words. She knows he's just throwing them out there, always self-deprecating and dismissive of the sweet, generous gestures that he's constantly bestowing upon her and their partners. She can also see that he's still just as shaken up and affected by this whole night as she is. In spite of the casualness of his response, she believes every word. He really would do anything, anytime for her, and she knows it.

The thought of his unwavering devotion to her has her tingling anew, so she quite literally dives into the backseat of the cab, the door slamming behind her. She breathes out a massive sigh that's equal parts relief and regret as they pull away from the curb and into Manhattan's perpetually busy streets, and she can't be sure which has her reeling more about this night: her complete lack of self-control, or the restraint that she had no idea Castle even possessed.


The short ride back to her building is endless, the walk up to her apartment taking an eon, and when she's finally inside, she only has the energy to slump against her front door, her head resting in her hands. All she can do is torture herself with an endless replay of the evening, and not for the first time, she wonders, how did this night get so very out of hand?

She knows the honest answer, of course: copious amounts of alcohol combined with a healthy dose of celebratory attitude, on top of a steadily building partnership that had turned into friendship somewhere along the way and is now turning into something entirely different. Something bigger and beyond the tight reins of control she usually maintains over every facet of her life. Something that's growing and blossoming and teeming with a heady combination of scorching sexual tension and genuine affection. She knows exactly what that sounds like, what it looks like. Four little letters that she had knocked about with one or two other men in her life, but this feels different. It feels…important. Precious. Unique. But she – they – can't. Not now. Neither of them is in a position to be able to act on their feelings. She knows that she's no cheater, and as evidenced by his fortitude tonight, she's fairly certain Castle isn't either. The timing simply isn't right. They aren't there yet.

Oh, but how she wants to be.

Here, in the safety and solitude of her home, it can all come pouring out. With the door at her back holding her up and shutting everyone else out, she can finally be honest and confess to the forgetful silence of her apartment that she is falling in love with Richard Castle. She doesn't remember when or how it began; she simply knows that she wants something with him that she can't even define, something that usually scares the shit out of her and sends her running. But she isn't running this time. Quite the opposite, she had practically thrown herself at him tonight.

She finally finds the strength to push off the door and begins to make her way to her bedroom, dropping her keys and badge in the painted porcelain bowl by the door, the one that Josh had brought her from his medical mission to Honduras. She glances around her apartment then, and realizes that there are more tangible reminders of her partner around her apartment than there are of her significant other. She doesn't have a picture of Josh on display, but there's the framed photo that Martha took of her, Alexis and Castle holding lit candles at that tribute to Haley Blue a little over a year ago. Josh doesn't have a toothbrush in her bathroom, but there's the entire row on her bookshelf devoted to Castle's body of work. She's never given Josh a drawer to keep clothes in at her place, but wedged into the frame of her standing mirror, there's the dry yellowed flower from the boutonniere that Castle had worn at Kyra's wedding. He had placed it in with the other blooms of the bouquet she had caught after talking her into slow dancing with him not once but twice that night, saying, "My flower is lonely, Beckett. It wants to hang out with your flowers." At the time she had rolled her eyes at him and called him a child, but proceeded to keep the flower anyway.

After safely stowing her gun away, she plods through her nightly bedtime rituals, finally slipping under her cozy down comforter, more than ready to drift into a dreamless sleep and hopefully awaken to a world where by unspoken agreement, she and Castle never talk about the events of this night, and she can avoid a slow, painful demise. Cause of death? Crushing embarrassment.

She lies there many long minutes, sleep eluding her even after the long work day and the late hour, in spite of the copious amounts of alcohol still coursing through her veins. Her skin is vibrating and her mind is buzzing and her lips are tingling from a kiss that has only ever happened in her head. But she thinks about it…she thinks about it a lot.

She thinks about nights at her place, or at his, atop his desk. She thinks about the precinct and secluded spots in Central Park and dark alleyways, about the back of her cruiser and every horizontal surface at his house in the Hamptons (he showed her enough pictures of the place last May when he first invited her, before her summer went to hell). And now? Now she has the Old Haunt to add to the litany of places where she fantasizes about the two of them dropping the civility and the subtext and saying what's on their minds and acting on it, too. She's pretty sure they both want the same thing, and it doesn't involve clothing.

A half-hour later and she's still staring at the ceiling, following the kaleidoscope of shifting lights and shapes created by the moving traffic on the street below. She sighs in resignation, finally giving in to the aching pulse between her legs, allowing her hand to dip below the waistband of her boy shorts and surrendering herself at last to the fantasies she'd been pushing to the far corners of her mind all night. Within moments, a steamy scenario materializes behind her closed eyelids, the two of them locked down in Castle's private basement office, their bodies naked and sweaty and tangled, and within minutes she's flying.

It's going to be a while before she can return to the Old Haunt without blushing.


A/N: Who knows what happened at the Old Haunt that night, right? A girl can dream. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and if you feel so inclined, I'd love to know your thoughts about it.

To the best betas a gal could ask for, M & B, thank you for your confidence and cheerleading and infinite patience. As always, the wine is on me.