Thank you so much to Alex for providing the inspiration for this unexpected little beast of a story. It never could have existed without you.
"We cannot say much about love at first sight. It happens and we live in the wake of a new life."
Kate heaves the glass door open and tries to shake the rain from her hair as she steps inside. At least she hadn't made the mistake of straightening it today, otherwise it would be an untamable mess of frizz and kinks that she would have to tame into a bun, which isn't even an option since the handy rubber band she always keeps around her wrist had snapped the night before. She hasn't been having the best of luck these last couple of weeks, but damp curls she can deal with.
It was only drizzling outside, so she had gotten off the subway a stop early and walked her way to the post office closest to the Twelfth. She's surprised by the lack of people in the building as she joins the short line to the only open window. There's maybe three people in front of her and just a few others loitering around the wall of lockboxes across the building. It's a vast change from the usual cluster of New Yorkers impatiently attempting to send packages and mail letters.
Kate shifts the medium sized box in her arm to rest against her side. It isn't heavy, just a simple, impersonal care package that will mean more to the recipient than it will ever mean to her, but she's already tired of lugging it around the city with her.
Kate startles, cradling the plain white box to her chest, hiding the address from the man who's glancing over his shoulder at her and – oh, that's Richard Castle.
Her heart stumbles and she just knows her cheeks are heating up. Her favorite author is standing in front of her in line to mail a similar looking package in his arms and he's staring back at her with an intrigued smile. The photo on his book jacket really doesn't do him justice, but she isn't about to let him know that.
"Yeah?" she questions, a little too sharply, way too defensive, but it only seems to spark more interest from him as he turns around to face her.
"Mine's going to Oxford," he announces, proudly showing her the box in his arm, and she can already tell it's for someone important to him. Unlike hers, Richard Castle's shipping box has the name of the person he's sending it to in big, bold letters, and she swears she spots a few stickers on the top. Her box has Josh's name in a quick scrawl that's smeared from the rain and the address of his location in Haiti. Nothing more. "My daughter's there attending a summer camp for the gifted minds."
Her lips tilt upwards, because his eager smile is pretty contagious, and wasn't this man supposed to be some egotistical playboy? Perhaps it was judgmental of her, but she never would have labeled him as a proud father.
"Who's yours going to?" he asks, lifting on his toes to peer at the box as if that will help him see the address she has hidden.
She presses it closer to her chest. "My boyfriend," she answers with a narrowed gaze that sends him back down to the balls of his feet. "He's in Haiti, saving the world."
"Your boyfriend is Superman?" he questions, completely serious, and she smothers a smile, rolling her eyes instead.
"Doctors Without Borders."
"Oh!" He nearly stumbles as he spins on his heel, steps forward to deposit his package onto the counter where the woman weighs the box, stamping the top with a little too much force.
"I'll need you to fill out a customs form," the woman instructs, handing him a slip of paper and a pen from the cup near the window, but she shakes her head when he starts to write, directs him towards a table a few feet away. "While you do that, I can take the woman behind you."
Castle huffs, hauls his box to the table and begins scribbling in the information concerning the contents of his package. Kate is instructed to do the same and she refrains from rolling her eyes for a second time that morning when he seems pleased by their shared use of the table. He finishes first, leaving her to complete her form in peace.
She's not disappointed at all when she approaches the counter and sees his package behind the desk, ready to be mailed to England. She's not disappointed he's gone. She doesn't even know him, definitely doesn't like him. He'd be a nuisance to associate with any longer than she already has, she can tell.
So why does her stomach lurch with excitement when she sees him waiting by the front entrance?
Kate passes by as if she doesn't notice, but he falls into step with her as soon as she steps outside.
"I never got your name," he says while they both walk down the sidewalk. She notices he has an umbrella – she foolishly forgot to grab hers on the way out of her apartment despite the dark clouds she had caught a glance of while she was getting dressed, because she had been in a hurry since she had been sure the post office would be as packed as it always was – and he has it opened above them. But the black umbrella isn't big enough for the two of them and his shoulder is getting pelted with rain
She shrugs, not touched at all by the small act of chivalry. "You never asked."
"Ah, my mistake then. I'm Richard Castle," he says, holding his hand out to her. She gives his hand a short shake, but the contact sends a pleasant jolt of electricity up her arm that she startles back from. Her eyes jerk to his as she pulls her hand back, shoves it in her pocket, and she sees him hold the same surprised expression. "And you are?" he murmurs, his voice a low husk that heats her blood and sends a shiver down her spine.
"Kate," she gets out. "And I need to get to work. I hope your daughter likes her package."
"Wait!" He snags the sleeve of her blazer before she can abandon the shelter of the umbrella. He immediately lets it go when she glares at him in return. "I know you've got a boyfriend, but would you ever want to have coffee sometime? Just as friends?"
She almost scoffs in his face. Womanizing Richard Castle just wants to have a friendly coffee date? She highly doubts that.
"I don't think that would be a good idea, Mr. Castle," she sighs, confused by the pang of guilt his forced smile of understanding evokes. She turns guys down on a regular basis, it's never bothered her until now.
"You can call me Rick, and just in case you ever change your mind…" He produces a pen and a small notepad from the pocket of his jacket, jotting something down. And then Richard Castle hands her a piece of paper with his phone number on it.
She wishes she could call her mother more than ever.
"Nice meeting you, Kate," he says with a charming smile once she reluctantly takes the paper and folds it neatly in half.
He glances up and makes sure she's shielded by the building's awning they've stopped under before giving her a quick wave goodbye and continuing down the street. She bites her lip once he's turned a corner and can no longer see her, tries to quell the smile as she hurries down the last two blocks to the precinct. But she's got Richard Castle's number in her pocket and with no one watching, she can't help grinning over it.
The rain stops just as she steps inside the Twelfth and she thinks there's a chance her luck may be changing.