AN: This is a a response to Caffinate-me's prompt about writing a bookstore AU. Warning: this is a Hallmark brand type of fluffy story, so turn back now if that's now your thing. Hah!
Disclaimer: I don't own Castle.
Kate Beckett grunts as she lifts a box full of books, one of many from the latest shipment from the publisher.
"You need help?" her friend Lanie calls from up front.
"No, I'm okay." Carrying the burdensome box from the stock room, Kate plops it down near the display she's setting up.
"Damn," Lanie says, approaching her. "How many copies did we get?"
"A lot. Hopefully, they'll sell." Kate scowls at the large stack of books ready to go on the display. Even with a best-selling series as the one she's stocking, there's no telling if it'll sell, thanks to a Chain That Shall Not Be Named. "Otherwise I have to send them back, again."
"I know, girlfriend, I know," Lanie murmurs in understanding. "Well, guess we'll just have to hope." Kate nods as her friend goes back to fixing the newsstand. Removing one of the books from the supply, she turns it over, examining the author's picture. She can't help but admire the sparkling blue eyes, the charming smile, the small of hint of stubble on his chin, the quintessential version definitely part of a woman's dreams. Rolling her eyes at her own swooning, Kate places the book on the display as she shakes her head.
"Too bad even your books can't boost sales, Richard Castle," she mutters.
She tries to ignore the way her chest clenches at the thought of another month of low sales. She's loves her shop, she does. However, she doesn't think she can keep it going, not at this rate. Sighing, Kate finishes the last of the books, adjusting the display prominently showcasing the book cover of Richard Castle's latest book, Storm Fall. She wonders what her mother would say if she were here.
As Kate purses her lips, her gaze slides the back of the registers, her hazel eyes fixating on the sign that hangs above a series of shelves, which reads Jo's Nook with a picture of her mother next to the words.
"I'm sorry, Mom," she murmurs.
Her mother would be so disappointed.
"Come on, Dad!" a little redhead exclaims, almost running down the street.
"Alexis, slow down!" a man exclaims, running after his daughter. "Wait for me." His daughter turns, hands on her hips as he catches up with her. "You need to slow down, you can't run alone just yet."
"Sorry, Daddy," she murmurs, causing him to chuckle as he places her hand on her shoulder.
"So, where we off to this time?" This a day in which he and Alexis just roam around the city, finding new places to explore based on Alexis's choosing.
"Ummmm," she scrunches her eyebrows as she thinks. "How about there?"
He stares in the direction she's pointing and raises an eyebrow. It appears to be an old bookshop, one he hasn't been to before. Huh. Grinning, he takes Alexis by the hand and almost drags her across the street and stops at the sidewalk, scanning the store front. He hasn't been to a mom and pop bookstore in a while. He loves going to them, to see the variety of and differences of displays. It's a nice change from the cookie cutter format of chain stores.
"Come on let's go," Alexis huffs. Rick realizes he's been staring at the sign longer than necessary.
"Alright, alright," he teases as he opens the door, the jingling of a bell signaling their arrival.
He scans the store, enjoying the cozy vibe the place gives off, with its wooden planking for walls, a simple red carpet that covers the whole floor, and some lounge chairs set in different corners of the store. And the shelves upon shelves of books. Just looking at them fills him with anticipation of looking through the pages of each one.
"Oh, hello," a voice greets from behind the counter. "Welcome to Jo's Nook. Do you need any help?"
"No, we just wanted to check this place out," he answers, grinning down at Alexis.
"Daddy told me we should always try to go into local stores because they are unique," Alexis states, causing the woman to chuckle.
"Well, your Daddy's right. I'm Lanie, by the way. Just let me or my coworker Kate know if you need anything." She tosses them a wink before going off.
"Let's look around," Alexis says, tugging on his hand.
They browse the various shelves, looking for anything of interest. The variety of books the store carries astonishes Rick. Not only are there contemporary books, but first editions of numerous classics, as well as older copies of other books.
"They have quite the collection," he comments.
"This book has writing on it," Alexis comments, holding out Goodnight Moon, one of her favorites. Upon closer inspection, he realizes it's an...autograph?
"Wow," he murmurs.
"My grandmother was friends with the author," a voice behind them explains. Rick turns, seeing a woman smiling at them. "Margaret Brown gave it to her as gift."
"That's incredible." Rick stares at her, unable to keep his eyes from roaming her face and figure. The way her hazel eyes gaze at them, the small curve of her lips, the slight blush on her cheeks. An impatient tug on his coat reminds of him of where he is. "Where are my manners? This is Alexis and I'm-"
"Richard Castle," the woman finishes. He smirks as she rolls her eyes. "it's a little hard to not know who you are, being a bookstore owner and all."
"Of course." Glancing over her shoulder, he notices the large display for his latest book. "And it appears you have good taste."
"Dad," Alexis groans, releasing a dramatic sigh.
"What?" He pouts as the woman in front of him snickers. "You're Kate, I presume?"
"That would be correct. I'm the owner of this lovely shop." She gestures around the place, the pride clear in her voice.
"Who's Jo then?" Alexis inquires, scrunching up her nose.
"She, uh, was my mother," Kate states, a timid smile crossing her face. Alexis is too young to notice, but Rick hears the sadness in the woman's voice, the way her eyes water a bit. "She owned this store before she died and then I inherited it."
"Oh, okay," Alexis hums, turning back to the bookshelf. At six, Alexis is intelligent for her age, but still innocent to the darkness the world can bring, mostly.
"Do you like books?" Kate asks Alexis.
The little girl nods vigorously as she answers. "Yeah! Daddy reads me to every night. He says is necessary for a growing girl."
"Indeed it is," the brunette murmurs, giving him a wink.
"Kate," Lanie calls, holding up a phone.
"I'll be right back," Kate tells the two of them, sauntering to the desk.
"So, find anything else?" Rick quizzes his daughter.
"There's a pretty version of Little Women." She pulls another book off the shelf, one with a beautifully illustrated cover. He takes it, admiring the art work within the pages of the book.
"Let's get it then." He normally doesn't spoil her, but she's been a good girl, so he doesn't see the harm.
As they walk toward the register, he notices Kate dash off to the stockroom, Lanie wearing a melancholy expression.
"Everything okay?" he asks, concern coloring his tone.
"The loan she applied for was denied, which means the shop's really in trouble." Lanie sighs. "She loves this place, but the customers aren't coming in like they used to, preferring to shop online mainly."
"That's so sad," Alexis says. Then, turning to her father, she gazes at him imploringly. "Couldn't you help them, Daddy?"
"Alexis," he scolds gently. "I can't just hand out money like that. Plus, we don't know if Kate would accept it." While he's game for helping a small business such as this one, he doesn't know Kate would even want him to help.
The redhead shakes her head. "No, I mean your book signing! The one for Storm Fall."
"Oh right!" He frowns. "But I don't know how that would help Kate, Pumpkin. Paula wants to do it at the Barnes and Noble on Fifth Avenue."
"Maybe you can ask her to do it here," Alexis implores, batting her eyelashes.
Lips turning up into a small smile, Rick scans the shop again, and can't help but admire it once more. Besides, Kate and Lanie appear to be such nice people, maybe he could...
"I'll think about it," he declares finally, not wanting to guarantee anything in case Alexis gets her hopes up. "Could you give me Kate's number? That way my agent can call her in case we end up doing the signing here?"
"Sure, no problem!" Lanie scribbles a number on a stickie note and hands it to Rick. "I won't lie, having the event here would be incredible, maybe even increase foot traffic."
"Well, we'll see what happens," he replies. He does plan to push Paula as much as possible, but the woman can be damn stubborn.
He purchases the book for Alexis and the duo goes to head out when the stock room door opens and Kate steps out, tissue in hand. Her eyes are puffy and he notes the traces of tears on her cheeks. Upon seeing them, she forces a smile while giving a nod of reassurance. Figuring it's time to leave, Rick guides his daughter outside, both of them quiet as they leave the store.
"She looked so sad, Daddy," Alexis states, staring at her hands. "She really needs help."
"I know," he murmurs.
He'll definitely call Paula tomorrow.