She found herself watching him as he joked with Ryan and Esposito. Shared some titbit of family life with the Captain. Eyed Karpowski when she bent over the desk.

Watching him watching them. Something that was happening more and more often.

"He's all yours."

Just what had Kyra Blaine meant by that?

Except Kate knew. Had a more than fair inkling. No thunderbolt, but then Kyra wasn't the only one who'd mentioned it.

They all thought she was in love with Richard Castle.

Honestly, with him? A vain, self-centred, arrogant, shallow, caring, loving, compassionate … when had that happened? Oh, not the love. Never that. But the growing up. Less the twelve-year old and more the man she thought he could be. Sneaking up on her like … well, like a school boy, ready to put that metaphorical frog down her blouse then stand back laughing as she wriggled and screamed.

But not love. She knew what love was, and what she felt wasn't love. Exasperation, maybe. Annoyance, certainly. But love? Read her lips. No. Way.

She'd been in love, felt that all consuming passion, the need to be with that person every second of every day.

The most she wanted from Castle was that he didn't get in the way.

No. Be truthful here. He was helpful. Useful, even. But a potential lover? Huh.

She sipped her coffee, her mind going back ten years to her classics professor, all tweed jacket and leather elbow patches. He'd seemed so much older than her, so much more sophisticated, yet underneath that very proper buttondown shirt was a passionate man, who'd shown her the true meaning of a love affair.

Odd, but he was probably pretty much the same age as Castle now. Not old at all. Well, not too old.

It didn't last, of course. Things happened, people changed – mothers died. And suddenly what she thought she wanted seemed irrelevant. Petty.

He'd stood by her, as much as he could at first, but the conversation … that conversation wasn't long in coming. Not her but him, moving in different directions, so much more to give, someone out there that deserved her … She'd closed up, used one obsession to bury the other, and emerged from those years as … who? Someone else? Certainly not the young girl who'd started college, believing she could changed the world. Now she was just glad to put the bag guys behind bars.

Like Uncle Teddy. All because he was an embezzler. She might have understood a crime of passion more, but over money just seemed tawdry.

And now Kyra and Greg were married, winging their way off on honeymoon, looking forward to sharing their life together.

"He's all yours."

Huh. As if she'd want him.


She jerked slightly, spilling some coffee on the back of her hand. She looked up. "What?"

Castle stood over her, one of those infuriating half-smiles on his lips. "I asked if you wanted a refill."

"No." She pulled a paper tissue from the box on her desk. "I'm fine." She dabbed at her skin.

He perched on the corner. "Thinking?" he asked.


"Looked like it. Thinking about me."

She glared at him. "No."

"About how you'd like to rip my clothes off and have your wicked way with me right here in the squad room."

"In your dreams."

"Oh, often."

"Have you ever thought of therapy?"

"Once in a while. But most of my misdemeanours are out in the light of day. I'd have nothing juicy to tell."

"I'm sure I could come up with something."

He leaned a little closer. "Sounds like fun." Sitting back he brushed a non-existent piece of lint from his pants leg. "Oh, and Alexis asked if I'd invite you to dinner tonight. She's taking some cooking lessons and wants to experiment."

"What kind?"

"French, I think. That's why she thought of you, since you'd spent time in Europe."

Another mental image assailed her of happier days, walks by the Seine, dodging the traffic around the Arc de Triomphe … She shook herself. Not now. In fact, not ever. "Will she want an honest opinion?"

"Definitely. An unbiased judge. Unlike her grandmother and me."

He was back to normal. Only … No, not quite. There was still a sadness in his eyes, a slight tightening of the skin, but he was trying. Trying very hard. And the least she could do was help.

"Okay. As long as she isn't planning on poisoning us."

"No." Castle grinned a little wider. "That's next week." A thoughtful expression crossed his face. "Or maybe I've got that the wrong way round."

"I'll make sure I have the hospital on speed dial."

"Beckett." Esposito was shrugging into his jacket. "Got a dead one out by the lake in Central Park."



She stood up and grabbed her leather coat. In a moment Castle was there, holding it for her to slip on. "Thanks."

He nodded. "You're welcome."

She half turned, looked into his eyes, those blue eyes that could … No. Stop. He was the last person she should be thinking of starting a relationship with. And he was smirking again. "Just don't fall in."

"I'll try not to."

For a moment there was something else, not spoken, or words taken a slightly different way than meant, then they were Beckett and Castle again.

"Can I drive?" he asked as they stepped away from each other and headed towards the elevator.


"Why not?"

"Because it's my car."

"Can I use the siren?"


"Go on."


"Pretty please?"



"If you start to cry …"