It wasn't often that Richard Castle was lost for words, but seeing Detective Kate Beckett standing before him wet and in a black bikini…and did he mention wet? Well, it had pretty much robbed him of his breath, let alone coherent thought and basic language.

He blinked a couple of times, just in case she was a sleep-deprived hallucination, but she remained in the same spot, looking back at him with a sultry smile, showing loads of flesh…and wet. He knew he really needed to say something other than squeaking out her name in surprise, but to do that he had to first close his gaping mouth. His jaw was hanging so low he was certain that he'd be able to brush sand from his beard-roughened chin.

With Herculean effort, he finally shut his mouth but the capability of speech still eluded him as his mind raced over the many reasons why the woman he loved was here before him and not back in New York with her boyfriend.

The thought of Demming was as sobering as an ice-cold bucket of water thrown over a drunk. For the first time since he'd seen Beckett, he tore his gaze away and looked over his shoulder half expecting to see the other man standing behind him because, really, the sexy smile she had on her face couldn'tpossibly be for him.

Could it?

With Demming nowhere to be seen, he turned back and looked at her again. The smile was still there and unquestionably directed at him. He swallowed hard, feeling as though he'd skipped a few very important plot development pages of a book and was now desperately trying to skim back through them in order to catch up.

Good thing he knew how to speed-read.

As his writer's mind went into overdrive, weaving the plotline of what could have happened the past few weeks, a feeling of wonder infused his entire being. Demming was obviously out of the picture and, just as obviously, she wasn't here on a case. So that left only one option…

She was here for him.

Lots of questions suddenly swirled around in his head, clamouring to get out at the same time. As he desperately tried to sort through them all, two uncertainties kept forcing themselves to the fore.

Did she feel the same way about him as he did her? Or was he merely a rebound?

His urgent need to know finally unlocked his vocal chords and he opened his mouth to speak; but Kate got there first…completely flooring him and promptly making him forget anything but her.

"I am so hot," she suddenly groaned.

Castle couldn't agree more. However, instead of making a dry quip about the double meaning in her choice of wording, he ended up making the most unpleasant choking sound as the breathy, almost sexual, tone of her voice went straight to his groin.

He was stunned. He couldn't remember a woman ever having that kind of an immediate effect on his body before. It was amazing and embarrassing all at the same time and he was extremely grateful that this part of the beach was empty because he wasn't quite sure how to deal with it discretely.

Luckily, Beckett began to walk towards the blanket that was laying on the sand a couple of yards away. With her back to him, he was able to gather some control of his unruly body and after squirming uncomfortably for a few seconds, he felt ready to speak again.

Until, that is, she bent down to retrieve her towel…

Beckett was enjoying herself. The look on Castle's face the moment he realised it was her rising out of the sea had been priceless. It had also chased any doubts she had about his feelings for her away. She'd never had a man look at her with such complete adoration before. Nor had she seen Castle at such an obvious loss for words. It was a heady feeling that made her want to go and grab him then kiss him senseless.

But not before she had a little fun with the situation first.

Raising her left hand, she pushed some of her hair away from her face then closed her eyes as she trailed her fingers down the side of her cheek and neck before coming to rest lightly on her chest.

"I am so hot," she groaned, purposely adding a breathless tone to her voice.

The resulting choking sound her potential lover made, had her smiling to herself as she walked over to her blanket. He was so easy at times. Especially when it came to her, she realised…and she wasn't averse to using that power for her own ends.

Reaching the blanket, she bent over and rummaged through her beach bag, pulling out her towel and a bottle of sun cream.

The sound of the strangled, "Oh, dear God!" that was emitted from the man behind, sent a thrill of feminine satisfaction through her entire body. Turning around, she saw that he was biting his bottom lip as if to stop any further noise coming from his mouth and that his hands were clasped together in front of his groin.

A knowing smile graced her features as she raised her hand and dangled the bottle of sun lotion for him to see.

"Will you cream me up?" she asked, all innocence.

Castle stared back her and blinked.

He knew she was saying it to get a rise from him. Hell, she couldn't be any more blatant! And yet still he remained dumb. Words were his life, damn it! True, Beckett had caught him cold, but he was certain he should've recovered quicker than he had for heaven's sake.

Giving himself a mental slap up the side of the head, he drew in a deep breath then let it out slowly as his eyes, once again, took in the loveliness that was Katherine Beckett. A new resolve settled over him as his brain finally caught up with his body and decided to enter the game.

She may have started this, but he was sure as hell was going to finish it…

"Sure," he replied at last, pleased at how even his voice sounded. He took a couple of steps towards her then held out his hand for the bottle before purposefully looking her up and down. It was with some satisfaction that he saw her fidget slightly under his intense observation then raise her towel a little to shield some of her body from his avid gaze. He quirked an eyebrow at her reaction and gave her a half smile as he queried in an evocative tone, "Just your back…or all over?"

Just as he knew she would, Beckett didn't shy away from his challenge. He heard her slight intake of breath then saw the way she straightened up slightly, head raising in silent acknowledgment as she deliberately moved her towel away from her body and stepped right up into his space.

Her face was inches from his as she smiled demurely then replied softly, "Why don't we start with my back and see where we go from there, OK, Rick?"

He only had to move a couple of inches and his lips would be on hers. Game over. But he didn't want it to end yet, even though her use of his first name had sent his body into overdrive. Pulling back a little in order to resist temptation, he adopted a cocky grin.

"Oh, I have plenty of ideas where to go from there, Kate, believe me. Writer here, remember?"

"Well, let's just hope that you can live up to your books then," she retorted smoothly.

He felt the bottle being pushed into his hand and looked down. Her fingers touched his for the merest second too long then she left him feeling bereft as she released her hold and turned away.

He slowly exhaled the breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding then followed her over to the blanket and watched as she lay the towel upon it. Briefly, she glanced over her shoulder and gave him another smile before settling herself down on her front.

Castle dropped to his knees by her side and cast an appreciative look along the length of her nearly nude body. He still couldn't quite believe that she was actually here and this was happening. For two years he'd wanted to touch this woman so badly that he'd physically ached from the need at times. And now, here she was, giving him the green light to do just that and yet, he hesitated.

The two questions that he'd pushed aside suddenly raised their ugly heads once more and he had to know their answers before he started down a path that could very well end badly for him.

Obviously, if she felt the same way as he did, then there wasn't a problem.

If he were just convenient because her romance with Demming had failed…well, that was a whole different ballgame. Although, he had to admit, with her laid out in front of him like this, he was sorely tempted to just to say 'the hell with it'. He'd take pretty much whatever she wanted to offer him and deal with the pain of her leaving afterwards.

Still internally debating, he opened the bottle of sun protection and squeezed a liberal amount of the lotion onto the palm of his left hand. He put the bottle down then rubbed his hands together to coat them both with the cream before reaching forward to apply it to her slender back.

Scant inches away, he stopped as a sudden awful thought hit him. What if this were just payback for him lying to her?

He frowned then shook his head. Beckett wouldn't have let it get this far if she were merely playing a joke. Would she?

"Are you actually ever going to put that stuff on me?" the detective suddenly asked, cutting through his internal argument.

Automatically, he placed his hands on her back and began smoothing the lotion over her shoulders in slow circles. Her low hum of approval had him make his way slowly down her torso, his touch more of a massage rather than a mere application of sun protection.

The feel of her warm skin was amazing and Castle could feel his rational mind begin to slip away from him as his emotions and body took over.

He had to stop this…and now.

Snatching his hands away, he surprised himself by letting out an involuntary groan of protest at the loss of contact.

Shaking his head in disbelief, he ran a shaky hand through his hair as he sat back on his heels and contemplated the situation. He'd been kidding himself when he thought he'd be able to settle for anything less than love from the woman laying before him and now he just had to know her reasons for being there.

"Something wrong?" Beckett queried, her voice slightly muffled from where she was face down on the blanket.

Ignoring her question, Castle took a steadying breath then demanded solemnly, "Why are you here, Kate?"

Unable to miss the gravity of his tone, Beckett looked over her shoulder at him in confusion. "You asked me, remember?" she teased, trying to lighten the moment.

Castle didn't laugh. "And what about Demming?" he enquired softly.

"We broke up," she replied after a slight hesitation.

Castle noted the pause and felt a cold dread begin to crawl its way up his spine. "Did you end it…or did he?"

This time Kate turned onto her side then sat up to face him directly so that she could try and read his expression. She wasn't successful and, not for the first time, did she wonder what on earth was going on inside his overactive brain.

"What does that matter?" she countered, finally.

Castle let out a heavy sigh then stood up and turned away, but not before Beckett caught the momentary flash of anguish on his features.

"Castle? What's wrong?" she asked in concern as she, too, arose.

The writer noticed that she'd reverted back to his last name and felt even more of an idiot for even fleetingly believing that his dreams might have been coming true.

"So, is this a rebound thing or just payback for me lying about Gina?"

Beckett shook her head as she tried to keep up with the tangent his brain had apparently gone off on. Grabbing a hold of his arm, she turned him to face her.

"What the hell are you talking about?" she asked, at a complete loss.

"Oh, come on, Detective, don't play games! I know Alexis told you about Gina. Is this…" He paused and gestured to her bikini-clad body. "This, just a way to mess with my head? To tease me then just walk away?"

Beckett felt ire begin to rise within her at his outrageous accusation and angry tone. She released his arm and took a step forward. "Do I look like I'm walking away?" she demanded tersely.

Castle moved forward too and shook his head in frustration. "So tell me why you're here then, Kate!" he all but shouted at her, obviously at the end of his tether.

They were close now and Beckett could almost physically feel the tension that radiated off him in waves. Maybe she'd gone a little too far; been a little too evasive in her answers. It was ingrained in her; she never gave too much away. Never left herself open to anyone. Maybe she'd have to start…

"Because I want to be with you," she replied calmly as though he were stupid for thinking anything else.

Castle's mouth dropped open in surprise. "What?"

He hadn't been expecting her to say something like that. OK, true, she hadn't declared her undying love for him but even so, for Beckett to admit what she had was…huge.

She closed the remaining distance between them then lifted her arms and placed her hands on his bare chest with a sultry smile. Moving her hands up, she slid them under the collar of his open shirt and clasped them together at the back of his neck. The action brought their bodies flush against each other as she raised her gaze to his face.

"I said, I want to be with you," she reiterated slowly. Purposefully.

The feel of her warm body pressed against his was the wake up call he needed. He finally believed that she was here for him.

It wasn't a game.

It wasn't a rebound.

It was real.

Suddenly, her lips were on his, gentle and hesitant. Still unsure of his reaction.

He responded instantly, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her even tighter to him. He deepened the kiss, relishing the sound of the muffled groan she made as he took control.

They broke apart, each breathing a little faster than before. Seconds later he was kissing her again, the months of pent up passion finally being given a partial chance to be sated.

When they parted this time, Castle sported a happy grin.

"I feel I should say something profound but the most I can come up with is, 'Wow'."

"That is profound," Kate contradicted with a smile before adding, "If you're five. You'll have to do better."

The writer laughed and nodded in agreement then suddenly declared, "Why, there's a wench! Come on and kiss me, Kate!"

He leaned in to capture her lips but Beckett raised her eyebrows and she placed a hand on his shoulder to hold him back a moment. "Shakespeare? Really?"

Castle shrugged. "Always steal from the best," he murmured before kissing her soundly.

The kiss ended then Kate pulled away from his embrace and walked backwards to the blanket, a seductive look on her face.

"You know, I've never made love on a beach before."

Castle drew in a sharp breath, not only at the implication but her choice of words too.

'Made love.'

"Neither have I," he admitted, softly.

He followed her to the blanket and they lay down in each other's arms.

After all the misunderstandings and unspoken words, they were finally together as one.

No regrets.