Today is Natalie Elizabeth's birthday and since she lives on the other side of the world, I've had to get creative with presents. She got so excited when I first mentioned this story idea that I knew it HAD to be one of her presents.

Special thanks to beatingoutasamba, who helped me with ideas (both with this present and other presents).

Happy birthday (and Castle day), Nat! Yep, because of the time difference in Australia although her actual birthday is Nov. 20th, here in the US the bulk of that day in Australia is on a Castle Monday. How cool is that?!

Disclaimer: If I owned Castle, I would be able to guarentee that at least some of the cast and crew would be able to reply to my request for them to tweet Natalie a happy birthday message. Since I don't, all I can do is pray and cross my fingers...And now that I've said that, I better make sure this is the last of the presents I send to Natalie...

Castle was getting on Kate's last nerve. She knew he was just trying to help her keep the secret of their relationship from being discovered but sometimes she wished he wouldn't try so hard. Some things he said reminded her of when those playboy days of his weren't a thing of the past. Just that morning he had been knee deep in a conversation with Ryan and Esposito about the 'hotness' of Ravenna, an up and coming supermodel. It didn't help that the woman was pretty much the antithesis to Kate in appearance-blonde, big busted and coal black eyes.

He didn't mean the things he said; Kate knew he didn't. Or at least he didn't mean them in a way that she needed to worry about. He may think that woman was 'hot' but Kate was the one he called extraordinary, the one he said 'always' to.

But she didn't know how much more she could stand to listen to.

Kate and Castle had just arrived at the morgue to get Lanie's update on their latest victim when the idea came to her.

It was perfect. An idea that would take care of everything.

Lanie unknowingly gave her just the opening she needed a couple moments later.

"So girl, how are things going with your mystery man?" Lanie asked with a mischievous grin.

"Yeah, Beckett," Castle chimed in, "you haven't mentioned him in the last couple days."

Since they had returned from the Hamptons.

Any doubt about going through with her plan had been obliterated by Castle's teasing comment.

"I don't think Castle could handle it," Kate replied to Lanie. "You know how our conversations can get-" Kate's lips curved into a brief, seductive smile as she glanced over at her partner, "heated when we talk about men."

Kate caught the startled look in Lanie's eyes when she turned her attention back to her friend. The dazed look in his eyes told Kate that Castle's attention was too wrapped up in her for the man to notice any reaction the M.E. might have.

"Come on, Beckett," Castle pleaded. "As your friends we need to know."

Kate slowly ran her tongue over her top lip and glanced down briefly at her boyfriend's sensuous mouth before replying. "Just what is it you think you need to know, Castle?"

"Whatever Lanie would want to know."

Kate had to bite her lip to keep from letting her giggle escape. It was one of those 'Men; they all want to know but they don't want to know' type of things. If there had indeed been a mystery man who was not Castle, what she would tell Lanie would be the last thing he would want to know.

"You sure about that?" Kate asked, her gaze daring him to back down.

As she expected, the question only made him more determined to get answers. The blue of his eyes darkened, letting her know that any light-hearted joking was the last thing on his mind. If they had been alone Kate had no doubt that Castle would be reaching for her at that very moment and clothes would soon be flying to the four corners of the room.

"Positive," his voice was husky when he replied.

"Well then," Kate said, her gaze locked on Castle's, "ask away, Lanie."

"So, what does he look like?" Lanie asked.

"Yeah, is he handsome?" Castle pressed.

That was the second time Castle had asked that question. He couldn't really doubt his appeal to her, could he?

It was unfathomable to her that after all the times she'd melted in his arms, all the times desire had robbed her of the ability to do anything but moan at his touch, he still had doubts.

Although, to be fair, Kate struggled with her own doubts. Even after that first night when he hadn't been able to keep his hands off of her she had still shyly asked him, 'So you liked it?'

Her musings hadn't caused her to change her mind about her plan, but it did cause her to tweak it just a bit.

"Handsome isn't the word I would use," Kate said. Her heart clenched at the hurt in Castle's eyes so she was quick to explain. "He's hot. Really, really hot."

"Which is better than handsome," Lanie commented.

"Much better," Kate breathed as her mind drifted to her many intimate encounters with Castle over the last nine weeks. "Handsome is fine, but hot-"

"What?" both Castle and Lanie asked when Kate failed to continue.

Kate mentally shook herself out of her reverie and admitted to something she thought she would never let Castle know. "With a hot guy, with him-"

"What?" Castle ground out between clenched teeth, his tone having a bit of a growl to it.

"Every time I'm in the same room with him-" Kate continued to draw it out.

Castle just growled this time.

"I just want to rip all his clothes off," Kate admitted. She could feel the slight blush that warmed her cheeks. Her voice dropped to just above a whisper. "Every single time."

Kate had never seen the look on Castle's face that she was seeing now. If it had been anyone else, she would have labeled it predatory. But the love blazing in his eyes didn't fit that image. She wasn't sure what to call it. Later she would have to ask Castle to label it.

He was the writer, after all.

It was time to tone things down before he reached for her and clothes went flying, even with an audience. Kate was adventurous but not that much.

"But there's so much more to him than that," Kate was quick to add. "There's the way he looks at me…."

"How's that?" Lanie asked.

"Like…I don't quite know how to explain it…"

"Like you're extraordinary?" Castle prompted. "Like he can hardly believe that he can touch you, hold you, love you…"

A lump rose in Kate's throat and a shimmer of tears sprung in her eyes.

Did Castle realize that he was looking at her in that very way right now?

"Exactly like that," Kate whispered.

"So how do you look at him?"

Lanie's question barely registered. This was the first time she had really experienced being lost in a man's eyes and although her brain told her to answer, Kate couldn't get her mouth to move.

"Hey, what's taking you guys so long?" Ryan's voice seemed to Kate to be unnaturally loud when he asked the question.

Kate couldn't hide the way the unexpected intrusion made her jump. Her team really did have a bad habit of interrupting her and Castle at the worst times, didn't they?

Kate whipped her head around to see Ryan and Esposito standing in the doorway. Ryan's expression was one of confusion. It was Esposito's look that worried her, his gaze speculative.

"We were talking about Kate's boyfriend, if you must know," Lanie replied in a clipped tone.

"In front of Castle?" Esposito's tone was a cross between shocked and horrified.

"He did ask," Lanie pointed out.

"And wasn't it you three who wanted to know about my boyfriend right before I left for the H-…before I left to spend the weekend with him?"

How could she have almost said Hamptons?

It was Castle's fault. He looked at her like that, spoke about her like that, and her brain fizzled out.

She'd have to make sure he never did that around anyone else again.

Although she wasn't adverse to the idea of him looking at her exactly like that, talking to her exactly like that, when they were alone.

As much as possible would be the perfect amount.

When she turn into such a sap?

She needed to shake off her Castle-infused daze and get back to the task at hand.

Which was-?

Right! Finding out about the victim.

The whole reason they had come down to the morgue to see Lanie in the first place.

Kate suddenly realized that the conversation had gone on without her.

"…you could probably get a date with Ravenna, Castle," Esposito was saying. "Maybe you could double date with Kate and her mystery man."

"No!" Kate burst out before she could stop herself.

"Don't like the idea of a double date, huh?"'

Kate didn't like the condescending smirk on Esposito's face after he asked the question. She couldn't care less about double dating. But there was no way she would allow Castle within a hundred yards of that model.

The possessive feelings coursing through her took Kate by surprise, but this was something she was not going to back down on. She trusted Castle-as much as her own insecurities would allow, anyway-but there was no reason to put possible temptation directly in his path.

"Ravenna's not my type, anyway," Castle interjected.

Esposito snorted. "Not your type, man? Are you crazy? She's every man's type!"

"Excuse me?"

Lanie's question made Kate torn between wanting to laugh and wanting to groan.

"I…well….that is…."

"Mmmhmmm." Lanie's glare didn't diminish one bit at Esposito's sputtering.

Kate couldn't believe she was going to say this, but she needed to defuse the situation. "And here I thought you wanted to know all about my new boyfriend, Javi."

"We need to know if he's good enough for you," Esposito defended himself. "If you won't tell us who he is, there has to be a reason."

"Are you saying you don't trust my judgment?"

Secretly, Kate thought his concern was sweet, but she didn't feel like sharing that information with him while echoes of his encouraging Castle to date someone else still ringing in her ears.

"We trust you," Esposito insisted. "It's him we don't trust."

"What about you, Ryan?" Kate wanted to know. "You've been strangely quiet about the whole thing when last Friday you couldn't say enough about it."


Ryan was sputtering, too?

Thankfully suspects didn't intimidate her team the way she did or they would never be able to get a murder confession.

"I trust your judgment, but I still want to know," Lanie said.

"And what about you, Castle?" Kate couldn't leave him out of the 'interrogation' or it would look suspicious.

"I trust you, Beckett," Castle's quick reply showed he hadn't even had to think about his response. "I want to know whatever you want to tell me."

Kate wanted to hug him as she took in the sincerity of his gaze. No surprise there, since she wanted to hug him as often as she wanted to rip his clothes off. Usually at the same time.

"So you really like this guy, don't you, sweetie?" Lanie wanted to know.

"I'm crazy about him," Kate's tone was sure but she couldn't bring herself to look at Castle as she said the words.

"Crazy about…" Lanie's eyes widened. A delighted laugh spilled from her before she declared, 'You're dating Castle!"

Lanie squealed in excitement and grabbed Kate in a quick, fierce hug.

Castle whispered a stunned, "How did she figure it out?"

Esposito was frozen in shock.

And Ryan….was grinning from ear to ear.

So is there anyone who is wondering, along with Castle, how Lanie figured out whom Kate's mystery man is? The clue is there. PM me if you're not sure and want me to tell you. I'm curious if I made the clue obvious enough.