The woman sitting across the restaurant made perhaps the saddest scene he'd ever witnessed. Short dark hair, she's gorgeous. Probably early twenties. But her body language betrays her grief, and the haunted look in her eyes might be the darkest thing he's ever seen.

"Richard!" Gina's sharp voice pulls him back to his own table. "Stop checking out that girl and listen to me."

"No, no-" He tries to hide it. "I wasn't checking- not like that. She just looks… sad." He plays the author card. "Plus, it's my job. To study the human condition. Really."

"Rick, really." Gina grimaces. He closes his eyes, briefly. Wondering how he got here. Why things with Gina were going so far and so fast down a path he- if he was truly honest with himself- a path he didn't want to take. Looking up at her, he knows, exactly why. Because she's there, and available. And he's so tired of being alone. Maybe that's why he's so intrigued by the woman in the restaurant. He wants to know her story, know why she's alone. Someone that beautiful shouldn't be alone.

He steals (what he tells himself) his last glance at her- and her glass of wine is empty. Before he can stop himself, he's signalling the waiter. "Another drink for the young lady at the table by the window, please."

"Indeed, sir. And for yourselves?"

Rick looks at his own glass- half full, and Gina's- empty. Oops.

"Same again for me please." Gina speaks up. Her voice ice, glaring at Richard.

The waiter nods, leaves, and Gina speaks again. "Seriously?"

It's Rick's turn to grimace. "Sorry. Author thing. Really. I got distracted by the story."

"You got distracted by the hot girl across the room. Again. She's half your age, so really. Leave it be." He hears her silent plea. And don't embarrass me.


Kate breaks her unseeing glare from the melting snow outside the window. She looks up, confused, as the waiter places a new glass of wine in front of her. "I didn't order this?" Or had she? Honestly, there's a part of her that doesn't know. She comes here each year, and she doesn't know why. She knows why, of course, but why she makes herself, can't stop herself, she doesn't know. Just knows that she has to. Can't stop herself. Even now. Five years later. And she doesn't know for sure that she didn't order the wine, on autopilot.

"No, no," the waiter assures her. "It's from that table over there. The gentleman noticed your glass was empty."

Kate's no stranger to men buying her drinks, but from a couple? Her mind boggles and she's suddenly furious. She has an idea that she looks like crap- she's not stupid, she knows her grief is all over her face- but a couple sending her a drink? What kind of game are they playing? Not one she's interested in, that's for sure. She looks across, but neither of them are watching her. They look like they're arguing. The guy is hot, though, and he looks kind of familiar. And if he had been alone, and bought her a drink, the way she's feeling, today? She would have taken him home with her without a second thought. She sighs audibly, but the waiter is gone and there's no one there to hear her.

She doesn't know what makes her do what she does next.


Half his age. Huh. He's only in his early thirties, and so what? He glares back at Gina. Again, sighing inwardly, that they're here at all, doing this. Whatever it is that they're doing. She works for his publisher, she's hot. But it's not enough of a reason to go down this rabbit hole. Not when his daughter's heart is at stake too. He's just so miserable- he can't bring himself to miss Meredith, not exactly- but when they were good, they were really good. At some things, at least. And he finds himself not at all curious to know if he'd be that good with the blonde in front of him, whose foot is moving against his calf.

"Now look what you've done."

"What?" God, what is it about Gina that brings out the whiny in him? This is a bad idea. This is not happening. He's going to end this now, before it begins.

"She's coming over, Rick," Gina hisses. "Your tween girlfriend. God knows what she's thinking. She'll probably proposition the both of us."

He wiggles his eyebrows. "Could be fun." But his heart's not in it, and he does feel old, suddenly, and he wants to go home. Alone.

The brunette is hesitant and anger is flashing in her eyes as she approaches. "So. Thanks for the drink." She looks anything but thankful.

"You're… welcome?" It's a question, and it softens her, suddenly.

"No, really. Thank you. It was unnecessary- and- you look familiar…?" She's trying to place him, her hesitation gone, replaced with curiosity and she's faintly aware, staring into his blue eyes, that this is the best she's felt all day. All week.

He extends his hand, smiling. "Richard Castle."

She freezes. Her favourite author just bought her a drink? Shut. The. Front. Door.