Hot water sluiced down her body, trailed in thin rivulets between her breasts, pearled around her nipples, ribboned across her stomach. Small pools collecting between their bodies, cascading off the stretch of her thighs where she was wrapped around him, her legs hooked around his waist, holding her up. He surged into her, buried to the hilt, his hips rolling her against the cooler tiles and she keened as bursts of pleasure flared within her, washed from her midsection into every part of her.

She felt hyper-aware of each warm, wet trickle and drop that glided down the lines of her sensitized skin, intensifying each sensation as they crashed over her like the waves of the tide crashing onto the shore, fierce and vociferous, devastatingly beautiful.

They hadn't made it very far once her hand had closed around him, teased him beneath the confines of his boxers, her thumb glancing across the tip of his hardening length. He'd pressed her into the doorframe, his fingers expertly trailing between her thighs, teasing, circling, the tip of one finger curling inside just so, and how, in one night, had he become an expert on how to touch her so perfectly?

By the time they'd tumbled into the shower she'd been so on edge that she could barely take anymore, knees shaky and skin tingling, her blood rushing in her ears. His musky, familiar scent swirled in the billowing steam that rose off his heated body, and it seemed to seep into every pore of her skin. Her whole body a live wire brimming with suppressed energy, ready to spark and ignite, and set her on fire.

He'd squeezed body wash into his palms, had ran his hands all over her, massaging the soap into her skin in a slow, deliberate path down the length of her arms, up her calves and thighs, his broad hand almost dwarfing her as he glided across her stomach. His eyes tracked the path of his fingers, a quiet and reverent exploration belying the urgency that had coursed through them as they'd dragged each other across her apartment, stumbled into the bathroom. He'd been mapping her, learning the shape and sight of each curve and plane and valley, flooding her whole body with delirious waves of arousal.

She had watched him watch her as he bracketed her waist, then slowly slid his hands higher until her breasts filled his palms, his fingers kneading the slippery skin, digging into her flesh. She'd arched her back, thrust her chest further into the cove of his touch. He'd rolled both her nipples between his thumbs and index fingers and she'd moaned as sharp pleasure arrowed through her, centered right between her thighs. Flinging an arm around his neck, a knee to his hip, she'd dragged herself against his leg, pressing, seeking, needing him, and then he'd hoisted her up, finally, finally, his hands gripping her beneath her thighs, lifting her to him.

He'd entered her in one fluid motion that felt more practiced than it had any right to be between them, had pushed her back against the tiles, his mouth covering hers and his tongue curling inside as he sank into her, his entire body bowed around her, overwhelming and protective.

It was ferocious, this time- carnal. The culmination of years of longing, denial, and suppressed desire; an explosion of raw, all-consuming need.

His fingers dug into her thighs as his hips pressed into her, over and over, setting a fast rhythm that she met with every stroke, the water slapping and splashing between them, and her body clamoring for him, muscles tightening, her blood singing. He was thrusting deep, filling her so completely that she could barely breathe, her head thrown back and her fingers clawed into the thick of his shoulders to just hold on, to draw him closer. She keened, writhed against him, her need for him a rough, visceral, urgent thing.

He buried his face in the alcove of her neck, lips and teeth working over her tender skin, murmuring sounds that could only be her name prayed to the altar of her body and heat bloomed from deep within her, roiling through her blood. Her every thought and focus narrowed to only him and her and the delirious ache that consumed her. She clung to him, all her senses overcome and she wondered if it would always be this way between them - so powerful, so completely overwhelming, so very perfect.

"More," she heard herself begging through the fog that clouded her senses, her hips jerking erratically as she sought more friction, pressure; her body trembling, inexorably climbing toward that elusive, exquisite brink of release. He growled into her neck, sounding as lost and desperate as she felt while he loosened one hand from beneath her thigh. She clamped harder around him, holding herself up, a whole-body muscle contraction that had him groaning, thrusting long and deep and hard.

She cried out, her inner muscles seizing around him and Castle palmed her breast, pinched her nipple between his fingertips, prolonging the shudder that ran through her. Her whole body coiled, sharpened with intensity; close, so close, and she slid a hand between their bodies, pressing two fingers to her swollen nerves. She could feel his moan rumbling through his chest when her knuckles brushed against his stomach while she touched herself and that was all it took; all of her clamped around him and she cried out, loud. Her voice echoed off the tiles as she came apart, her world splintered with bright, sharp colors, her body unspooling as she clenched and arched and shook in his arms, all her senses consumed by him.

She was gasping for breath, greedily sucked the thick, steamy air into her lungs, her body a boneless, quivering mass in his arms, still wracked with aftershocks. Awareness returned in increments - the thick stutter of her heart, the rivulets of water trailing down her skin, the grip of his fingers beneath her rear, the feeling of his length still hard within her.

She blinked open her eyes and found him staring at her, his body so tense he was trembling , his eyes almost black with raw need. She held his gaze, lifted her hips to him. With her shoulders pressed against the warmed tiles behind her, she let him hold her weight while she deliberately tightened her inner muscles around him.

He groaned, his mouth falling open and eyes pinched closed as the sensation visibly shot through him, and Kate reveled in the moment, the sharp desire and overwhelming intensity of their connection.

"Rick," she urged and when his eyelids fluttered, when his gaze came back to focus on her, she repeated the move, clenched her body around him. Offered herself to him, completely and unabashedly.

Her name fell from his lips whispered promises as he drove inside, pulled out almost completely and then thrust again, an exacting slide into the slick lines of her body before he sped up, pressed deeper, setting a fervent, pounding rhythm.

She relished his firm body against her, within her; the desperate, coiling need for her she could feel flooding through him. Two, three more thrusts and suddenly she could sense it; felt him teeter right on the edge, his eyes hooded, breath held captive in his lungs and every muscle of his body taut. She shivered, clamped around him and then he came for her, a feral thing as he let go, tumbled with her into white-hot oblivion. Delicious little aftershocks burst through her as he groaned, jerked and shuddered, losing himself in her and she held him through it, his face buried into her neck and his breath fanning hot and fast against her skin.

And it was so astonishing, almost surreal and yet so perfect, the way he clung to her, like he was drowning and she was dry land. The way he gave all of himself to her as she had offered herself to him, vulnerable, mellifluous, infinite.

Like she was everything, the only thing he ever needed.

She lay on her side, elbow dug into the mattress and her cheek cradled in her palm, mirroring him as they stared at each other.

She couldn't stop looking at him, taking in each nuance; memorizing him. The rise and fall of his chest with every breath he took, and the tapered line of hair as it disappeared into the terrycloth wrapped around his hips. The breadth of his taut pectoral muscles, the thick strain of his biceps, and the bloom of dark scruff along his jawline. His tousled hair, only towel-dried after their shower and sticking up in all directions, making him look boyish and playful. And oh, did she know how playful, how inventive he could get! In that, he was all man. Her tummy flipped, fluttered deliciously as she remembered the past hours.

She couldn't stop touching him, either. Running her fingertips up the length of his sternum, journeying in wide circles over his chest, the ball of his shoulder and the ridge of his clavicle, she marveled how soft his skin felt, how his muscles jumped beneath the play of her fingers; how his breathing hitched in his chest and his lips fell open with pleasure. She traveled the topography of his body, mapping ridges and dips and long, smooth planes. Just as he had explored her in the shower, she studied him by feel and sight, learned by heart his staggered reactions to her every touch. She was amazed by the sheer intensity, felt the raw power of it, the draw and allure she held over him. It was humbling; the most precious gift she'd ever received.

Climbing up his neck she caressed his jaw, his cheek, the stubble sharp against the whorls of her fingertips; skimmed along his eyebrows and the line of his nose until she landed at his mouth, her thumb brushing his luscious lips. He expelled a sigh, his eyelids fluttering closed before they opened to her once more.

Her gaze wandered across his face, soaking in the sleepy tilt to his eyes and that tender, amazed smile etched to his lips. There was such bliss, so much quiet joy written on his face that she felt like weeping, her heart aching with it. It felt like something she had missed so much, when she'd never actually had it before.

God, why hadn't they done this sooner?

She curled in closer, pressed her forehead to his sternum, the weight of regrets heavy on her shoulders. Her fingers curled against his ribs as she held on, inhaled the scent of his skin, felt the reassuring pattern of his breathing in the rise and fall of his chest. She couldn't recall a single moment in her adult life where she'd been happier than right here, right now, with him, and suddenly she felt overwhelmed by all the moments they'd already missed, mourned the time they'd lost.

"I can hear you thinking all the way up here," he murmured, his mouth nuzzling her hair, his fingers smoothing down the length of her spine, nails scraping at the side of her ribs. She squirmed, couldn't help but laugh softly as he tickled her. And the sadness dispelled, slowly disintegrated within the dim shadows of her bedroom because she remembered that this was why. This here – these soft, joyous, intimate moments. She'd held herself back, tried to heal and work on herself so that she could enjoy this; so that she wouldn't run scared, wouldn't hide behind her long-held defenses. She knew herself well enough to recognize that she couldn't have given herself so completely if she hadn't worked out some of her issues first.

It had been worth the work, worth waiting for. He was worth it. Worth everything.

She pressed a lingering kiss to his sternum, felt the tension thrumming just beneath his skin as concern crept through him at her lingering silence. Apprehension that he tried so hard not to let her hear in his voice. Her heart swelled, overflowed with how much she felt for this man, everything at once. He'd been waiting, too - waiting for her; had been patient because he believed in her, because he had hoped, had trusted that she'd find her way to him eventually.

Because he loved her.

The thought made her insides flutter; warmth unfurled through her limbs, flushed her cheeks. The knowledge wasn't new yet there was brightness to the words now; no longer a dark, overwhelming memory dimmed by the fog of unending pain and all-consuming darkness, but a joy that sparkled, that made her giddy, and it strengthened her resolve.

She pushed away from the safe haven of his chest, just enough so that she was facing him once more, her palm lingering over his heart where she could feel its reassuring beats.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she admitted, holding his eyes with hers while her fingers trembled over his sternum. That I heard you. That I lied. A flood of memories rushed past her, of the pain and fear and months of agonizing recovery. Tears welled through her, clogged her throat while she waded through the turmoil of her thoughts, searched for explanations and apologies but Castle pressed his fingers to her lips, trapping the words.

His look was somber yet there were no accusations, only understanding in his eyes. "You had to work some stuff out. I understand."

She blinked, swallowed the knot in her throat, overwhelmed all over again by his kind, forgiving, loving heart.

"I've been seeing a therapist," she admitted then, wanting, needing him to know. "I wanted to put in the work, for myself, for us. I wanted to be healthy enough, free enough to say it back."

"Say it back?" He sounded so stunned that her heart started leaping in her chest.

"Yeah," she nodded, felt her smile stretching her lips as the sheer happiness of this pivotal moment claimed her. She swept her thumb over his cheek and the corner of his lips, her eyes riveted by his as he stared at her.

"I love you, Rick."

His eyes roamed her face, a dark sparkling blue that seemed to soak her in, and then the most beautiful smile broke across his face, like he still couldn't quite believe what she'd said and yet it was the most amazing gift he'd ever received. Overwhelmed by the play of emotions across his face she surged forward, captured his mouth, caressing him with her lips and tongue and her words, over and over. "I love you. I love you. I love you."

They were breathless and panting when at last they pulled apart- just slightly, their faces still close enough that the tip of her nose brushed against his. She couldn't stop grinning, her fingers curled into the short, still damp hair at his nape, caressing his skin.

"Sooo..." He tugged at the knotted towel between her breasts until the fabric loosened across her torso, his fingertips teasing a line down her sternum that had her arching toward his touch. "What happens tomorrow?"

She eyed the window before grinning at him. "You mean today?" She had completely lost track of time, not that she had cared, but there couldn't be much left of the night. A part of her wished that this perfect night didn't have to end; she wanted to stay like this forever, wrapped in this blissful bubble, and yet the new day was already encroaching on them, luring her with its infinite possibilities.

She walked her fingertips down his torso. "You'll go home and get changed," she hummed, painting teasing circles to his skin, lower and lower.

"...And then you'll get me my coffee, and join me at the precinct. We'll spend the day keeping our hands off each other..." She arched an eyebrow, pressed two fingers just below his navel as if to emphasize her point.

"...And in the evening, you'll take me home and familiarize me with your bed…"

His eyes darkened at her proposition. "You do make a compelling case..." And then he swiftly rolled her underneath him, pinning her hands above her head. "Except for the 'keep my hands off you' part. I really don't like that at all."

"Me neither," she gasped, spread her legs wider as he settled between them.

"Guess it's a good thing the night isn't over quite yet..."

"Mmmm," she hummed in agreement, bit her bottom lip while she freed one of her hands, her fingers sneaking to the knot below his navel, unraveling the sides of terrycloth until the towel parted over his pelvis. Her body flushed with heat all over again as her eyes roamed his naked form.

"So what should we do in the meantime?" She slid the fabric over the curve of his taut ass, her nails scraping down his cheeks before she threw the towel off the bed like a challenge.

He sucked in a breath as he sank further between the warmth of her thighs, his eyes riveted to her chest as his fingers drew titillating patterns across her clavicles. "Hmm, we could go for round… Wait, how are we counting, because if we go by orgasms, you…"

She laughed, like a well of pure delight spilling from her mouth; pressed her fingers to his lips to trap the words. Sliding her other hand around his neck, she drew him close to her mouth, her lips brushing his while she undulated her hips in a slow, seductive dance.

"Shut up and do it again."



Thank you all so much for reading (and for your immense patience with me). I've been blown away by the overwhelming enthusiasm you have shown this little story, as well as the kindness that you've been showing me. Be it for this story or any other of my pieces I've shared, your comments and excitement have brought me tremendous joy over this past year. I'm thankful for all of you who've accompanied me through all or parts of 2013, and I'm wishing you all a wonderful, exciting, successful year 2014. May it be filled with happiness and love (and Caskett goodness)! :)