"Beckett," she said, trying to sound as if she didn't know it was him on the other end.
'It's Rick Castle.'
She rolled her eyes. As if she knew many other Rick's who had her cell phone number.
"What can I do for you, Castle?"
'Actually, it's what I can do for you.'
"I'm sorry?" she asked with a frown.
She glanced at the now empty white cup that until about ten minutes ago had been filled with a delicious coffee concoction thanks to his cappuccino machine. Hadn't he done enough? She was already getting too used to the tasty offerings it provided over the cop shop coffee they had before Rick Castle came along.
'I have something to make up to you.'
"Uh," she said, wondering where this was going. "If you're calling to tell me you've called off the dogs and will no longer be following me around, that's great, Castle."
'What dogs? Oh. No, Detective Beckett!'
"Damn," she muttered under her breath. Although he was kind of growing on her, as much as she hated to admit it. He was annoying, pompous and full of himself and so many other things, but he made her laugh. Not many people did who saw things as he did. "Well, what then?"
'You still have the dress from the other night?'
Did she still have it? Was he crazy? What did he think she'd have done with it? Torn it to shreds? Donated it to charity? Thrown it in the garbage? She was a lot of things, but she wasn't dumb and she knew how much that dress had cost. And she knew that it was worth every penny the way she'd looked in it. She couldn't recall a time she'd ever looked so elegant.
And then her eyes widened, realization dawning on her. Her heart sank a little at the thought of parting with it, but she knew there were some things in life she just wasn't destined to have.
"Yes, Castle, I still have it."
'Great. Shimmy back into it and I'll pick you up at seven o'clock.'
"You want me back in it?" she asked confused.
'Yeah,' he said, sounding as confused as she was. 'That is what I said, isn't it? I realize the written word is my specialty but I'm pretty sure that is what I said.'
"Yes, I just thought…" she trailed off, letting the end of the sentence hang.
'You thought what, Detective Beckett? That I was going to ask for you to return it? That it was a loaner? Something I keep in my closet for the myriads of pretty women I happen upon that I want to take to a charity event?'
"No, Castle, I'm sure that it was expensive. I wouldn't blame you for wanting it back."
'The dress, Detective Beckett, is yours, I assure you. I'm just requesting you be in it when I pick you up at seven o'clock.'
"Where are we going?"
'Now I can't tell you that, it'd ruin the surprise.'
"I'm not much into surprises."
'I get that, Detective, I do, but I assure you this one won't be too bad.'
She let out a deep breath. "Okay, Castle. I'm trusting you here."
'That's all that I can ask for, Detective. See you at seven. That enough time for you to get ready?'
She laughed a little, glancing at the institutional white clock on the precinct's wall.
"Yes, I think I can handle being ready by then."
'Good,' he said, hanging up.
"What did you just get yourself into, Kate?" she muttered, closing up shop for the evening so she could head home and get ready.
She called Lanie on her way out, glad when her friend said she'd meet her to help her get ready. She thought Lanie might be more curious than she was about just what Castle had planned for her that night.
Now that she'd seen what the gown looked like with Martha's necklace as part of the picture she felt naked without it. The dress was still beautiful, sinfully so, but she knew now that there was something missing. That she hadn't realized that the other night made her feel rather stupid.
She took a deep breath when the doorbell rang, glancing at her reflection in the mirror one last time while Lanie answered the door. Her co-worker and friend seemed rather smitten with Castle. If Kate was smart, she'd have suggested Castle shower his attentions on Lanie. He could follow her around instead.
'Doctor Parish,' she heard Castle say. 'How are you tonight?'
He was, if nothing else, polite. She'd never given him permission to address her by her given name and he'd never made the gaffe of assuming because they were riding together (she refused to call it working together) that he could do such a thing.
'Just fine, Mr. Castle,' she said, and Kate could hear the flirtatious tone in Lanie's voice. She didn't think it was intentional, just a single woman responding to an attractive man showing her polite attention. This was New York after all, polite men just didn't grow on trees!
'You here to offer moral support?'
Lanie laughed, something Kate didn't get to hear her friend do that often. 'No, just helping her get ready. Where are you taking her anyway? She wouldn't tell me.'
'That's because she doesn't know, Doctor. It's a surprise.'
'Must be a hell of a surprise for the both of you to get all dressed up again.'
'I just figured I owed her one, she didn't get to enjoy the dress for very long the other night. I'm sure she went to great lengths getting ready.'
"Are you suggesting that the only way I could look this nice is to spend hours getting ready, Castle?"
He stared at her for a moment. He'd done that the other night, too. She wasn't sure what that look in his eyes meant. It wasn't desire or even really sexual in nature, but there was something there. Appreciation?
"Not at all, Detective. And might I say you look just as lovely tonight."
"Thank you," she said, skimming her hand along her side as she adjusted the wrap. "You look pretty nice, too."
"I'll see you tomorrow," Lanie said, her eyes relaying the left off part of her statement clearly. She wanted details and would be at Kate's desk first thing to get them.
"Are you ready then?"
"I guess I am," she said, grabbing her clutch purse.
"Oh wait, I forgot something."
"What?" she asked. She took a breath, hating the way she sounded so suspicious to her own ears.
He reached into his pocket and drew out the necklace. She gasped. She couldn't help it. It was so unlike her to be surprised, but he'd managed to do it twice now. First buying her this dress at all and now realizing that she probably wouldn't have anything of her own to accessorize it with. Clearly, she would have worn it the other night if she'd had it to wear.
"This. Mother wouldn't let me leave the house without it."
"Castle, I shouldn't."
He shrugged. "Mother insisted. Do you want to be the one to tell her you turned her down? Because I sure don't. I'll never hear the end of it, and she'll probably think I never really offered it to you."
He closed the distance between them, stepping behind her.
"Besides, the outfit isn't complete without it," he said, draping it around her neck and fastening it.
He fumbled a little, checking it to be sure it was in place. That made her feel better. Why exactly? Because she knew he didn't go around putting the necklace on every woman in Manhattan? She had to push those thoughts aside. Whatever tonight was, it wasn't about her.
He came around to face her then, checking her out. She'd be flattered if she didn't know he was really assessing her to ensure she passed the Rick Castle test.
He lives in a different world than you do, Detective Beckett.
"Yeah I guess I am."
He offered her his arm then, which she took.
"Oh my God," she whispered when they arrived at their destination. At least she presumed it was their destination since they were stopping and Castle seemed ready to get out. She'd seen it, been by it, but never had any reason to actually go inside. The fact that he didn't seem to think it was any big deal angered her a little. Did he understand how much he had access to that the regular citizens of New York didn't? Even those working to protect the city didn't have the kind of passes he did.
"What are we doing here, Castle?"
He offered her his arm again, which she took automatically. There was no carpet or grand entrance this time. There were no reporters snapping pictures, no crowd had gathered to watch them enter. Together, just the two of them, they approached the Mayor's home.
"You never answered my question."
"Which one was that?"
"What are we doing here?"
"I thought that was fairly obvious," he said.
"Why did I have to get dressed up again to come here?"
"You want to socialize with the Mayor wearing your uniform, Detective?"
"Well, no, but I don't see why this is necessary."
"Because you look stunning and the Mayor and I got to talking about what a shame it was you didn't get to enjoy a full evening in it."
"I really wish you and the Mayor would stop talking about me."
"It's what friends do, Detective, talk about the important people in one another's life."
She gnawed on that for a minute. She was an important person in his life. She wasn't sure what that said about him or his life. It's not as if they'd known one another for months or years. They didn't know one another well or anything and yet he considered her important. Important enough that he spent his hard-earned money on a gown for her, knowing she wouldn't have anything like it to wear.
"And what does Bob talk to you about?"
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to say. You'll have to ask him that yourself."
She scoffed. As if she would do that. He was still the Mayor after all, whether she was here socially or not.
As soon as they were let in and shown to their destination, she knew why she was wearing the dress. This wasn't a dinner just between friends. There were at least a dozen people in the room, Castle as far as she could tell was the only one who'd seen fit to show up with a date.
She closed her eyes, chiding herself for her choice of wording even if it was internally. This was not a date. He'd told her what this was, though she wasn't sure exactly what that meant. He could have just given her tickets to the opera or something. There was nothing saying he had to be with her when she wore the dress again.
She was introduced to people she'd seen on the evening news frequently but had never had the opportunity to meet. She thanked the person who offered her a glass of wine.
She leaned toward him, whispering in his ear. "What's wrong with dinner and a show, Castle?"
"Too boring," he replied. "Where's the fun in that? Anyone can take you to dinner and a show, Detective."
"And you're what?"
"Why trying to outdo them, I thought that was fairly obvious."
She took a sip of the wine then, not sure she knew how to respond to that. She hated that he did that to her. She worked in a man's world, so sparring and responding to the jabs of men who didn't believe her place was on the street was a part of that world.
The Mayor it seemed was running behind and while this didn't appear to be a business dinner exactly various people were talking politics and policies amongst themselves. She did what she did best since she had very little to contribute. At least nothing they would find interesting, no one in this room cared about the risks she and other detectives took every day to protect them. Castle did, she admitted begrudgingly. No one else, though.
She watched and listened, taking everyone in. She started a little when she felt Castle touch her back, coming dreadfully close to ruining the gown she'd worn for a total of about three hours by spilling wine on it. It was an innocent gesture, he merely wanted her to acknowledge the Mayor had finally entered the room. Not normally a jumpy person, it bothered her she let him surprise her.
"Detective Beckett," the Mayor said when he got to them. "It's nice to see you again when you're not on police business."
He glanced at the others in the room and leaned his head toward her in an almost conspiring-like manner. "You're not here officially tonight, right?"
She smiled, blushing a little. "No, I'm not, Mayor. Your home is beautiful."
He shrugged a little. "Very little of it has been personalized by me, but thank you."
"Ricky," he said, extending his hand toward Castle almost dismissing Kate in the process. "You didn't tell me you were going to be bringing someone so lovely with you tonight. I assumed it was going to be one of your writing buddies."
"Now, why would I show up with one of them when Detective Beckett cleans up so much better than they do."
"So true, so true. Glad you could make it," he said, walking off to greet someone else.
"He really does like you."
"I guess so. I'm sure if my book sales start to drop off he might stop answering my calls, but that's all right."
"Do you think that will happen?"
"Not with this new character."
She rolled her eyes, not about to rise to the bait right now. He knew how she felt about the character he was shaping, however vaguely, in her image.
"It appears we're ready to eat now, Detective," he said, offering her his arm again. "I hope you came hungry."
She hadn't eaten anything since half of a bagel at breakfast. The bagel had been hard and stale so she hadn't finished it. To say she was hungry was an understatement, but she wasn't going to admit that to Castle or anyone else here.
Rick thought when he held Kate's chair for her at the end of dinner that she looked almost sad. Sad to see the evening end? She didn't say much, but she appeared to have a good time. She responded to questions and comments directed at her in her usual succinct manner. So, he wasn't sure she was having a good time or not.
"It's so odd to me that you rub elbows with people who dress like this just to go to dinner."
He shrugged, glancing out the window of the car. "It's just a dress, Detective Beckett. They're just people like you and like me, they just dress differently is all."
"And have much more money at their disposal than I do."
He regarded her then. "That's your choice, though, is it not? I have no doubt you could be earning a much larger salary than you are in another line of work."
"I don't want to do anything else, Castle."
"I realize that, Detective. So, did you enjoy dining with the Mayor?"
"Lanie's never going to let me live it down."
"I didn't realize you two were friendly outside of work."
"She was at my place the other night, too."
"Right, I just assumed…"
She arched an eyebrow and he realized he'd made a huge mistake. "That I had no friends and needed to rope a co-worker into coming home with me to pick out something suitable to wear for your world, Castle?"
"That's not what I said. I just know how my ex-wives and mother are about nights like that. They'd befriend one of the maids if they had to." He pursed his lips. "And that didn't come out right either."
"Good thing you write books, Castle and don't write speeches."
"Very funny, Detective. I just hadn't gotten the vibe from the two of you at scenes that you were close, that's all."
"Because we're working and we're professional. In a man's world…"
"Yeah, I know, you have to baton down the hatches and hide anything that makes you womanly, therefore perceived as weak."
"Something like that," she said, sounding impressed he understood.
He was surprised when she invited him in for a nightcap. He wasn't expecting her to spring to her door like she was running a marathon, but he had expected to walk her to the door and the night to end that way.
"What would you like to drink?"
"Oh, whatever you're having, Detective. I can make it if you'd like."
"Are you always this polite, Castle? Or are you just trying to give me the full effect of an evening on the town with your type?"
"I'm not a type, Detective. And, yes, my mother as eccentric as she may be raised me to be a gentleman. I toe the line on just what one is from time-to-time, but I do know how to perform the general day to day niceties that encompass that upbringing."
"Did you like it?"
"How you grew up?"
He waited to answer while he fixed a drink and she poured herself a glass of wine. He made note of the type she was drinking for future reference.
"I didn't know any different, so no. I'm not exactly following in her footsteps as far as how I raise Alexis."
"Something tells me you'll do the whole debutante thing for her, though."
"My mother - and Alexis' - will insist I'm afraid. In my mind, it should be her choice, but she won't get one."
"You could step in."
"Have you tried to argue with my mother or my ex-wife?"
"No, I haven't."
"It's not pretty, so usually unless someone's going to die or get seriously injured I let them get their way."
She smiled a little, taking a sip of her wine. His drink of choice was a scotch and water.
"Did I say something funny?"
"Not really," she said, but he knew she was lying.
"So, did you enjoy dinner? You didn't actually give me an answer."
"You know I did. Everything was perfect and delicious."
"I get the feeling you don't show up at those things with women on your arm."
"No, not usually."
"I guess I'm flattered then."
"That you didn't mind being seen with me."
He stood then, taking her hand and drawing her up in the process. He led her to her bedroom and the mirror there. He'd apparently startled her but good because she didn't protest or try to stop him and he knew she would normally.
He stepped up behind her, his body touching hers. If he really wanted to, he could look and see if she was wearing one of those strapless bra contraptions underneath the gown. He doubted she was, didn't strike him as the type to have one at her disposal and he hadn't thought of something like that when making the purchase.
He slid a hand to either side of her head, holding her like that. His eyes met hers in the mirror for a moment. He was mad, tired of her jibes about how she didn't, wouldn't fit into his world. His world was what he made it. Sure, his mother was famous, he played cards with the mayor and some best selling authors, but he was still just a man.
"I don't know what you see, Detective Beckett. I, however, see a beautiful woman. One who I should be flattered accepted my invitation for an evening out on such short notice. One who did not question my request to wear this gown again. One who accepted the gown to begin with and did not ask me what I wanted in return for it."
"Shh, Detective Becket. Don't say it. I'm sure you thought it, wondered just what I was buying. I'm buying nothing. I don't operate like that."
"Castle," she said, sounding a little distraught.
"Even in your detective garb you're beautiful, don't sell yourself short. You start your day the same way I do."
"I doubt that."
He grimaced. "You know what I mean," he said. He released her head, dropping his hands to either shoulder. Her skin was cool to the touch, effects of a strapless gown and the fact she'd set the wrap aside once they came in. He watched his hands for a moment. It was hard to forget that she was smaller than he was. Not by much because she was taller than the average woman, but still. His hands cupping the feminine shoulders hit home for him.
"You're cold," he said, feeling her shiver under his touch.
"A little," she replied.
He cleared his throat, eyes meeting hers once more in the mirror. He could offer to step back into the other room and let her change, however, he wasn't sure anything good could come out of that. Not tonight anyway. This wasn't business.
"I should go," he said finally. "You have to work in the morning."
That seemed to break them out of whatever spell they'd been under for a minute or two.
"Yes, you're right, it's getting late."
She seemed almost as sorry as he was when he drew his hands away, but she didn't say anything just walked him to the door.
"Good night then, Castle. Thank you for an interesting night."
She smiled then and he knew they were back to that. Whatever that was between them.
"I'm glad I could provide you with something interesting to do then, Detective."
"You did." She reached behind her, it took him a minute to realize she was taking off the necklace. "And thank your mother again for the loan. It was nice of her."
"She likes you," he said automatically.
He hesitated at the threshold, unsure if he should kiss her good night or just leave. He decided on the polite way of things, taking her hand and kissing the back of it.
"Pleasant dreams, Detective."
The shocked look on her face at his gesture told him he'd surprised her yet again. He smiled as he strode away, surprising her was good. That meant he wasn't being predictable and there was nothing he hated worse than anyone thinking he was that.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com