He signs his name with a flourish, closes the cover and hands the book to the woman who's eying him like he's her next meal, his smile falters slightly but he manages to slap it back in place, utter the usual pleasantries and slides his eyes over to the next person in line, hoping she'll get the message. He hears a slightly frustrated huff and has to hide a real smile as she turns away, sliding her book into the carrier bag as the young student type makes his way up to the table.
He's been going for three hours, the smile now a fixture on his face though his eyes are slightly glazed. It's not that he doesn't appreciate his fans, it's just that after a morning of repetitive phrases and signing of books he's beginning to feel like an automaton. He needs a coffee break, so he decides he'll sign another five books and then head to the back of the shop where Gina and Helen Darcy had set up a little rest area for him protected from the general public by a few strategically placed shelves and Derick Storm paraphernalia.
Mind still on the coffee which is almost making his mouth salivate, he takes the book from the next fan and slides the cover open, "Who shall I make it out to?" he asks as he picks up the pen he'd previously dropped on the table in order to flex his fingers.
"Um, you could make it out to Kate if you like …"
His eyes shoot up to the smiling figure before him and then has to suck in a breath when he realises he's stopped breathing. He can see that has her laughing at him and he grins back sheepishly, not only is this vision of Kate different, she's wearing a blue blazer over a red top and dark grey pants, but she also appears to be taller, though that could simply be because he's sitting and she's not!
I couldn't think of a better partner in crime.
As soon as he's signed his name he's slapping the cover closed and places his hand on the book as she goes to pick it up. "I've a break in about five minutes, would you … mind hanging around? Maybe have a coffee?"
"Am I going to get the third degree?"
He shakes his head, "Just a how are you and how's your back chat" he grins
"You going to give me backchat Castle?"
"You've no idea how much I'd like to!"
And she can't help colouring at the look in his eyes and quickly points to one of the bookshelves near the back, "I'll be looking at Patterson's books over there" she says, eyes laughing at his hurt look.
The next three books take forever to sign and then he's signalling Gina he needs a break. She turns to those still waiting in the queue and along with Helen, lets the fans know what's happening whilst he stands, stretches and quickly goes in search of Kate.
He finds her flicking through Patterson's The Dangerous Days of Daniel X and scowls, unawares that she has purposefully picked up that book as soon as she sees him standing up, the mischievous look in her eyes hidden by the fact she's staring down at the novel in her hands. He's still surprised by her height and a look at her feet shows him why. Wow! Those must be four inches at least! he thinks.
"So … coffee?" he asks, unceremoniously removing the book from her hands and deliberately slotting it into the wrong shelf and back to front, eyebrows raised as he waits for her to say something about it. She has to bite her lip to hold in the laughter and simply nods to him. He places his hand to the small of her back and she can't help catching her breath as he gently leads her to the secluded corner at the back, it's not just the heat and comfort of his large hand on that particular spot, it's also what he's written in the book … that is such an intimate and yet funny comment, she hadn't been able to resist looking at it as soon as she'd cleared the table. Nor is her pulse improved on catching the look Gina throws their way. She's aware they are no longer a couple, but she could be forgiven for thinking she's got that wrong.
"Tell me, how's your back?" he asks as he hands her a cup of coffee and they sit down at the table. It's curiously intimate and thrillingly public at the same time, the fact that they are hidden by books and cut-out figures and boxes, yet only feet away from dozens of people who can be heard talking and browsing ...
She has to make an effort to get her brain back to the question and his laughing eyes aren't making it any easier. She takes a sip of the coffee to buy herself some time, and then realising she's taking much too long, answers with a slightly flustered "Fine, everything's fine!"
Recognizing she's behaving like a clueless idiot she groans and drops her head into her hand despairingly. Hearing him chuckle she raises her face and says "Mind if we start again?"
"So Kate, how's your back?"
"Fine thanks, I'm finally able to get around again without acting like Quasimodo"
He has to chuckle at her choice of character, "Yeah, so I gathered from the present you left me last night, I hoped we might have had the rest of our talk by now, but I'm hoping the weekend is still on"
"Yeah, I'm good with that, so long as I still have the option to back out when I want to?"
He nods, looking across the table at her and lowering his voice slightly as they hear a couple of people browsing books from the shelf behind him. "How about coming for lunch on Saturday, both my mother and Alexis will be out for the day, which gives us the whole afternoon to talk … unless of course you have other plans?"
She could get out of this so easily by saying yes and though part of her wants to do so, another part is thrilled at the idea of having lunch with Richard Castle, not that she hasn't done so before, but … well, oh shit just go with it Kate!
She looks up at him from under her lashes and those blue eyes of his are drilling right through her and she can't help the slight flush climbing up her neck and is too short of breath to answer so she goes with a nod of her head and is rewarded with a brilliant smile which seems to sooth her ruffled feelings and brings out her own answering smile.
His hand reaches across the table and settles over hers and gives a gentle squeeze. It sets her nerve ends on fire again and she almost misses his "I need to get back to the fans or Gina will kill me. See you on Saturday then?"
He stands and brushes past her, letting his hand rest a moment on her shoulder and she just sits there for several minutes after he's left, wondering just what is happening to her. Eventually she shakes herself out of her reverie and picking up her copy of Storm Fall, turns to leave.
She almost jumps as she finds Gina glaring at her from a few feet away, but decides to just smile and walks past, biting her lip to stop the laughter bubbling up inside her. As she pushes the door to the street open she turns her head to look back at the writer. Whether he senses her or it's just a coincidence she can't tell, but he looks up from the book he's signing and meets her eyes. He winks at her and she has to laugh as she pushes her way out onto the crowded sidewalk.