Saturday dawns cold and bathed in brittle light, the bare trees doing little to detract from the overall sense of inhospitality as shoppers and pedestrians walk rapidly, heads down, each apparently in isolation from the rest.
Castle is glad to find himself back in the building, shopping banging against his legs as he manoeuvres through the door Charlie is holding open for him.
"Your daughter and mother left about twenty minutes ago, Mister Castle, said to let you know they won't be back till late as they intend to catch a show in the evening"
Castle thanks him for the information and heads up to the loft, pleased to have even more time than he'd expected to spend with Kate, if he can convince her to stay on. He places the shopping on the island and starts emptying the bags and putting the items away. As soon as he's finished, he heads to the bedroom and changes into a pair of jeans and a blue oxford shirt before heading back to the kitchen to get started.
Just in case, he grabs his phone and sends Lunch will be ready at 1, though you're welcome to come earlier.
It's about ten minutes before he gets an answer with 1 will be fine, want me to bring anything?
Just yourself and an appetite he answers, before putting the phone down and beginning on the preparations.
She's inexplicably nervous as she steps out of the lift and heads to the door, bottle of wine in a carrier bag swinging from one hand and her red coat draped over her other arm. On reaching the door she stops and checks herself in the mirror behind the half-moon table holding a vase and flowers which occupies the end wall. Her hair is neat, untouched by helmet as she's decided to come by cab rather than use her Harley. The grey jersey top hangs over her bootcut jeans, the oversized matching scarf hanging loose round her neck whilst her brown suede boots add four inches to her height.
She thinks she looks ok … well better than ok, but it is lunch with Castle and … hell Kate, it's not a date for gods sakes, get a grip! And with that she takes a deep breath and knocks on the door.
It seems to her she's barely rapped on the wood when it swings open and he's standing there, a hundred watt smile on his face, eyes crinkling at the corners and he's ushering her in. There's a lovely smell of … mushrooms, that's it, and herbs and something else she can't quite make out though it's familiar.
He takes her coat from her and opens the closet by the door to put it away, then his hand is at the small of her back as he guides her round towards the kitchen, asking how she is, has her back healed properly, how he hopes she likes what he's prepared and it dawns on her that she isn't the only one feeling nervous at the prospect of this lunch come meeting come date which isn't a date. It helps to calm her down this realization that the cool Mister Castle seems to be as nervous about this as she is.
She suddenly remembers the wine and places the carrier bag on the counter, managing a slightly shy "I brought this, I hope you like it, it's my favourite …" and petering out as she wonders why the hell she's even given him that bit of information.
"Well then in that case we'll open it for lunch, I'm sure I'll love it as well" and as she takes in his grin and the look he's giving her it's no wonder her corpuscles get a work out every time she's with him as she feels her colour rising once again.
The dining table is already laid out so once he's opened the bottle he sets it down to breathe a little before opening the oven door and pulling out the rack, the smell of grilled mushrooms and cheese flooding the kitchen and making her stomach rumble in anticipation. They both laugh and he's asking her to grab a couple of plates he's placed in the bottom of the oven to warm up, telling her to be careful and use oven gloves. As she takes them out she notices an oven dish which is also emitting a lovely herby scent and wonders what the second course is, shaking her head at the work he's done.
He slides a couple of large field mushrooms stuffed with gorgonzola and topped with toasted and roughly chopped walnuts and thyme sprigs onto each plate, grabs a handful of rocket leaves from a bowl by the sink and drops them on each plate.
Asking her to grab the bottle they move to the table where he sets the plates down and then pulls the chair out for her. She smiles her thanks and sits down, her mind racing at just what having lunch with Richard Castle involves. Is this the usual or is he going out of his way to make her feel special? Not that she'd been expecting a takeaway pizza, not after spending a couple of days here … but it wouldn't have surprised her either.
"Penny for them?" and suddenly she's seeing him watching her with a quizzical look in his eyes and realises she must have zoned out.
"Sorry, I was just surprised at all of this …" waving her hand around.
He shrugs, "I enjoy cooking. As an only child and with my mother working crazy hours when she could get the work, I soon picked up the basics so I could get myself something to eat if she wasn't around. Then Alexis came along … and her mother walked out on us … and I had to make sure my daughter got a well-balanced diet" he grins at her, "takeaway pizzas and Chinese are fine for weekends or emergencies, but she needed proper meals. Then as she got older we started to spend weekends and holidays cooking together, we have great fun even if she doesn't appreciate all my inventions … ungrateful girl!"
She has to laugh at his pouting look and then she's humming in appreciation as the mushroom and cheese and thyme fill her mouth with flavours and aromas. Her mind is also thinking about what he's said, his wife walking out on him? Spending weekends and holidays cooking with his daughter? The more she gets to know him the wider the gap between her preconception and the reality of Richard Castle.
Next up is Italian style chicken with slices of prosciutto ham, sun-dried tomatoes, cannellini beans and the flavours of garlic and basil. The chicken melts in her mouth and she's humming in pleasure as she copies Castle in dipping the garlic bread into the sauce. She pauses a moment when she sees he's staring at her and raises an enquiring eyebrow. He waves his finger around his chin and then reaches out and wipes the corner of her mouth with his thumb.