“You have your assignment?”
Beckett nodded, clenching her jaw. “Yes.” Her accent was thick; she felt like she was overcompensating but her employer didn’t seem to mind. A Russian was a Russian. It wasn’t as though there was much to be seen in the dark room that would give her away – a dimly lit office underneath a successful bar known for its shady business dealing – the perfect place for a sexy girl in a black pant suit and mussed bleach blonde hair looking for a little action. “I’m going to kill Richard Castle.”
She hadn’t spoken to him in a week and it was killing her not being with him but she had her orders: observe but not engage her target until she figured out his routine. Easy enough to know when he left the house, who showed up at his loft, where he went. The trick was not engaging him. She was watching him all the while someone was watching her, making sure she was who she said she was. They wouldn’t be disappointed.
“Castle, relax, she’s fine.” Esposito had tried to comfort his friend all week but the truth was, he was worried about his partner, too.
“How do you know?” Castle continued to pace the break room. No one had seen him leave the building since his girlfriend left on assignment. Gates, understanding – or perhaps too tired to force him out – let him stay. “We can’t contact her; we just have to trust that she’ll be okay? What kind of a plan is that?”
“The only plan we got.” He tried to be gentle with his friend but his anxiety was putting him on edge. “Now, if you want to help, you can help us figure out why this man wants to hire someone to kill you.”
“What did he do to you, anyways?” It had been a month. She hadn’t engaged Richard Castle in a month; just observed from alleyways and parking garages, meeting up with her employer once a week to check in despite them both knowing that he knew what she knew.
“It does not matter what he did to me only that he is dead.” The pudgy man’s accent was thicker than hers, his salt and pepper hair clouding his face with time and money.
“What happened to the last girl? The one I replaced.” She played with her coffee cup, trying to appear as casual as possible while meeting with a criminal bent on killing the love of her life.
His eyes grew dark and the coffee shop grew still, or was it just her heart? “You should not be asking such questions. The last girl asked too many questions.” She kept her mouth shut. “Now, I have an assignment for you.”
“I am not pursuing Castle?”
“He is still your target but I need you to do something else for me.”
“His name is Anton Roman.” Ryan placed the older man’s picture on the board so all passersby knew exactly who they were after. “Russian national, immigrated here twenty years ago and set himself up as the head of the Russian Mob in Chinatown. His daughter came with him.” Ryan placed her photo next to her father: a thin blonde with striking brown eyes and a sweet smile no older than eighteen. Completely opposite to her father. “She died in a car crash in ’99; daddy was behind the wheel after a few too many to drink and crashed head on into another car. He was thrown from the vehicle but she was trapped inside when the car burst into flames.”
Castle’s eyes glazed over. “Why does that sound familiar?”
Esposito approached the pair with a folder in hand. “That’s because you were there. I checked the report for that night and you were listed as a key witness. Says you saw the accident and helped the woman in the other vehicle escape but couldn’t reach Roman’s daughter in time.”
The group was silent as the events of the past came back to haunt them. “Why now?”
“Roman was hospitalized after the accident and then arrest in 2000 for his daughter’s death. Apparently he had a disagreement with his cell mate and a few years were added on to his sentence. He was released three months ago for good behavior.” Esposito scoffed. “Word on the street is he’s been pulling old favors in left and right to get his revenge. He’s washed up but desperate.”
Castle clenched his jaw, staring at the photo of the man who held his life in his hands. “That makes him extremely dangerous.”
It had been four months. She had been tasked with break and enter assignments, robberies all over New York City, nearly killed a man – though thankfully got him into protective custody first – all committed in the name of the man who wanted Richard Castle dead. Then she got the phone call. She remembered it well because she was sitting in the bathtub in the apartment she’d been living in since the whole thing began, reading Heat Wave, the book that had started it all. She was thinking about him and what he was doing right at that moment. Was he thinking about his death, was he playing laser tag with his daughter; was he writing her another love letter? And then the phone rang, startling her from her thoughts. “It is time. Meet me downstairs in an hour. And dress up. We’re going to a party.”
If looks could kill, the valet ogling her as she stepped out of the limousine would have been carried out in a body bag. The man on her arm laughed out loud at the pasty blue-eyed man white as a sheet at the sight of the woman in the slinky red dress. The Irishman coughed out ‘wow’ as she was walking away and she couldn’t help but smile. It was almost over.
Inside, the Hispanic security guard gave her a thorough pat-down, subtly missing the knife attached to the inside of her thigh while the man watched anxiously. For a criminal mastermind moments away from victory, he was certainly jumpy. The guard let them pass with a wink to Beckett who returned it with an extra swing in her hips. Yes, it was almost over.
And then the pair entered the ballroom and her breath left her body. The entire room was stunning in a subdued manner. Nothing flashy like the old Richard Castle would have done for a book launch party. No, this was the new Richard Castle who was madly in love and perfectly content with a party of his co-workers and friends and a few business associates in a quiet ballroom, enjoying the company of one another.
A nice quiet place to commit murder.
It wasn’t hard to spot him; he stood out – he always stood out in the crowd – it didn’t hurt that tonight was his night. Dressed in her favourite suit and his red tie, he still managed to match her dress and stop her heart. She’d seen him nearly every day for the last three months and yet being here, in the same room, she had never missed him so much. And now she was going to kill him.
He spotted her instantly, drawn in by her beauty and the fact that he knew her perfume from a mile away on a cloudy day. No one smelt like her. And suddenly she was there in the room with him, staring at him with those gorgeous hazel eyes of hers and trying hard not to smile because she’d missed him too. But there was still work to be done. But it was almost over.
He tried not to stare but it was hard as she made a beeline for him, never taking her eyes off of him. “Good evening, Mr. Castle.” The accent took him by surprise but it was certainly hot. “I was wondering if my associate and I could have a word with you.” Oh right, there was someone else in the room. It wasn’t the first time he’d gotten lost in her eyes and it wouldn’t be the last, if they made it through tonight. For the first time, Richard Castle looked at the man who wanted him dead and he felt no fear; only curiosity and an indescribable level of trust in the woman next to him.
“Of course.” He smiled at the man who smiled back with a grin that sent a chill down his spine. He was ready for his victory; he was ready to watch the lights go out in Castle’s eyes.
Kate led them to a hallway just outside the ballroom, dark and quiet, held in by locked doors that she secured herself. No one would disturb them here.
They three of them stood in the silence, soaking up the comforting sounds. But the silence quickly became unbearable. “Well, Katya?”
Beckett looked to her employer defiantly, jutting out her chin and standing her ground. “No.”
“You heard me. I will not kill him.”
Neither of them was surprised when the enraged man suddenly produced a gun from his jacket pocket and aimed it at a confident if not startled Kate Beckett. “I warned you not to be like the last girl I hired, Katya; she defied me and I had to deal with her. Don’t make me kill you too.”
“Did he just confess to murder?” Castle used a stage-whisper.
Kate relaxed into her hip, unimpressed. “I think he just did.” She turned to her former employee. “Seriously? You weren’t even going to make me work for it?”
“Lame.” Castle agreed.
The man clicked the safety off, more surprised than serious. “What is this? Tell me what this is or I’ll put a bullet in your brain.”
“Oh for the love of” Kate pulled the knife from the long slit of her dress and imbedded it in her would-be attacker’s shoulder before he could pull the trigger. Stunned, the man fell to the ground, the gun skittering across the floor, out of reach. Kate made her way over to the man while her boyfriend looked on, equally stunned.
“When did you learn how to use a knife like that?”
She looked over her shoulder with a delightfully sinful look in her eyes. “There were some advantages to spending four months as a hired assassin. I certainly got some new experiences.” She said this while pulling the stiletto knife out of her murderer, wiping it off on the edge of her dress and tossing it in the same general direction as the gun; he was never so attracted to her. He was still gaping at her when she snapped him out of his fantasies by asking for her handcuffs; the one that had been burning a hole in his pants pocket all evening, waiting to be placed in his girlfriend’s lovely palm. “Cuffs?”
“Right.” He passed them off to her and he was right, they were lovely. Smooth and perfect and leaving him aching for more after not being able to touch her for so long.
“Anton Roman, you are under arrest for the murder of Miranda Marks, conspiracy to commit murder, and being a class A creep.”
Roman struggled against his binds just to get another glimpse of the Russian beauty. “You’re a cop?”
“Detective Kate Beckett, NYPD.” She smirked, pulling the cuffs tighter.
“You his cop?” Neither of them would comment but they shot a glance at each other and shared a beating heart. Yes, she was his cop. “But you’re a cop. You committed major crimes.”
“It was all worth it to get rid of you.” She tugged on his wounded shoulder to keep him compliant as they passed Castle, who watched the man with sorrow in his eyes.
He grabbed Roman’s arm. “I’m sorry.” He ignored Beckett’s confused look, looking into the tired man’s eyes for some answer of acceptance. He was met with spit on his shirt and a cold-hearted look from a dead man as Beckett pulled him away. She shoved the Russian out the now open doors and into the waiting arms of Ryan and Esposito who nodded to her and then left her alone with her writer.
The couple wasted no time in running into each other’s arms, embracing tightly. She squeezed him as close as possible, breathing him in while he did the same, closing his eyes to welcome the new memories to replace the ones he’d been living on for the last four months. He vowed he would never need memories again. “Oh god, I’ve missed you so much.” He kissed her bleached hair and found the strength to pull apart so he could take a look at her. Her face was stained with a few tears and her face was darker from the new hair colour but it was her – Kate Beckett – his beloved.
She laughed through her tears, hardly believing that she was holding him. Pressing her hands to his face she pulled him down for a sweet kiss. The first kiss of lovers finally reunited. The first kiss of lovers that were going to spend the rest of their lives together. “Yes.” She whispered into him.
He pulled back, expecting any word but that. “Yes?” Yes, she agreed with him? Yes, she knew he missed her? Yes, she…
“Yes I will marry you.” Oh, oh that. He had almost forgotten all those months ago. He’d proposed in a desperate attempt to stop her from taking this assignment and she’d walked away.
She was glowing, shaking with happiness. “Yes.”
“Yes!” He threw his fist in the air as he pulled her in for a kiss, deep and full, while she laughed joyously and held on for dear life.