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A Simple Twist

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Kate chewed on her lip as she stood outside the bookstore. It was a signing for her favorite author's new book, but as much as she wanted to step inside, she couldn't bring herself to pull the glass door open. And yet, she didn't quite have it in her to leave, either. She resigned herself to standing out on the sidewalk for the rest of the evening.

Hours passed, Kate watching excited men and women of all ages coming and going, clutching red-jacketed copies of the newest best seller. Finally people stopped exiting the bookstore and Kate kicked the heel of one shoe against the ground, disappointed in herself. Just as she was about to walk away, the door opened once more and he stepped out.

"Mr. Castle?" Kate asked, before she lost her nerve.

Rick looked up from his keys at the tentative voice, smiling when he saw the young woman, book tucked tightly under one arm. "Yes," he confirmed. "What can I do for you?"

"I was hoping... I don't have the new book, but I was wondering if you could sign this?" She held out a worn, dog-eared copy of A Skull at Springtime.

"Sure," Rick agreed easily, tucking his keys back in his pants pocket and pulling a pen from the inside pocket of his suit jacket. He took the book, flipping it open to the title page and asked, "Who should I make it out to."

"Johanna." Kate's voice choked slightly on the name, and she took a breath before spelling it for him.

Curious at the reaction, Rick asked, "I take it you're not Johanna?"

"No," Kate whispered. "She's... She was my mom. She loved your books."

"Thank you," Rick said softly. "And I know it sounds trite, but I'm sorry for your loss." It was obvious the woman had died recently.

Kate nodded tightly.

Looking back down at the book, Rick thought for a moment before writing, "To Johanna, May peace find those left behind. Rick Castle."

Kate took the book back, smiling tremulously. "Thank you, Mr. Castle."

"Please, call me Rick," he invited. A slightly tilted head was his only reply, and as the woman started to turn away, he blurted out, "I know this is forward, but would you like to go for coffee?"

Kate turned back and looked up at him. "Why?" she asked, genuinely perplexed. "I mean, you don't have to feel obligated."

Rick chuckled. "I never feel obligated. No, I just... want to have coffee with you." She was pretty and hurting, and he'd like a chance to see a real smile on her face, if he could get it.

Biting her lip, Kate considered her options. Go home and try to block out the sounds of her dad crying and ranting into a bottle of vodka, or take one of her favorite authors up on his offer. "All right," she agreed, tucking her hair behind her ears.

"Great." Rick grinned brightly. "There's a one a block away."

"There's a Starbucks right here," Kate pointed out in confusion, looking over her shoulder at the coffee shop.

"Trust me," Rick said, holding out one arm to direct the young woman. "This place blows Starbucks right out of the water."

Twisting her lips to one side, Kate's eyes sparkled for a moment. "All right. But no funny stuff, mister."

"Cross my heart."