Richard Castle: Frozen Heat

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Richard Castle Frozen Heat
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    Frozen Heat
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    Полицейский детектив / на английском языке
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Richard Castle

Frozen Heat


“Oh, yeah, that’s it, Rook,” said Nikki Heat. “That’s what I want. Just like that.” A trickle of sweat rolled down his neck to his heaving chest. He groaned and bit down on his tongue. “Don’t stop yet. Keep it going. Yes.” She hovered over him, lowering her face just inches from his so she could whisper. “Yes. Work it just like that. Nice, easy rhythm. That’s it. How does it feel?” Jameson Rook stared at her intently just before he pinched his eyes into a squint and moaned. Then his muscles went slack and he dropped his head backward. Nikki frowned and brought herself upright. “You can’t do that to me. I cannot believe you’re stopping.”

He let the dumbbells hit the black rubber floor beside the exercise bench and said, “Not stopping.” He pulled in a chestful of air and coughed. “Just done.”

“You’re not done.”

“Ten reps, I did ten reps.”

“Not by my count.”

“That’s because your mind wanders. Besides, this rehab is for my own good. Why would I skip reps?”

“Because I turned away once and you thought I wasn’t looking.”

He scoffed, then asked, “… Were you?”

“Yes, and you only did eight. Do you want me to help you do your physical therapy, or be your enabler?”

“I swear I did at least nine.”

A member of Rook’s exclusive gym slid in behind her for some free weights, and Nikki turned to gauge how much of her and Rook’s childish exchange he’d picked up. From the tinny music spilling from his earbuds, the only thing the other man heard was the Black Eyed Peas telling him it’s gonna be a good night while he stared in the mirror. Heat couldn’t tell what the guy admired more, the row of plugs from his new hair transplants or the snap of his pecs under his designer wife beater.

Rook stood up beside her. “Nice chesticles, huh?”

“Shh, he’ll hear you.”

“Doubt that. Besides, who do you think taught me the word?”

Chesticle man caught her eye in the mirror and favored her with a wink. Apparently surprised that her knees didn’t turn to jelly, he racked his weights and moved on to the tanning beds. Moments like that were precisely why Heat preferred her own gym, a throwback joint downtown with painted cinder-block walls, clanging steam pipes, and a clientele there to work instead of preen. When Rook’s visiting physical therapist-whom he’d dubbed Gitmo Joe-called in sick for his morning session and Nikki volunteered to spot him in his rehab routine, she had considered using her club instead. But there were negatives there, too. Well, one. Namely Don, her ex-Navy SEAL combat training partner with whom she had a history of grappling in bed, not just on the wrestling mat. Don’s trainer-with-benefits days had come and gone, but Rook didn’t know about him and she couldn’t see the point in forcing an awkward encounter.

“Whew. I don’t know about you,” said Rook, toweling his face, “but I’m ready for a shower and some breakfast.”

“Sounds great.” She held out the dumbbells to him. “Right after your next set.”

“I have another set?” He maintained the innocent pose as long as he could pull it off, and then snatched the weights from her. “You know, Gitmo Joe may be the spawn of an unholy union between the Marquis de Sade and Darth Vader, but at least he cuts me some slack. And I didn’t even take a bullet to save his life.”

“One,” was all she said.

He paused and then did his first rep, grunting, “One.”

They kidded about it, but that night two months before at the sanitation pier on the Hudson, she thought she had lost him. The ER doc assured her afterward that she indeed almost had. In the blink of an instant after she beat down and disarmed one bad cop in the garbage transfer warehouse, his crooked partner took an ambush shot at her. Heat never saw it coming, but Rook-damn Rook-who wasn’t supposed to be there, leaped out and tackled her, taking the slug himself. Over her NYPD career as a uniform and a homicide detective, Nikki Heat had seen many bodies and watched many men die before her, and as the color left him that winter night and she felt his warm blood flow out of his chest across her arms, the vision resonated with all the fragile breaks and hopeless endings she had witnessed. Jameson Rook had saved her life, and now his own survival was nothing less than a miracle.

“Two,” she said. “Rook, you’re pathetic.”

Out on the sidewalk, he took in a long, exaggerated breath. “I love the smell of Tribeca in the morning,” he said. “It smells like… diesel.”

The sun had risen just enough for Nikki to peel off her sweatshirt and enjoy the April air on her bare arms. She caught him looking and said, “Careful, you’re one hair plug from becoming chesticle man.”

She walked on and he fell in stride with her. “I can’t help it. You know, any moment can become romantic. I saw that on a TV commercial.”

“Let me know if you need me to slow down.”

“No, I’m good.” Heat gave him a side glance. Sure enough, he was keeping up. “Remember my first shuffles around that hospital corridor? Felt like Tim Conway on the old Carol Burnett Show. Now look at me. I’m back to my superhero stride.” He demonstrated and powered ahead to the corner.

“Nice. If I ever need help, and Batman or Lone Vengeance are booked, I know who I’ll call.” As she drew up to him, she asked, “Seriously, you doing OK? I didn’t tax you too much with that workout?”

“Naw, I’m fine.” He placed the tip of her forefinger on his ribs. “I just feel a little tugging sometimes when I stretch.” They waited for the light to change, and he added, “Speaking of tugging.”

Nikki gave him her best blank expression. “Tugging? I’m sorry, I don’t follow.” They held each other’s gaze until he arched one brow and cracked her up.

Rook laced his arm through hers as they crossed the street. “Detective, I do believe if we skipped breakfast, you could still get to work on time.”

“Are you sure you’re ready for this? Seriously, I can wait. I’m the queen of delayed gratification.”

“Trust me, we’ve waited long enough.”

“Maybe you should double-check with your doctor to see if you’re healthy enough for sexual activity.”

“Oh,” said Rook. “So you’ve seen the commercials, too.”

Instead of stopping for a bite at Kitchenette, they made a sharp turn at the corner and headed toward his loft, arm in arm, picking up the pace as they went.

They kissed deeply in his elevator on the way up, pressing against each other, his back to the wall, and then, suddenly, hers. Then they broke away, resisting or maybe teasing, or maybe a bit of both. Their eyes locked in on each other’s, only flicking away to monitor the floor count.

Inside his front door, he reached to kiss her again, but she ducked him and raced through the kitchen, bolted up the hall at a sprint, and leaped at the bed, flying airborne like a club wrestler and landing with a bounce, laughing out a “hurry up” while she kicked off her cross trainers.

He appeared in the doorway, completely naked. At the foot of the bed, he struck a regal pose. “If I am to die, let it be this way.”

And then she grabbed him and pulled him on top of her.

The heat took them beyond caution, even beyond play. Lost time, raw emotions, and aching need all cycloned into a swirl of passion with no mind, only frenzy. In minutes the room itself was in motion, not just the bed. Lampshades swayed, books toppled on shelves, even the pencil cup on Rook’s nightstand tipped, and a dozen Blackwing 602s rolled onto the floor.

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