Perry stared at the door nervously, ears alert but he didn't hear anything. Had he missed her? Eight o'clock was still ten minutes away. What if Willie Smith had arrived early?

He weighed his options back and forth, quickly but thoroughly, before pulling his keys out of his pocket and fitting the appropriate one into the lock. If Della was still inside her apartment he was going to be in BIG trouble.

"Where the hell did you get a key to my apartment?" Yep... BIG trouble...

But Perry wasn't capable of defending himself as he stared at the vision before him. He'd seen Della in formal wear before, but in nothing like the ethereal creation she was wearing now. The blue chiffon dress clung to her chest like a glove before breaking away into a gentle flounce at her waist. Silk stockings encased her long enticing legs and her feet were encased in delicate iridescent matching pumps.

"God! You're beautiful!" He exhaled.

Della blushed. "Thank you... my key?" Her eyebrows arched pointedly as she stared at Perry's hand.

"You gave it to me... that file you left here that I needed, remember?"

"But you gave it back."

Perry shrugged. "I need a key in case of emergencies. You have a key to my apartment for the same reason."

"You should have told me... asked me. Besides, where is the emergency now?"

"Emerg... umm... the umm... Davis file..."

Della wasn't buying it. "Chief... why are you here?"

"Because..." 'That guy is a fake, Della... because all he wants is to get in your panties...' No, he couldn't say that. But he couldn't tell her the truth... what was the truth? Why was he here? How would Della react if he told her that he was there because he was jealous...

"I'm here to... help you with your zipper." Della had turned away from him and his eyes quickly lit on her fastener, still two inches from the top of her gown. She gasped as he moved up behind her and gripped the tab.

"Zip it UP, Chief." She cautioned.

Perry yanked the closure to the top, giving it an extra tug to make sure that it locked in place. "No sense giving Willie boy a head start." He muttered.

Della whipped around. "What I do or don't do with Wilhelm is none of your bus..." Perry was so close that Della's spin pushed her against him. He grabbed hold and held fast. His hand was warm on her quickly heating skin.

"Why aren't you wearing the white dress, Della?"

Green brown eyes hooded, but Perry could tell his question had startled her. "It's too revea..." Perfect white teeth sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, biting down in a way that Perry found irresistible. His head dipped...

"Damn," she swore as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Their kiss exploded. What would have happened? The ringing phone prevented them from finding out.

Della's expression was unsure as she broke away from Perry but when the phone continued to ring without ceasing she finally picked it up. From the short conversation Perry gathered that Mr. Whitley-Smythe was waiting in the lobby of her building.

"I... I have to go..." she stammered, dropping the phone receiver back on the hook.

"Della... are you... do you have feelings for Smith?"

She pondered the question a moment. "I enjoy his company but that's all..."

Perry nodded. "I'll wait here a few minutes if that's okay... give you time to leave..."

When Della simply stood, continuing to stare at him, Perry picked up the heavy silk shawl from the chair and moved to wrap it around Della. His hands lingered on her shoulders as he stood behind her, nuzzling her curls. "Trust me, Della." He lifted her right hand up and brushed his lips lightly over her perfume scented wrist. "Trust us."

He pushed her gently toward the door. "Go... Have a good time." As Della closed her door the last thing she saw was Perry's gentle smile.


Perry stared out into the darkness, cigarette in one hand and whiskey glass in the other as a flickering fire popped behind him, casting crazy shadows in the otherwise dark room. It was after ten... perhaps he'd been wrong after all. But if he was... he'd regret it for the rest of his life.

The flash of lights across the room from the high beams of a turning car caused him to stop brooding a moment but a quick glance revealed a sedan instead of the taxi he was expecting. Almost settled back into his brooding state, he risked one more glance at the now stopped car and recognized the exiting silhouette. A wide grin split his face as he jumped up and threw the whiskey back in one gulp. After another long drag on the cigarette he stubbed it out too.

Mason was waiting by the door when he heard the light tap. Not willing to risk finding out if she had the courage to use her key, he quickly opened the door and pulled his visitor inside before she could change her mind.

Della blushed as her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and she realized that her boss was attired in his robe. "I'm sorry, Chief. I shouldn't have..."

"It's not a problem, Miss Street. Date over already?" Perry bit back the barb about it being 'a night to remember', knowing that it wouldn't be appreciated.

"Yes... I... The Davis file..." This time Della was the one stammering. "I thought that you might need me to... that we might need to go back to the office to... work."

"Hmm..." Perry plucked Della's wrap and purse away before she realized he'd done it. "Going back to the office probably isn't necessary. Come sit."

Within fifteen seconds Perry had Della settled on the sofa and was pressing a glass of whiskey into her hand. "So, how was The Florentine Garden? Or was it Ciros?"

"The Garden... it was nice... a bit loud but the band was good. Wilhelm introduced me to Cary Grant."

"And was he 'dreamy' too?" Perry said in a passable imitation of their new receptionist's squeaky voice.

"Cary Grant? Of course, how could he not be?" Della chuckled appreciatively as her eye lids fluttered and her hand flew to her upper chest in a perfect Gertie imitation. "Perhaps we should turn on some light?"

"I don't know... I like the way the firelight is dancing on your skin." He ran a finger lightly around the shadows playing on her bare arm.

Della almost dropped her glass. "I... Don't you want to work on the Davis case? It isn't too late... we could go to the office..." Her voice had dropped, taking on an irresistible seductive quality.

"Miss Street... why are you obsessed with going to the office?"

"I'm not!" Della denied vehemently. "I just..." Perry's indigo eyes were boring into her as he stood and pulled her up with him. 'Trust me' rang in her ears... 'Trust us...' Mustering up her courage she continued. "I want to be with you... I need to be with you."

"I need to be with you too, Della."

She smiled, relieved. "So get changed."

Perry shook his head slowly.


"Why the office, Miss Street?"

Della couldn't take the stare anymore, she turned away from Perry. "Because... the office is neutral ground... for a casual... you know... it has to be there."

"Why not here?" His fingers were playing with the tab of her zipper.

"Here makes us... more..." She gasped as his open mouth brushed across her neck, just below her ear.

"We are more, Della. That's why you came here tonight."

"No... I should go..."

Perry continued on as if he hadn't heard her, his lips so close that warm breath caressed her ear. "Where we are isn't nearly important as what we are, and what we are, my sweet Della, is lovers... there isn't anything 'casual' about what we feel together and you know that."

The zipper began to slide, oh so slowly, as if giving her time to protest. But she didn't... not when the zipper reached the bottom... not when Perry's hands caressed her calves and then thighs, higher and higher until he reached the tops of her stockings and nimbly unsnapped her garter clips. She followed his direction, the gentle pat on her ankle telling her to lift her foot so he could slide shoe and stocking off... All of this happened without Della making a sound. She neither protested nor dissented.

The moan came when he returned to her shoulders, his palms running over her shoulders and arms as he slid the dress down. Long fingers brushed more sensitive areas on her chest and she arched her back, thrusting forward to meet his touch. The gown puddled around her feet leaving black satin panties as her only covering... for about ten seconds until those same nimble digits removed them as well.

"We shouldn't..." she finally murmured, offering one final protest when Perry had lifted her in his arms and was striding toward the fireplace. Her lips nibbling on his ear belied her protest.

"Yes, we should..." He dropped to his knees and laid her on the blanket, head on the pillow he'd placed there earlier, then rocked back on his heels to stare... to appreciate... Della Street finally lay completely nude before him, and it was the most stunning site he had EVER seen. He could have stared for hours but all too soon Della reached out and tugged at the sash of his robe, trying to pull him toward her but loosening it instead. The robe swung open and it was Della's turn to appreciate.

"Chief..." she exhaled as she stared at his naked body, one hand reaching out to gently stroke him from chest to hip.

"You are so beautiful, Della..." He bent over and slowly pressed his body into hers. "I love you, Baby."

Whatever answer she would have made was swallowed up by his mouth closing over hers.

The big man was surprisingly agile as he moved over her body, touching every inch of her, tasting, adoring. His fingers found those special spots that made her moan even louder. She was sobbing by the time he rolled her over and began to work on her back. But no matter how hard she begged he studiously avoided those places where she wanted to feel him most... where she needed to feel him most.

"Perry... please..." Della beseeched, she pleaded... but Perry Mason was a man on a mission and he would not be swayed. He was not about to be rushed. He'd told Della that he loved her and before the night was over he was determined that she believe him.

He hadn't counted on hellcat Della though. When Perry continued to refuse her demands she fought back. Their previous encounters had all been quick and to the point with little time left for exploring... but if Perry was going to drive her crazy then she was determined to return the favor. Her moves may have been unpracticed but her hands and hips quickly picked up the rhythm and then it was Perry's turn to sob. He was almost incoherent before he was able to grab Della's hands and pin them over her head, both wrists captured in the wide grip of one hand.

He drove her up and over repeatedly, reveling each time she screamed his name as she fell while struggling to control his own rampant need. This was for her... and when he finally paused, releasing her hands, she lifted them around his neck and pulled him to her. Her whispered words told him how much she needed him... completely... and he obliged, this union so different from all the others in ways neither could describe with words. But their bodies knew... they were making love.


Della squirmed, tugging on the sheet as she snuggled into the warm body beside her. The massive arm stretched across her back and hip tightened around her. Her eyes flew open.

The room was dark but Della knew where they were... what she couldn't remember was how had they gotten into Perry's bedroom, into his bed? And when? Perry had been relentless, pleasuring her over and over until she was senseless before joining her in release. She didn't remember much after that.

Perry's arm had a solid grip on her. She tried to wiggle out from under it but that caused him to moan while also doing delicious things to her own body. She managed to get her tangled leg free from his but that arm... Stretching her own hand back and around she grabbed his wrist and lifted. The odd angle didn't provide much leverage but slowly she began to slide across his chest.

Mason woke up... some parts before others but by the time Della was fully on top of his chest ALL of him was WIDE awake. He rolled to his side, carrying Della with him. Untangled legs quickly intertwined again.

"Going somewhere?" There were his lips again, attacking that spot behind her ear that she had never before known was such a hot spot.

"I... I should go..."

Perry simply wrapped his arms tighter. "Why?"

"Perry... I... I don't stay over... especially not here... not where you and Laura..."

"You don't get naked either, do you? But guess what, Baby. You are deliciously, delightfully naked." His hands started to roam, but paused on the perfect curves of her bottom as he had a thought. "You don't go home... And just to keep the record straight, we always went to her place. You are the only woman I've slept with here. Am I the first man you've ever been in an actual bed with?"

"Really?" Della was a bit incredulous. "We're naked in bed together and you want to talk about my previous sexual encounters?"

"When you are trying to leave my bed, I am damn sure going to try and find out why. If talking about that is what it takes then yes... Tell me your rules, Della. What else don't you do?"

"I don't go home with men. I don't invite them to my home. I don't go to hotels with them. So yes, you are the first man I've actually been with in bed." She snapped, her anger growing. "I don't remove all of my clothing and once the encounter is over I go home... alone."

"How many other men have there been? I know it isn't really any of my business but..."

"Besides you? Three... but I was engaged to one of them... How many women have you been with?"

'Tit for tat,' thought Perry. "That I really cared for? Two. For sexual release? A dozen or so. That I love beyond a shadow of a doubt? Only one, Miss Street... Only you."

"Oh, Perry... "

A weak beam of moonlight caught on the tear in the corner of her eye.

"Why can't you accept what is between us, Della? Why can't you admit it to yourself at least?" His thumb caught the stray tear and lingered on her cheek.

"You don't love me. You just want to have sex. I want that too so you don't have to say things you don't mean to entice me."

Perry couldn't help the chuckle that escaped his lips. "I'm a man. Of course I want to have sex. I like sex, Della. I like it a lot, especially with you... and if you are honest with yourself you know that you like it too... with me."

Della nodded, somewhat abashed. "A lot... with you..."

"Despite what others might say, I don't think there is anything wrong with that. We are made for sex to be pleasurable. What you and I do in the privacy of our own rooms is our business, no one else's."

"Spoken like a man who doesn't have to worry about his reputation. Your 'pals' will slap you on the back and give you a wink and a nudge. My 'friends' will shun me and brand me a tramp... and your potential clients may do so as well..."

"Not if they are true friends. But Della, it isn't any of their business, friend or client. Besides, I love you. When we have sex it is so much more... I've never felt this way about any woman before, emotionally or physically. Is that all I am to you, Della? Just a means to an end? Is being with me just like being with..." He couldn't complete that thought.

"No..." Della whispered after a time. "It's... more..."

"More what?"

"More... everything, Perry. Sometimes I want to be with you so much... it scares me. When I'm away from you I ache... not just for your body... your touch... but for your company... your... presence... the sound of your voice... the goofy grin you make... And when you touch me... hell, when you look at me that way... I would do anything to have you... to keep you... and that scares me. No man has ever loved me the way you do... satisfied me like you..."

"I know, Baby. I get it... But understand, I'm in this thing for the long haul and I want you to be too. Making love with you is magical... but it's only a part of my attraction to you... of my love for you."

"What if... we don't work?"

"We work, Baby. God, do we work!"

"What if we stop working? Perry, I know right now your life is all about your work but someday that will change. Someday you are going to want a house... a home... wife, children, and pets... the whole deal."

"Laura offered me all of that, Della. I turned her down."

"You're just not ready yet, but in a few years..." Della was surprised at how angry she was that Laura had done so and how happy Perry's refusal made her.

"Della, I turned her down because I realized that I am ready for well... not that exactly... but for a woman in my life, a totally committed relationship. The only problem was that Laura wasn't the woman I wanted that relationship with. I tried to convince myself... everyone... that I was happy... but you were all I could think about, even when I was with her. I want that relationship... that life with you. I want to work with you, live with you, love you... fight with you, argue with you..."

"If you change your mind..."

"What if you change yours? I know I'm not the easiest man to deal with. Life doesn't hold any guarantees, Della... but what if we keep on working? Better and better? I don't want to stand on the outside looking in. I want to live, to experience... life... love... everything... with you. What happens if we never take the chance?"

"It's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all?" Della rested her damp cheek against his bare chest and took a deep breath. They lay there that way for several minutes, slowly breathing in and out, heartbeats in sync. Finally Della placed her hands on either side of Perry's head and pushed her torso up. Gazing down into those deep blue orbs, she found her courage.

"I do love you, you know."

Perry pushed up to a sitting position, taking her with him. "I do know, Della. I've known since... well... since that day I kissed you in my office, when the cat with the velvet claws came in."

Della couldn't help but chuckle while appreciating that Perry didn't bring 'that' woman's name into their intimate moment.

"We didn't have sex that day. God I wanted you so badly... but when you said that about not being a substitute... I think that is when I realized that you really wanted something more than just casual, even if you couldn't admit it. You wanted to matter, Della. What you didn't know... what I was scared to show you... was how much you already did matter, Baby."

"So I guess since I've hurled all of my other rules out the window you want me to ignore the last one and stay..."

"As if I'd let you leave. I'll never willingly let you go, Della. Besides..." she could see his teeth shine in the moonlight as he broke into a broad smile. "Who said the 'encounter' is over, my love?"

His lips sought hers and Della returned the kiss eagerly, moving against her lover the way his hands directed, until the kiss ended with her gasp. With her legs wrapped around his waist his growing arousal was pressed fully against her and oh how she wanted to feel him inside her again. Della thought she'd enjoyed sex with her previous partners, the action bringing a pleasant and relaxing feeling to her but looking back she knew it had always left her wanting... more. With Perry she'd found that. From the first time... every time they came together, he gave her pleasure that made her scream no matter how hard she tried to keep silent. He filled her. He completed her. Della had tried to avoid sex with him too often because she feared she'd become addicted to him and she had. She wanted nothing more at this moment than to have him, body and soul.

Perry wanted the same thing. Keeping her lips captive he grabbed behind him until he had the pillows piled high. Della was so caught up in the feeling of his kiss and the way rubbing her body against his made her feel that she moved as his hands led; beneath her bottom to lift her up, around to her thighs, pulling them open, to her back to pull her closer... and then a gentle nudge of her hips to bring her back down.

Della gasped as she came down, his hands slowing her descent to give her time to adjust to him. "Perry!"

The pleasure she felt bubbled over as she moved experimentally against him but when she would have continued Perry's large hands grasped her, palms on her hips and fingers curling around to cup her bottom. Her lover held her motionless.

"What?" She stared into his handsome features, just inches from her own, mesmerized by blue eyes made black in the muted moonlight. The depth of feeling visible there startled her.

"I was so afraid..."

"Perry Mason afraid?" Della's palms rested on his cheeks, her fingers threading through unruly black hair. "What could possibly scare you?"

"Willie Smith."

"Wilhelm?" Della's chuckle emerged as a moan.

"What he represented, I guess. I wanted this... us... so badly. I never considered that you might... I was trying to woo you slowly but when I saw him kissing you, I almost lost it. I was afraid I pushed you too hard tonight... That you wouldn't come... that I was wrong about you loving me as much as I love you."

Della's forehead fell to rest on Perry's, their faces so close together that they were sharing each other's breaths. "I fought it, you know. I fought wanting you... needing you... loving you. Maybe I even thought that when Willie came back I would be able to fall in love with him, to move on... but I couldn't. Somehow you burrowed into my heart without my even realizing it."

"I'm not trying to push you but... I know there have been others in your past. You know there have been others in mine. But I want to be your future, Della... your only future. And I want you to be mine."

Della's eyes closed and Perry could tell that her skin paled as she swallowed hard. "No, Baby... not now. But promise me that you will at least consider the possibility that someday..."

Soft lips cut his words off as her face tilted to fit her mouth over his. "Be my future, Perry."

Perry pulled her body flush with his and the lovers danced again.


Perry's plan was to surprise Della with breakfast in bed but as he pushed the cart into the bedroom he found her sitting in the center of the bed, legs folded in front of her, wearing his unbuttoned pajama shirt and deep in contemplation.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Della was slow to look up at him but when she did both her lips and her eyes held a smile. "I was thinking... how much my life has changed in the last twelve hours."

"In a good way, I hope?" Perry positioned the cart then climbed in the bed to sit beside her.

"I think so..." A soft hand came up to rest on his chest as she leaned forward and kissed him. "I know so. Good morning... my love."

"Good morning, my love. You are so gorgeous, Della." The words just spilled out of Perry before he could stop them but Della's pink cheeks were worth it. "And maybe a little hungry?" He gestured at the cart. "I hoped to surprise you."

"I'm starving!" Della dived at the food, emerging with a plate full of omelet. "This is delicious! Did you make this?"

"I did." Perry managed just before Della stuffed a forkful of egg in his mouth. He chewed then continued. "I'm a decent cook, if I do say so myself."

"Wonderful! I'm a lousy cook." She fed him another mouthful.

Breakfast was consumed at a leisurely pace, food interspersed with conversation as Perry read the headlines of the paper out loud. Della read the good parts over his shoulder, always quick with a witty or scathing comment although she remained strangely silent when they arrived at the entertainment section. There, top center on the front page, was a picture of 'talented director Wilhelm Whitley-Smythe with his new lady love, Miss Della Street, secretary to up and coming young criminal attorney, Perry Mason, who recently defended...'. Wilhelm and Della were locked in a passionate kiss.

Perry leaned back slightly so that he could get a better look at Della's face. She was studying the picture curiously.

"Enjoying yourself?"

"You'd think, but no..."

Perry dropped his hands, wrinkling the paper. "Well it certainly looks like it! What exactly did happen last night, Miss?"

"Perry Mason! You are jealous!" Della accused as she rescued the paper and smoothed it out. "My aunt Mae will want the picture to show all her friends."

Perry scoffed.

"You should be grateful to Wilhelm. If he hadn't kissed me I probably wouldn't have ended up here...well, kissed me and proposed..."

"Now that you need to explain, pronto." His words were punctuated with a scowl and deeply furrowed brows.

Della couldn't help but smile at this second show of jealousy. "You know what Hollywood engagements are like. Here today and gone tomorrow. A big announcement and a lot of publicity then a quiet breakup... Wilhelm wanted... well, he's a man..."

"I know exactly what the scum wanted." By this time Perry's eyebrows had merged into one.

"He's a Hollywood director with a huge ego! He wanted publicity for his new picture... and to sleep with me, I guess. He probably thought an engagement would get him both. He was right about the publicity..."

"Oh he wanted you all right... All that talk about a 'night to remember'..."

Della folded her arms and glared at Perry, one perfectly sculpted eyebrow raised. "You thought I was going to sleep with him. That's why you came to my apartment last night."

Perry shook his head. "No. I just knew what he wanted. I didn't think you... but I had to say something. I've been trying to figure out how to get you back without pushing you away again. When I saw you kissing that blonde dope... I had to let you know how I felt. You needed all of the facts before you... I knew you loved me, Della. I just had to make you realize it somehow." He was relieved when her arms unfolded and she lifted a hand to cup his cheek.

"That kiss we shared proved to me that you'd ruined me for other men. I would have cancelled if you hadn't pushed me out the door, but you seemed to want me to go..."

"I wanted you to be sure, not just dazzled by my spectacular kissing ability."

Della's eyebrow went higher but he could see the smile she was fighting threatening to break through. "You are certainly confident of your ability, Mr. Mason... cocky even."

Perry shrugged. "You're here." He flashed her his own brilliant grin.

"When Wilhelm kissed me I tried... I even considered his proposal... for about half a second. He is a very attractive man, after all. But my heart suddenly knew that only you would do. It had to be you... or no one at all. I did turn him down, after all. That is why Wilhelm agreed to drop me off here. No spark... and believe you me, Mr. Mason, I wanted there to be! I was needy as hell after our little pre date... encounter..."

"Trying to get me out of your system, huh?" Perry grinned as he reached out toward Della. Catching her, he began to tickle her.

"You wish!" Della squealed but Perry was relentless. He tossed the last empty plate toward the cart as he continued his attack, not allowing Della to escape. They wrestled their way across the bed until they were both laughing uncontrollably. Della ended up pinned beneath Perry, gasping for breath and begging him to stop. As Perry stared down at his girl he realized that this was their moment. He had never in his life been happier than he was at this very instant.

"Della, you do realize that I'm not going to stop proposing to you..."

"As long as you realize that I am probably going to keep saying no..."


"Probably." She confirmed.

"That means that there is a chance that someday you might say yes?"

Della pretended to consider the question. "Possibly... someday... Maybe..." She'd seen the gleam in his eye and didn't want to give him false hope. "But I doubt it..."

"As long as we are together, Baby... Labels don't matter..."

"We don't want to hurt your practice, Perry... We need to be discrete."

"Discrete I can do. I just want you, Della."

"You already have me, Perry…" she told him. "A ring, and a piece of paper won't change that."

"No, it won't," he agreed slowly.

"And it won't change how we feel about each other."

"No." Della could hear the reluctance in his answer.

"Perry..." Della slid one arm around his neck, the palm of the other hand cupping his cheek as she drew his face closer to her. "Do you remember what you said to me last night? The words that brought me back here to you?"

Mason thought a moment. "Trust me... trust us."

"That's right," Della nodded as she lifted her lips to lightly brush over his. "I know it took me a while to get here but trust me, my love, now that I am here I don't intend to leave. You... our work... this..." She shifted her body beneath his, drawing moans from them both. "Trust us. Trust that at least for now this is the perfect arrangement for us. If you are honest with yourself... completely honest... you know that you don't really want a wife and home right now. You want me along with you for all your crazy adventures."

Perry nodded, knowing that she did have a valid point. He wanted Della in every facet of his life, including work. He couldn't imagine her not being by his side in the office, in court, chasing down evidence.

"Besides, if I wasn't around who would deal with all of those women constantly throwing themselves at you?"

That brought a chuckle as Perry nuzzled her neck as he joined their bodies together. "And later?" He breathed into her ear.

Della knew what he was asking, in all seriousness this time. She answered honestly. "Someday... one day... perhaps something legal will be right for us. We've just begun a great adventure, love."

He understood. "So for now we enjoy the journey?"

"Who knows where the road will take us, Perry Mason? But no matter where, you're stuck with me."

"Blessed with you, Baby. And somehow I suspect it's gonna be a hell of a ride!"