In Case You Didn't Know 15
Her bedroom was in predawn light when Della awakened. Perry's bare skin was comfortably warm against hers. They were spooned together and his powerful arm lay on her curved waist. The scent of him, of them combined, made her want to make love to him again. Their chemistry in bed had never been the problem. She lay still trying not to overthink the events of the night before. Honestly, sex was the last thing she had on her mind after seeing Paul at the hospital.
Della craved a reaffirmation of life. She had needed the release, and she wanted Perry. God, she had wanted that man from the first time she'd laid eyes on him. Those piercing eyes, magnetic personality, and the raw masculinity that he exuded was impossible for her to resist. But Perry was always more than that. His pursuit of justice for everyone, regardless of who they were or what they could pay, had impressed her and touched her heart from the beginning. Her desire for him had never waned; he made her feel both wickedly lustful and loved. Waking up and finding him in her tub was a gift. The bath provided her with the perfect opportunity without blatantly pushing herself on him.
She still unquestionably loved him; that was never ever in doubt. Her heartbreak and the following sorrow that engulfed her after she felt discarded by him could not easily be overcome. Della hoped Perry could understand that. She didn't want him to think that because they'd slept together that it meant all was forgiven. She didn't have any illusions either as to what this may mean for him. It could mean nothing more than a convenient nostalgic night, but deep down she didn't believe that. Maybe that's what frightened her. What if she gave him another chance and he left again? She didn't know if she was strong enough to go through that hell all over again. Their lovemaking could complicate things or push them in a good direction.
Della sighed, felt movement behind her.
"Regrets already," Perry asked softly into her hair. "I hope not. Last night was the second greatest night of my life."
"The second greatest?" She sounded good naturedly offended. "What was the first?"
"The first time we made love," he said, barely touching her neck with his lips.
Della teared up but didn't speak.
"That being said, young lady, I hope I haven't thrown my back out."
Della laughed aloud. "I've still got it," she said lightly.
"Yes, you do," he said, turning her around to face him. "The loud humming of your thoughts woke me. I hope you don't think I planned for this to happen. I didn't even dare to hope it could happen." His eyes were serious he took in her early morning appearance, rosy cheeks and beautiful intelligent eyes. Perry ran his fingers delicately through her hair and tucked it behind her ear. "So beautiful," he breathed, and pulled her in for a deep sensuous kiss.
Smiling against his lips as the kiss ended, she murmured, "I hope you don't think that I took advantage of you. You were in a fairly vulnerable position, Counselor."
"I'm in a pretty vulnerable position right now," he whispered, as he felt her hand trail lower. "Though I am willing to risk it." He closed his eyes and took a breath as her hand moved again.
Before he knew it, she was top of him. As she leaned down to kiss him, she purred, "You could ask for recess or a postponement, Counselor. I wouldn't want to hurt you."
"Never," Perry growled, as he grabbed her rear with both hands and moved her into a friendly position that worked for both of them.
"Are you sure you don't need anything else," Della asked, as she rearranged his pillows again.
"I'm fine, really. Stop fussing over me," Paul mumbled through his damaged jaw. "I just want to sleep."
Perry and Della had picked him up from the hospital, and he was now situated in his father's apartment.
"You don't look fine," Perry muttered. "You look like you ran into a brick wall at 60 mph on a bicycle."
Paul rolled his eyes. "I'll sleep it off."
"After about two weeks," Perry huffed. "We're glad you're safe, but let this be a lesson—" He was interrupted by Della.
"All right you two that's enough." She pointed at Paul, "You go to sleep. Call the phone downstairs if you need anything, otherwise, I'll be up to check on you occasionally." Della gave him a kiss on his blond curls.
"You," she pointed at Perry, "Come with me and stop picking at him." Smiling, she cocked her head at him, and led the way out the door.
The older man shot the younger one a smile as they exited. "If you want anything…."
Paul thanked him with a thumbs-up gesture.
"Have you thought about when you might give Junior the letter from his father?" Perry asked once they were back in the privacy of Della's house.
She paused in her preparations for dinner. "I haven't even thought about it. I don't think he needs it right now."
Perry sat down at the kitchen table and watched her. "I think you're right about waiting. He's hurting and if gets more emotional it's going to hurt like hell to cry with that cracked jaw and those loose teeth."
"You have experience with that, huh," she said, a smile in her tone.
"Hunh, you better believe it. And his dad was responsible for it at least once. Paul had a hellava punch." This time when he said it, he smiled. "He was always a good man to have at your back."
"Yes, yes, he was," Della said quietly.
Changing the subject, Perry said, "Steve said that the two hoods who were responsible for kidnapping and hurting Junior and Escobar were singing like the proverbial canary. Havens was hiding fake passports in the trailers, selling them to his contact Ortigoso in Mexico, then using them to get people across the border anywhere in the country. And it wasn't Mexican citizens that he was selling them to. No, we're talking big money. The kind of money only criminals can afford. Ortigoso and Havens are not only involved in false passports and birth certificates, but human trafficking. Most of the passports went to women who were forced to come into this country and work in prostitution. Apparently, the women and girls thought they were paying for the passports in cash. Once they got here, Steve said, they were told that they had to work off a larger debt."
Della had turned around to look at him. "My god, Perry, that's horrible. Were they able to find some of the women? Help them?" Her hazel eyes were filled with concern.
"Yes, thank goodness. I don't know what the process will be from here on out. Whether they'll be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds or sent back. The immigration system in this country is like a damn Chinese puzzle. People with money for lawyers always have the advantage." He had been fiddling with a pencil, doodling, but she could tell his sense of justice was outraged.
Della waved the spoon in her hand as she asked, "What about the people creating the fake passports and birth certificates? Did they find out who they are?"
"Havens lawyered up pretty quickly. I think he knows if he talks against the cartel that he might be buried in the desert somewhere in an unmarked grave." The lawyer shrugged, as he leaned back, and said, "My guess is he's holding out for a deal with the feds. A trade of information and witness protection is his only hope."
She had walked over the table while Perry was talking and took the chair beside him. "What about the people who murdered Paul? Who did he meet with at Big Bear? Do they know who was responsible," she asked.
Perry felt a weight in his gut but he had to tell her. "One of the women who was brought here actually found him. She saw Paul when he was checking out properties owned by Havens. He treated her like a real person, she told Steve. He had given her a card, so she called him. She was followed, not Paul."
Taking a deep breath, he finally came out with what he'd dreaded to tell her. "Della, Havens gave the order and the two who took Paul were the ones who cut the brake lines."
He could see the distress in her posture and fury on her face as realization sunk in.
"Are you telling me that the man who ordered Paul's death could very well be given a deal and walk away into witness protection," Della was infuriated. She knew how the system worked, but this was personal.
Jumping to her feet, she cried, "No! Don't tell me that! How am I supposed explain to Paul that this is justice for his father?"
Perry rose and started to put his arms around her, but she pushed him away.
"No. No. I have to get out of the house for a while, please. Take care of Paul," she said, wiping tears from her eyes. "Don't worry. I just need some time."
Perry understood her anger. The justice system was not always just.
"I'll take care of him. Do what you need to do."
Della picked up her purse and looked back at him with tear filled eyes. "I'm glad you were here. I don't know how I would have coped without you."
Without even thinking, Perry said, "You would have been just fine without me. You've never needed saving. That's one reason I love you."
Della let that statement sink in. Swallowing her tears, with purse and keys in hand, she walked out.
She left her purse locked in her car and made her way to Paul's grave. The new sod had taken fairly well because it was watered frequently. His black marble headstone with his name, birth, death, and service were engraved, as well as the globe and anchor of the USMC.
Della sat down on the grass and leaned against the marble, cool against her back. It was so quiet. There wasn't another soul in sight, not even a groundskeeper. The trees gently swayed back and forth in a breeze that was just enough to move the tops.
She sat there, dazed. During the last couple of weeks, her life had been upended. Her best friend was dead. The boy she considered a son was hurt and could have been killed. The only man she'd ever completely given her heart to was back. So emotionally drained that she was almost numb, Della simply sat and listened to the birds and the trees.
What would she have said to him the day he'd driven to Big Bear if she had known that would be the last time she would ever see him? Would she have told him she loved him? She did, just not like she loved Perry. It would have made him happy. Would it have been so bad to have said it and made him believe it for one last time? She could live with that, if she had it to do over.
She'd had the opportunity to go with Perry and she'd chosen not to. That was on her. She would have missed out on so many good things with Paul and Junior if she'd gone. Della had had an idea of what it was like to have a family. There were so many good times. Ball games. Camping. Cruises. Parties. Graduation. She still firmly believed that she'd made the right decision for her; there was no going back. If there was, she would probably make the same decision.
One thing she might have changed. She might have married Paul. He made her happy, and he loved her. He'd given her a beautiful son, deliberately or not. Della regretted nothing about her relationship with Paul. Absolutely nothing. Even the nights they'd found solace in each other. The laughter and spontaneity of their love making, she would cherish the rest of her life. She had never believed it was possible to love two people at the same time because she gave her all once she was committed. She was wrong.
Della placed her palm on the soft new grass covering Paul's grave, and said, "I loved you, too. I want you to know that. Maybe you already do. Forgive me, for not telling you sooner."
Perry was waiting up for her when she returned. He was sitting on the front steps with a high ball glass filled with Scotch. He didn't meet her at the car but waited for her to come to him.
"Hi," he said. "I just checked on Paul; he's asleep. He took his meds with dinner. He had chicken soup and ginger ale. I think the meds were getting to his stomach." He looked at her from under hooded eyes. "I told him you had to run to Gordon's office to pick up some papers."
Della sat down beside him, reached for the glass in his hand. He handed it to her and she felt the burn all the way into her chest. "That's the good stuff. Someone around this joint has taste."
"We both know who that is," he answered. "Are you all right?"
"Nope, but I will be." She hesitated, but wanted to know. "When are you flying back to San Francisco?"
"Tomorrow. I can't wait any longer with the case load we've got. I'm sorry."
"No, I understand. I need to go back to work, but I'm going to ask for a few extra days until I'm sure Paul is able to take care of himself."
They were quiet for a while, swapping the whiskey glass back and forth.
"I know it's probably too soon, but I'd like to come back and see you both. I'd like to have you up to San Francisco, if you'll come. I'm not assuming anything, Della. I know you have no reason to put any faith in me again, but do you think, if we start slowly…." He trailed off, hoping she'd pick up the conversation.
She didn't. He started to get up when she finally spoke.
"Did you mean what you said before I left? Do you love me, Mr. Mason?"
With his index finger under her chin, he lifted it so she could look clearly into his eyes. "I've loved you for so long that I can't remember not loving you. I can't lose you again. If we have to start out as friends," when she elevated her eyebrow, he grinned, "Okay, friends who make love occasionally, then so be it. I'll work for your trust like Jacob worked for Rachel, fourteen years or however long it takes. Della, as far your relationship with Paul, that's none of my business, but nothing you could confess would ever make me love you less. I hope as time goes on, we will go on, too, and get back what we lost or maybe even something better. At least that's my hope."
Taking his finger from her chin, she held his hand to her cheek. "It's going to take some time. Time to grieve. Time to get to know each other again."
"Paul told me you'd come back to me, in his letter. He told me to forgive you."
"He was right. I came back. Can you forgive me?"
"Am I going to have competition while we're 'working this out'?"
"I'm not seeing anyone, nor will I be. I have been well and truly reminded of how damn near perfect you are, Miss Street. I hope I have sense enough not to screw it up again. Paul might have mentioned that in his letter to me."
She smiled. "Okay, then."
"Good." When he smiled there was joy in his eyes.
He rose and held out his hand to help her up. "May I suggest a holiday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, then the 4th of July?"
Della laughed and that low sultry sound wrapped around his heart. "Details to be ironed out later, Mr. Mason." She said, as she reached up and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"The boy is asleep. We could go upstairs and iron out the details. It's going to be awhile before we see each other."
"As much as I would enjoy that, I think we need to talk, really talk. Lemonade? In the swing out back?"
Perry kissed her on the forehead. "Sounds wonderful. I guess that's my third favorite thing to do."
"Lemonade, bath, and -"
She gently placed her hand over his mouth. "I think I get it."
One week later, Della gave Paul the letter from his father. He never told her what his dad wrote, but he seemed to ease up on his judgement of Perry. For that, she was grateful.
I want you to know how much I love you. Although we had an unusual and late start, you are the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I know you were hurt when you were left by your mother. If she changes, forgive her. If not, leave her alone. You don't need that ugliness in your life.
It's never easy to lose a parent, now you probably feel like you've lost both of yours. Never feel like you're alone. I will always be with you in spirit or any way possible. Love doesn't die when the person dies, just like you won't stop loving me because I'm not around anymore.
You're smart and you're a survivor. I know that because you are my son. I want you to know that I've made arrangements to take care of you. Della, of course, will take care of you until it's your time to take care of her. That's part of love, too, responsibility.
I didn't actually get to know you until I was awarded custody of you by the court. I still remember the first time I saw you, blond curly hair and big blue eyes. Cutest damn kid I'd ever seen. If I had known you existed, I would have come for you sooner. Nothing would have stood in my way. Loyalty is part of love, too.
My best hope for you is that you find someone you love, and loves you back, and have a home life as well as a career. Family should always come first. Look beyond the pretty exteriors. Some lovely women have really ugly insides, just like some men do. Listen and learn.
Take care who you trust. Use your head and your heart. Be compassionate, but don't be a sap.
Your Uncle Perry will come back at some point. Try to remember, he loves Della, too. He has for a long time. He just went through a dumb patch. Listen to him. Through him you will learn that good men are not always perfect, but that doesn't mean they aren't still good men. Give him a chance.
I feel foolish trying to cram everything I should have already told or taught you into something that I can stuff into an envelope. You've got a good head on your shoulders and a good heart. Use them both.
I love you,
PS Keep playing the sax. Women love musicians.
**Two hurricanes later (no power, rain, etc.) and it's finished. I'm sure I could have done a better job. I may rewrite it one day. I can't tell you how I wrestled with how I wanted to finish this. I hope I don't disappoint. If you like it, leave a review. If anyone has a topic they'd like to see touched on, send me a PM, I'll get back to you. Thank you for reading and reviewing. MC