The big automobile careened into the parking lot of the hospital. Mason threw open the back door and maneuvered himself out with Della in his arms. "You talk to the police, Park. I'll get her in to see a doctor," Mason said. He settled Della's limp body against his chest and made his way to the automatic sliding door through which the ambulance patients were admitted. His facial expression was one of intense worry, and only partly staged.

Park Street followed along behind, like a terrier puppy nipping at his heels. Once they'd gained entry, Mason began yelling. "Doctor! We need a doctor! She's been shot!"

Mason and Della were immediately ushered into a treatment room. The lawyer glanced back to see Park Street leaning over the reception desk, demanding they call the police.

Once inside, he gingerly lay Della down on the examination bed. She promptly sat up and said, "Oh, I've got a deuce of a headache." She reached up and touched her hair, but winced at the contact.

"Careful, Darling," Mason said. He looked at her tenderly. "You had me scared to death. I was afraid…" He broke off as the door pushed open and a doctor and nurse poured into the room. The doctor drew up short at the sight of the patient sitting up on the exam table. He glanced back towards the door, then addressed the nurse. "I thought they said she was dying – dead?"

The nurse started to reply, but Mason intervened. "Only wounded, as you see. She's been shot. The bullet grazed the side of her head." He stepped back out of the way.

"Hit my arm, too," Della remarked casually. Mason looked at her sharply, for the first time realizing that not all the blood had come from the head wound. The doctor went to work on his patient, leaving Perry Mason to stand in a corner, hands thrust deep in his pockets, watching them work. He took an involuntary step forward when Della gasped in pain at the touch of an antiseptic. The nurse held him in place with her eyes. She silently indicated the door, but Mason shook his head no. With a final warning in her gaze, she returned her attention to her work.

Having bathed the head wound, which still slowly oozed blood, the doctor noted that a minimum of stitches were called for. The nurse then helped the patient remove her jacket and blouse so she could be examined further. A bullet had grazed the outside of her upper arm. It was a clean shot, requiring little more than cleaning and bandaging. After examination, the doctor gave his nurse some succinct instructions, then turned to the business of washing up. He addressed the tall dark figure hovering in the corner for the first time.

"Your wife was very lucky. Very lucky. Neither of these wounds is particularly serious. A couple of stitches and she'll be just fine. A little sore for a day or two and I'd like to take an X-ray of her skull to make sure there are no complications. I'll hold her overnight for observation, but I expect there will be no problems."

Tenseness seemed to dissipate from Mason's posture and he reached up to run a hand through is hair. "Thank God," he said fervently. He looked back at Della. She met his gaze with a weak smile. The nurse was prepping her head wound for the doctor.

The doctor administered a local anesthesia and proceeded with the stitches. Mason again watched from the corner, taken completely by surprise at the waves of nausea that washed over him as he watched the doctor work. He didn't realize Della was watching him in turn until her amused voice suggested that he sit down before he fell down.

Mason grinned sheepishly and took her advice.

The doctor made quick work of his stitching, leaving Della wrapped in a hospital gown to wait while he called for an orderly to take her upstairs to a private room where she would spend the night. Perry had moved from his chair to sit on the edge of the bed. "You ok, kiddo?" he asked, taking her hand in his. Della smiled up at him.

"I've been better, but I've been worse, too. What happens now?" she asked. Before Mason could answer, the doors to the exam room burst open and Park Street strode into the room followed by two uniformed officers.

"Perry Mason killed my sister, boys," Park Street exclaimed as the group entered. "Take him –!" Street's voice died as his eyes came to rest on the very much alive body of his sister. "Della!" he exclaimed, color draining from his face.

Mason whirled up from his seat on the edge of the bed and crossed the room to meet his adversary. "The only person being taken anywhere is you, Street," Mason said, his words almost as hard as his steel-honed stare. "You're going to prison for fraud and attempted murder."

Street stood immobile, struggling to take in the scene. The officers fared no better. Finally the older of the two stepped up between Mason and Street. "What is going on here?" he demanded.

Mason took his eyes off Street in order to address the officer. The second their gaze broke, Street turned and ran out the door. Mason spat out a curse and sprinted after him, having first sidestepped the now thoroughly confused officer.

"Don't just stand there! Go! Stop him!" Della yelled from the bed. "Stop Park!" she amended when the officers directed their confused faces towards her. Finally, the two jumped to action and took off in the wake of the other two men.

**************

Della had been transferred to a room and was fighting sleep by the time the police returned to question her about the evening's events. Perry Mason, sporting a set of bruised knuckles and a very self-satisfied expression, accompanied them. Della confirmed Mason's version of events and was informed that her brother, following treatment for a broken nose, had been taken to jail where he would remain for at least another 24 hours prior to a bail hearing.

Finally, the nurse on duty shooed away the visitors and administered a sedative to her patient. Within minutes, Della gave way to sleep. Perry stretched out on the cot the nurse had grudgingly provided once he convinced her that he was not spending his wedding night anywhere other than in his wife's room. Tenderness shone in his eyes and he watched Della sleep for a long while before giving in to his own need for rest.

**************

"I have to be in court on Monday. What do you say we spend the weekend lying around, doing as little as possible, then charter a flight back on Sunday evening?" Perry Mason suggested as they made their way into the Street mansion following Della's hospital release the next day. Della had been uncharacteristically quiet all morning and now hesitated as she walked past Perry into the middle of the room.

Noticing her response, Mason said, "Do you need a few more days to get things handled here? I can go back for court, then return for you next weekend if need be." He touched her shoulder, trying to get her to look up so he could see her eyes.

'I…I can't go back, Perry," she said softly. She twisted the house keys in her hand for a moment before pulling away from him and crossing the room to drop the keys into a bowl on a table in the entryway. She stood with her back to him, looking out the window at the grounds that stretched into farm land beyond.

"You can't go back?" he repeated. Della shook her head. After a quick glance down the corridor, she took Mason's arm and pulled him into the formal sitting room that opened from the foyer. Once inside, she turned away from him to close the doors. She lingered in front of the doors for a moment, and seemed to be gathering her composure. Finally, she turned to face Mason. "Park was running the companies, overseeing the factories. People depend on us for their jobs – to feed their families. I can't just put all the cash into a bank and leave all the workers without jobs. It would destroy people's lives. Somebody has to oversee all of this, and there is no one left to do it. I'm the only one." Her words came quickly, not giving Mason a chance to object. "Everything has changed," she said, so softly he could barely hear her. "I have a duty to these people."

Perry crossed the room and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, leading her towards the sofa. "I'm sorry, Della. I guess I'm just so anxious to get home and have things back to normal with you that I didn't realize the extent to which your situation has changed. But we can find a way to work this out. Let me help you."

Della sighed heavily. "This is so unfair. I have to either lose my job – my career – and become just your wife, or I divorce you, and let the papers drag you through the mud."

"Why do you have to make that choice, Della? That's what I've never understood. So what if we stay married? No one in Los Angeles has to know. You can continue to work and live on your own if you want. We'll hire a financial manager for the estate and leave this mess in their care. Things can go back to being the way they were – and we could be together." It was his turn to hesitate. "We could do it, if you're willing to," he finished.

Della lifted her eyes to his. He struggled to read the emotions they portrayed – fear, perhaps. "It would never work, Perry. You know that. This is the kind of secret that people can't keep. Can you imagine that the newspapers here won't pick up on the story? Once it hits the Chicago papers, and it will, then the LA reporters will pick it up for the local angle. Everyone would know. Imagine the talk when we get the divorce. And if I were to stay on as your secretary?" She laughed bitterly. "I can't do that. I care for you too much to do that."

Mason stared incredulously into her eyes. "What do you mean? You can't be my wife or my secretary because you care for me?" He stood up abruptly and began to pace, throwing his words over his shoulder at her. "Don't you understand, Della? I don't care what anyone else thinks. We could have it all. I need you, Della. I need you professionally and I can't live without you personally. Things don't have to change, except for the better. You don't have to give up anything. I'm trying to give you everything if you'd only let me. We could be so happy together. Why can't you accept that? Why can't you understand?"

"That's how it would start, Perry, but not how it would end." Della rose from the sofa and came to stand in front of him, impeding his progress across the carpet. Her arms were crossed over her chest and she stood in a pose that almost mirrored his – feet shoulder width apart, aggressively facing her opponent. "I'd be put in a box - on a pedestal, if you like - but I'd have to behave a certain way, have certain responsibilities that would be at odds with running your office. We'd be the targets of even more gossip and speculation than what we are now. Eventually things would crystallize between us and the relationship would start to die.

"I'm grateful for everything you've done for me. More grateful than you'll ever know, Perry. But things have changed now. I can't just walk away like I did before. And I can't stay with you either. There is no future for us."

"Grateful?" He spat the word. "You think that's what I want? You think I'd want you to stay with me because you feel somehow indebted? Give me a little credit, Della. I don't want your gratitude. I don't want a mistress. I want a wife."

"Then find one! I can't be your wife, Perry! Why can't you understand that? There is no 'happily ever after' for us. Neither of us is made for that." Anger flashed in her eyes. She drew in a breath and took his face in her hands, staring into his eyes, as if willing him to understand. "You need someone who will be content with the house and the diamonds and willing to lose herself in the children she would give you, while you go chasing around the countryside, fighting and scraping and saving your clients. Then she'll be there for you when you finally come home." Mason looked down into her eyes and started to speak, but Della continued. "I can't be her, Perry. Don't you understand that? Even if I wanted to, I can't do it. I can't be that…that prisoner…Park turned me into that and my father did the same thing to my mother. You wanted an answer, did you not? You wanted to know why I thought it would never work out…well look at my past Perry! When did it ever "work out?" No…fate won't allow it. The best we could hope for until now was to share a professional life together. And now, even that has to end."

Perry raised his hands and captured hers, pulling them away from his face. "What do you mean you can't be that prisoner? Do you not know me any better than that? I couldn't stand to live with the scheming little socialite you've just described. I don't want the house or the wife waiting at home with dinner and diamonds. I don't want the lodge meetings, the dinner parties or even the kids. Not on those terms Della. I want you. Nothing more and nothing less. And you…you can't accept that…you can't -- you don't trust me?"

"Don't start with me on trust, Perry. Life just doesn't work that way. We can't make this work simply because that's what you want," she said, pulling her hands from his. "I want you, too, Perry, but I know I can't have you. Marriage would change us. My very existence is an unhappy consequence of those changes. I refuse to do that to you – to let that happen to us." She took a step back from him. "I can't –"

"Don't do that, Della!" Mason interrupted her ominously. His eyes blazed at her as his frustration burned into anger. "I am not your brother and I'm sure as hell not your father. Don't crucify me on the same cross with them. Stop trying to predict the future according to the past – your past."

"I have no choice," she said flatly. "I'm staying here and taking on the family business. It's what I have to do." Her eyes met his one last time before she turned away and walked out of the room.

Perry watched her go, knowing he should chase after her, yet unable to make a move. He knew no matter what he said she would never change her mind. In the past he was always sure that once he knew the real reason behind her refusal to marry him then he could argue through it. It was what he did – what he excelled at. But he had failed. Her fear was completely irrational; nevertheless he realized his logic was completely powerless against it.

Still in his overcoat and hat, he walked around to the front of the sofa and sank down on the soft fabric. For a long time he sat there, head in his hands, eyes on the floor. At length he got up and made a phone call.

****************************

"Anderson, have you seen Miss Street?" the lawyer asked the housekeeper who was the first person he'd encountered upon opening the door of the sitting room. She'd ostensibly been dusting the table in the foyer.

"The study," she replied in a voice like sour milk. "Probably making a list of people to fire, now that she's in charge," she grumbled as Mason walked away in the direction she indicated.

"I'll suggest your name for the top of the list," he threw back over his shoulder.

The door to the study was open and he could see Della sitting behind the desk, carefully reading the financial sheets spread in front of her. Her expression revealed nothing other than perhaps a tightness around her eyes and lips. He'd half expected – hoped – to find her curled in a ball, giving in to the tears that he would've liked to have shed himself. He ached to be able to reach out, to comfort her.

Apparently she didn't need any comfort he could offer.

He made a perfunctory knock against the door panel and stepped inside, not really moving out of the doorway. She glanced up, but quickly dropped her eyes back to her paperwork.

"I've called the airport. I've managed to get a flight back to Los Angeles this evening. Can you give me a ride into the city?"

She nodded. "I'll have the groom take you. When do you need to leave?"

"Right away." He was surprised at how normal his voice sounded. She nodded again and reached for the phone. After a quick instruction to someone on the other end of the line, she glanced at Mason once more. "Thomas will meet you out front in 15 minutes. He'll take you all the way to the airport."

Mason hesitated for a moment. But finding no opening and no words to fill it, he simply said, "I can have things arranged for the divorce within a week. We'll have to both appear before a magistrate to file the initial paperwork, then after the 30 day waiting period, I can handle the rest of it."

She leaned back in the chair and contemplated the fingertips which she steepled in front of her. "I'll come to Los Angeles next week then. Next Monday? Can we sign the papers then?"

"That will be fine. I'll have them ready."

She met his eyes then. "Thank you, Perry." Even now her sultry voice affected him deeply when she used his name. He held her gaze for a long moment, searching for something, anything. He found nothing. His own voice deserted him and he merely nodded, then turned on his heel and softly closed the door behind him.

He leaned back against the closed door, hand still on the knob. He could feel a burning in his throat and a dead emptiness in his chest. This was a pain he'd never had to face before. He wasn't sure how long he stood there, but for however long it was, he heard no sounds coming from the other side of the barrier – no cry, no sob, no sound at all. That hurt perhaps worse than anything. She was already done with this chapter and moving on to the next.

Even as his feet began to move and he walked out through the wide doors and into the bright sunlight, Perry knew this chapter was the end of the book for him.

*************************

Perry Mason hadn't intended to go in to his office this morning. It was Friday and he hadn't even expected to be back on the West Coast yet. However, after his flight home the day before, Mason already had his fill of prowling around the confines of his apartment, trying to find something to distract his mind from its current dilemma.

Dawn found him dozing on a lounge chair out on his balcony. The sounds of the city coming back to life woke him and he pulled himself upright in the chair. The stubble on his jaw scratched his hands as he rubbed them over his face. The sun crept higher over the horizon as he watched, elbows on his knees, head hanging from slumped shoulders. Finally, he rose and headed indoors to shower.

The sun was high in the sky when Mason's car pulled into the parking garage. He acknowledged the attendant's greeting with the slightest of nods and made his way inside. When he exited the elevator on his floor, he turned towards Paul Drake's office rather than his own. As he entered, the receptionist looked up, recognized him and waived him back, while carrying on a telephone conversation and filing her fingernails. Mason found Paul seated as his desk, comparing written notes and large grainy photographs.

"Perry!" Paul exclaimed when Mason tapped on the door frame. "Come on in! I didn't know you were back. I haven't gotten a report since yesterday. Everything ok? Street is still in jail?"

Mason nodded and dropped into a chair across from Paul's desk. "He won't be getting out for a long, long time. We were at the hospital and he tried to sic the cops on me for killing Della. When he realized she wasn't actually dead, he took off. We chased after him, but he made it into the hospital parking lot before we caught him. He had a gun and shot one of the officers before he was taken down."

"Good grief! Did the guy live? Did they shoot Street?"

"He hit the officer in the shoulder. He's going to be fine. Street has a broken nose and a couple of busted ribs. He'll mend." Perry's voice was flat and unemotional. Paul regarded him carefully, taking note of the bruises that still showed on the other man's knuckles.

"And Della?" Paul asked.

Mason looked down at the floor, but didn't answer. Paul shifted forward in his seat. "What's wrong Perry? She's ok, isn't she?"

Mason nodded, finally, before looking up at his friend. When their eyes met, Paul noticed for the first time the heavy dark circles under the lawyer's eyes. "She's not coming back, Paul. I've made a huge mistake. I saved her fortune and destroyed her future ...destroyed our future. I've lost her."

Paul sat back in his chair and regarded his friend with a concerned expression. He was a natural-born listener, which was part of what made him an excellent investigator. Listening often meant waiting. After a few minutes, Mason continued. "Now that her brother is out of the picture, she feels responsible for taking over the family business. There are a lot of people who count on the Street family for their jobs. If she pulls out, she'll still be wealthy, but the whole town will suffer. Della's not willing to do that."

"Can she handle it? Can she run a business like that?" Drake asked.

"Not a doubt in my mind," Mason answered. "She's evidently inherited the family business acumen. My accountant has been telling me for years that she is a genius with the stock market. When they get together to go over the monthly accounts, she normally has some kind of stock tip for him. He's put quite a bit of my money into whatever she's recommended over the years and made a killing. I don't really think she ever does any investing of her own, though. She's told him picking stocks has always been a hobby for her - she just enjoys researching the companies and then seeing if her instincts are right."

"And she's got great instincts," Drake drawled.

"Among other things," Mason admitted, a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. "You should've seen her when I left. She was engulfed in a huge leather desk chair, almost obscured by an over-sized desk - a table, really - and financial reports spread all around her. The setup made her look like a child playing at her father's office, yet it was so obvious that she knew exactly what she was doing. It was like...she belonged there." Mason sighed heavily.

Paul wasn't sure what to say. His last report contained the information that Perry and Della had gone to a courthouse in a neighboring county. The operative had evidently taken great pleasure in describing the embrace he'd witnessed between them before they entered the building. Paul remembered the terms of the Street estate and had figured out why they were there.

"The two of you got married while you were there, didn't you? What now? Annulment?" Paul asked.

Perry raised an eyebrow.

"My man was still following Della at that point. It was pretty easy to put 2 and 2 together," Paul admitted. Perry nodded. "Not an annulment. That might put her legal status with the estate into question. She'll be back next week to sign divorce papers," he said.

"That's it? Sign the paperwork and then it's back to Illinois?" Paul couldn't keep the note of surprise out of his voice. "That's it?"

Perry stood and slung his overcoat over his shoulder. "That's it. Then I advertise for a new secretary." With that he turned on his heel and left the office.

"Say Perry...wait!" Paul called after him. Paul jumped up and followed him out the door into the receptionist's office. Perry didn't stop and just waived his hand behind him and shook his head 'no' as he exited out the front of the Drake Detective Agency, leaving Paul to stare at the empty doorway.

*****************************

Bright and early on Monday morning, a week after Perry Mason had returned to Los Angeles, the sound of Della Street's high heels filled the hallways of the Brentwood Building once again. Dressed in a dark red suit, and a white silk blouse which was cut low enough to effectively frame the strands of pearls she wore. Della Street entered the office. It was early yet, and the lawyer had not arrived. Only Gertie, the receptionist was there, collecting messages from the overnight answering service. She hung up the phone when she saw Della and rushed to greet her.

"Oh, Miss Street!" Gertie gushed. "Thank God you're back! I didn't know if I could take much more of this."

"It's nice to see you, too, Gertie," Della said with a smile. "What's wrong?"

"It's Mr. Mason." Seeing the frown cross Della's features, Gertie quickly added. "He's not sick or anything. It's just that he's so unhappy. He's been in a horrible mood all week – deadly polite but just a bear. I'm sure he'll be better now that you're back. There are two temporary typists that have been trying to finish up the briefs that Mr. Mason's been working on, but it just hasn't been going well. A lot of re-writes, I think. But now that you're back, everything will be ok. I'm sure it will!" The bubbly blonde paused as if trying to decide if she should say more. Della smiled and patted her hand before crossing through the door into her own office to peruse the work spread out on the surface of her desk. Gertie followed along behind. She stood watching as Della flipped half-heartedly through some of the papers. Noting that Della wasn't really paying attention to the items in her hand, Gertie took a deep breath, and plunged ahead. "I, uh, do you? That is – Miss Street, you know how Mr. Mason feels about you, don't you?" she blurted out.

Della glanced back over her shoulder at Gertie, her eyes wary. When she didn't speak, Gertie pressed forward. "Well, it's obvious he's in love with you. I know it's none of my business, Miss Street, but, well, he's just lost without you. I don't know what happened when you were both away, but something happened and he's just not been the same. I hope you can make things right." Gertie's green eyes glistened with sincerity. Della couldn't help but smile wistfully. She crossed the room and took Gertie's hand. She squeezed it reassuringly.

"He didn't mention what was wrong? Or anything that happened?" Della asked quietly.

"No, nothing. I am just hoping that whatever it is, you can help him."

Della sighed. "I don't know, Gertie. I just don't know." Her voice trailed off and after a moment, the younger woman returned to the reception desk and went about her work. Della watched her for a moment, then entered her own office, closing the door behind her. Rather than sitting down at her desk, she crossed the room and opened the door leading to the executive office beyond. Della stood for a moment in the doorway, surveying the damage.

The cleaning crew had done their job, but the room had the feel of disarray and disorder. Law books were lying open where they'd been dropped on various surfaces. Mason's desk was littered with mail, most of it unopened and legal pads of notes and scribbles. Della sighed again and moved further into the office, intent on bringing back the sense of order that it's usual occupant had so successfully squelched. The hall door opened at that moment.

Perry Mason stepped through the door. Piercing blue eyes locked on amused brown ones. He grinned sheepishly. "I know, I know. I'll pick up the books, I promise." Della smiled too and indicated the surface of his desk. "And what are you going to do with all that mail?"

"Probably scoop if off into a wastebasket and start over again," he admitted.

Della shook her head, her expression bemused. "Gertie tells me you've had a rough week."

The twinkle faded from Mason's eyes. "It hasn't been fun."

Della didn't reply. She appeared suddenly nervous. As Mason began removing his coat and hat, she crossed to his desk and fiddled with some of the envelopes there. Her deft fingers sorted through a short stack, pulling out two envelopes which she handed to him as he seated himself in his desk chair. "Better give these to Gertie," she said. "They've no doubt got checks in them."

Mason nodded distractedly and set the envelopes to one side. He looked up at Della, trying to read her eyes, but she wouldn't quite meet his gaze.

"Do you have the papers?" she finally asked.

He didn't answer, but reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a folded blue legal jacket. He contemplated it for a long moment, turning it in his hands before opening it and spreading it out flat on the desk. Della picked up the forms and appeared to read them. "We have an appointment before Judge Harkins at 10:00 a.m. I've explained the situation to him and he's agreed to let us handle this in chambers," he said, huskiness giving his voice an edge.

"That's fine," Della said softly. She laid the forms back on the desk's surface and raised her eyes to his. "A pen?" she asked. He nodded mutely and handed her his fountain pen.

Suddenly, he couldn't stand to watch anymore. He stood up and walked over to the sliding doors that opened out onto the balcony. He knew she wasn't just ending their so-called marriage with the stroke of that pen, but their professional relationship as well. She was going back to Illinois, back to the family business. All that would remain were the frail promises of continued friendship that would dwindle down to a few lines exchanged on Christmas cards and nothing more.

Mason couldn't see that Della stood watching him for a moment as his back was turned to her. It was obvious that he was really going to let her go. He'd offered no last arguments, just the use of his pen. Della's expression betrayed the ache she felt in her heart. She looked back down at the divorce papers and found the lines with her name typed below them. This was the right thing to do. It was what she had to do. And yet… The office was eerily quiet save for the light brushing of the breeze outside the windows as it danced in and out of the plants on the balcony.

Mason gazed unseeingly at the sun-drenched Los Angeles skyline and felt a black hatred boiling up from deep inside. Park Street had failed in his attempt to kill Della and take her money, but he'd successfully taken everything Mason held dear. He could never find someone to replace Della and his career would suffer for it. But, more importantly, Park had put them in this impossible position and now Della's fear of repeating the mistakes of the past was forcing Mason apart from the woman he loved.

Perry listened for the scratch of pen on paper that would signify the end. But he heard nothing. Finally, he chanced a glance back towards his desk.

Della leaned forward over the polished wood surface, weight resting on her left hand, palm flat atop the desk. Her right hand held the pen poised over the divorce papers. She stared down at the forms without moving. The moment dragged out as Perry turned slowly to face her.

"Can we make this work, Perry? Really work?" Her voice was so soft, he had to strain to make out her words. He was afraid to move, afraid to even stir the air between them. This moment was perhaps the most important of his life to date.

"Yes, Della. If that's what you want. It won't be easy, but you and I can do anything if we're working together." His own voice was low and quavered ever so slightly.

Slowly, painfully slowly, Della laid the pen down. She turned around and leaned her hips back against the desk, crossing her arms over her chest. Mason wasn't sure whether or not to exhale.

"I hired a financial manager. Judge Daniels. He was going to retire anyway," Della said musingly. She seemed to be talking more to herself than to him. "I can convince him and his wife to live in the house. Betty could run the household and the Judge can handle the businesses."

Mason took a step towards her. "And you could stay here. Everything could go back to the way it was. We can still go through with the divorce. That is, if that's what you want?"

"We can never go back to the way it was, Perry," she said. She looked at him then. His heart dropped, the brief flash of hope died and he closed his eyes, not sure he could maintain his composure. A slow smile curved her lips. She reached behind her and picked up the phone. "Get me Judge Harkin's office on the line, Gertie." She never took her gaze off Mason, who now regarded her with heavily lidded eyes as he shoved his hands deep into his pockets. His powerful frame leaned towards her slightly. He made no move towards her, but rather watched her carefully.

Della broke eye contact when the call connected. "Yes, is this Judge Harkin's secretary? This is Della Street." Mason did not miss the subtle emphasis on her last name. "From Perry Mason's office. Mr. Mason had an appointment with the Judge this morning. I need to cancel that appointment. Please let the Judge know that the matter has been resolved. Thank you." And with that she hung up the phone.

By the time she'd pulled her hand away from the receiver, Mason had taken the two steps necessary to reach her. "What does that mean, Della?" he asked, his voice raspy with emotion.

Della sighed. "It means I can't live without you either, you big lug. It means I want to be a part of your life. Forever." A radiant smile broke through her serious expression and she reached out and laid a hand against his chest. "Will you stay married to me Perry? And let me be your secretary?"

He pulled her up off the desk and into his embrace. She turned her head up to him and their lips met. Perry crushed Della's lithe form to his chest while his hands slid up and down her back. After a long moment, he felt her push against him and he paused. She only wanted to shift position so that his mouth slanted more easily over hers and she could free her arms and wrap them around his neck. When he felt her twine her fingers in his hair, he attacked her lips with renewed vigor. She responded with equal passion. He felt her soft bite on his lower lip. A growl formed deep in his throat and he held Della even tighter, lifting her on to the edge of his desk. Finally releasing her from his kiss and allowing her to breathe, Perry began to attack the soft skin of her neck. She moaned and turned her head to allow him better access. As his lips brushed the top of her collar, his fingers slipped down the front of her blouse, fumbling with the top button. Della took a deep breath, unwittingly filling his hand with her soft flesh.

She gasped and pulled back. "Perry!" Her throaty voice had a definite breathless quality. Mason stepped back and stared at her, eyes alight with passion, and breathing more than a little heavy himself. "We can't do this here," she managed to say. Perry grinned at her, rather wolfishly, then turned and crossed to the door to the outer office. He turned the spring lock, the bolt shot home with a soft click. When he turned back to face her he said, "I don't know why not." He then locked the door to the law library. "Here? Now?" she asked, her voice slightly incredulous.

Mason completed his circuit of the room by drawing the drapes across the windows and doors to the balcony. Della hadn't slid off the desk, but instead crossed her legs and leaned back on her hands, fingers splayed across the smooth surface of the desktop. Perry came to stand in front of her. He almost laughed at her decidedly dubious expression. Leaning down he pressed a soft kiss to her mouth even as he reached around her to pick up the phone. He pulled back as Gertie's voice came on the line. Keeping his face inches from Della's, he spoke to the receptionist, "Gertie, hold all my calls. I've got some things I need to do with Miss Street, then we'll be leaving for the day." Gertie's reply was lost as Mason slipped the phone back in its cradle, then set the instrument on the floor beside the desk.

Della's eyes betrayed her amusement as she watched him reach past her waist and very deliberately sweep all the mail off the desk and onto the floor. His desk now cleared, he leaned into her again, this time kissing the side of her neck. "Perry," she said, laughter making her voice even more rich than normal. "You can't be serious."

He pulled back just enough to meet her gaze. His hands cupped the sides of her face and his eyes drank in her features as if burning them into his mind. "Of course I'm serious! I love you, Della Street. Or whatever your last name is." She laughed aloud at that. "I need you Della. Promise me we'll never have to be apart again."

"Oh, Perry," she said, running her fingers down the sides of his face. "I love you, too. I realized that I was doing the very thing I'd always fought so hard against – letting my past come between me and the life that I want. You are that life, Perry."

Her fingers circled his neck and she pulled him down to her once more. The kiss was hot and hungry. Mason used his body to push her farther back onto the surface of the desk. Once again, his hands moved to the buttons of her blouse, this time making quick work of them, freeing more of her body to the heated exploration of his hands.

As he gently maneuvered her back onto the desk, she suddenly clutched at his shirt, pushed him away and tried to sit up. Perry pulled back and raised an eyebrow at her in silent question. "This is crazy! We can't make love on your desk, Perry!"

He found himself unable to draw his eyes away from the tantalizing rise and fall of her breasts as she spoke. "Della, darling," he drawled as he pushed her blouse the rest of the way off of her shoulders. "This is you and me. What could be more appropriate for us than making love on my desk?" He yanked off his necktie as he spoke, then began working himself free of his own shirt.

She laughed aloud at the mixture of boyish hopefulness and lust that formed his expression. "I don't suppose I can argue with that, Counselor," she replied as her arms wound around his neck, pulling them both back onto the desktop.

Perry followed her lead and made sure there was no room for argument of any kind.

The End

A/N Thank you for reviewing! Feedback keeps me off the streets and chained to the computer.