9

Title: "Paul Drake's Wedding"

Author: Bibliophile tropicale

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of Perry Mason and Della Street. My reward is not monetary. The only reward is the joy of creating and the pleasure of bringing these characters to life.

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Will Perry and Della be late for Paul's big day? Paul Drake's Wedding is fun, fluff and more.

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank my beta reader for her time, corrections and continuous support.

Feedback is welcome!

Paul Drake's Wedding

Perry Mason rang the doorbell on Della Street's apartment and resumed his struggle with a wayward bowtie while carefully balancing a flower box on the fingertips of his left hand. When the door remained closed, he turned and walked a few steps, waiting, not wanting to stop his efforts to dig for his key. His patience was rewarded. Within seconds, it opened a crack and pair of hazel eyes peered out.

"Perry," she exclaimed. "You're here!"

Mason quickly turned to face her, smiling wanly, still positioning the bow tie. Della surveyed him from head to toe: the black tuxedo, the white pleated shirt, maroon cummerbund and bow tie, his dark hair neatly combed with a slight graying at the temples, the large expressive blue eyes.

Still in her robe and bare feet, she stood to one side so he might enter. "Come on in handsome."

Perry entered her apartment and began walking around nervously.

"Damn, tie!" he muttered.

For a minute, she watched him pace back and forth and then laughed. "Am I missing something or are we on a case?"

He stopped and turned towards her. "A case couldn't be any more nerve wracking. Even a client on death row couldn't be any more stressful than this wedding. Hell, Della, after Paul's stag party I'm as nervous as he is. Everything was free flowing, wine, song…"

"And women," she chimed in, biting her lip.

"And women," he echoed. "Then Faulkner stood and started reading a eulogy for all Paul's old flames; the list was extensive and in great detail. Mournful music played in the background and the atmosphere quickly took on the mood of a wake."

He heaved a great sigh. "The ladies became angry and demanded their money."

"And of course you felt it was your duty to placate and entertain the ladies?' Della inquired.

Perry shot her a quick grin. "You know I did my best. After all, it was my responsibility to keep the party going. Of course, there was nothing for you to worry about." He stopped and winked. "None of them came close to being as pretty as you.

She rolled her eyes. "Keep talking," she laughed as she headed through the bedroom door. "I'm almost ready."

Mason continued his pacing, walking and talking as though he were working a case.

"I told Paul, Eve Martel was the best thing that's ever happened to him. Since they decided to marry, she's all I've heard him talk about. He seems happy, and by the end of the evening he was in better spirits. His crew, now that's a different story."

"Well, I can understand the wake," Della called out. "After all he was surrounded by some of the world's most confirmed bachelors. What else could they do? They are losing one of their founding members."

Perry laughed and made his way to her kitchen and poured two drinks. He heard her voice from the bedroom. "I'm so happy for Paul."

The lawyer walked back into her living room, took a sip of the cool liquor and held Della's drink in his hand. The door to the bedroom was cracked, and he could see her trim leg poised on a dressing chair. The hem of her pink satin dress lay around her hip as she pulled the hose across her thigh and fastened the lacy white garter. Switching, she positioned her other leg on the dressing chair.

Della noticed the sudden silence and looked up, her eyes meeting his. She did not quickly pull down the dress but merely started the rolled hose over her toes and foot.

Perry slowly walked into the room and handed over her drink. She took the glass and brought it to her lips, taking a sip. He sat his drink down behind him and leaned over taking the rolled hose in his fingertips. Continuing her efforts, he unrolled it, beginning his journey along her firm calf, noting the toned muscles developed from their numerous nights of dancing. His eyes enjoyed the view as his fingers moved upward pulling the hose over her knee. Hesitating, he glanced at her face and noticed the tip of her tongue slowly moving across her moist lips, her eyes dreamy.

"Don't stop now," she whispered.

Perry smirked as his skillful fingers smoothed the nylon along her thigh, then slipped the top of the hose beneath the garter's top fastener and hooked it. For a moment he paused, his mind recalling the location of the second fastener. Leaning closer, his face inches from hers, he breathed in her perfume and reached for the second fastener. His hands moved along the back of her thigh, smoothing and pulling the hose with his fingertips.

"Well, counselor," she purred seductively. "Is it as much fun putting them on as it is taking them off?"

His fingers struggled with the fastener; his lips trailed along the angle of her jaw. "Well, Miss Street," his breath hot on her neck, "maybe we should find out."

Lightly he kissed her, their lips cool and wet. Maybe Paul was the smart one.

"We could be a little late," he breathed softly.

She said nothing. He kissed her again, his arm circling her shoulders. Della inhaled deeply when he released her. His eyes took in the v-neck dress and off the shoulder straps as he moved closer to kiss her cheek, then her neck.

Della felt her body floating beneath his touch. His words drifted along like clouds in the sky. 'Could be a little late.' The words streamed by, floating gently through her mind. 'A little late, late, late, late! '

He could hear her voice, breathless. "We can't."

Her arms circled his shoulders. Again she whispered, "Perry, we simply can't be late."

His hands caressed her bare back. She sighed, "We can't be late. You're the best man and I'm the maid of honor."

She inhaled deeply, closing her eyes. He had stopped and straightened before her.

"You're right," he agreed reluctantly. "This isn't the time to be fashionably late."

Della opened her eyes, took a needed breath and laughed. "Not with lip stick on your mouth, Mr. Mason." Pulling a tissue from a box, she wiped his lips as he pulled the satin dress down over her leg.

"I'd like an appointment with you later on this evening, Miss Street." He spoke with mock formality.

"I'll mark it in my book, Mr. Mason," she said sweetly.

Perry checked his watch. "We'd better run."

Mason picked up the glasses and headed for the kitchen, dropping them in the sink and picking up the flower box. He turned to look in the mirror to check the troublesome bow tie.

Della slipped on her shoes and a wrap and replaced her lipstick. Then noting his frowning reflection, she took the boutonnière from the box and with nimble fingers, pinned it on his lapel and smoothed down his jacket.

"Am I presentable?" he asked grinning.

Della's knowing eyes swept over him. "At least most of you."

Perry's face was a picture of innocence. "Your honor it wasn't my fault. I'm innocent." His eyes twinkled. "Once they see you, no jury would dare convict me."

She playfully punched his arm as he extended it to her. "I'm innocent your honor!" Della laughed. "You know that's what they all say, counselor. You'd better get yourself a good lawyer!"

Mason chuckled.

Together they moved to the door, when Perry hesitated, taking on a serious tone. "Now that we're a little late I may have to step on it Della. I need you to….."

"I know. I know. Watch the mirror for the police."

The wedding was located in the small town of Riverside. Paul Drake had acceded to his fiancé's wishes to be married in the small church where her family attended. On this day, it was filled with flowers, music, family and friends.

Perry found his friend nervously walking back and forth outside the entrance to the church.

"Thank God you're here!" Paul exclaimed.

Mason smiled and patted the groom on the shoulder. His friend studied him briefly and then declared, "You were going to be late for my wedding!"

Perry smiled sheepishly and tugged on his ear. "Why do you say that, Paul?"

"I can see Della's lipstick on your collar," he announced. "She must have been in a real hurry, very distracted or both not to catch it."

"What!" The lawyer pulled at the collar around his neck.

"I'd be one hell of a detective if I didn't notice that! You and Della are always fooling around and pretending nothing's going on. Around a real detective, it's only an act. Come on in they're ready to start."

The two men walked into the back of the sanctuary and studied the decorated surroundings. Mason saw many familiar faces. Lt. Tragg and Faulkner shared a pew along with Paul's secretary Margo and the other operatives from the agency. Lt. Tragg had recently retired from the police department, and "Birddog" Faulkner was still one of Paul's best men.

"Well, this is it." Paul announced as another man joined them. Perry could see the resemblance between Eve and her brother. Together the three men walked to the altar and stood facing the smiling guest-filled pews. The music filled the high ceiling with an ephemeral effect. Mason tried to place the music, as it was not a traditional tune for weddings.

The three men stood with their hands neatly folded in front of them. Perry studied his old friend from the corner of his eye. He'd never seen Paul's face so relaxed, his eyes so clear and calm. All the work he had sent Paul Drake had made him a very affluent man. But at what cost: endless hours, rushed meals, greasy food, sleepless nights, bloodshot eyes and a stomach twisted in knots from stress. But today, Paul seemed like a new man and he was relieved.

The bridesmaids appeared in the back of the church and made their way to the front. First to appear was a friend of Eve's, then Della. The audience rose as the bride entered the church. The bridal party took their places in front of the minister and he dispensed with the bride's father giving her hand in marriage.

Drake extended his arm to Eve as they moved toward the minster, the group forming a semicircle before the altar.

Perry looked across at Della, her face flushed, her eyes misty with emotion. His mind drifted, the droning of voices fading into the background.

Briefly he closed his eyes then opened them; he could feel the dry heat of the desert on his face. Beside him, Della did the same, her features bathed in the soft pink of the setting sun. She leaned back in the seat, her eyes closed. Her hair was swept back from her face, her lips slightly parted.

They had just finished five grueling days in court, winning a hard fought victory. Like a fine-oiled machine,they had been assembling evidence, discussing theories, and presenting them in court without words passing between them, only nodded heads or significant glances. She was such an intricate part of him, so vital. On the way out of the courthouse, he'd announced "Let's take a drive." as he tossed their briefcases into the back of the convertible.

As they sat looking out from the mesa, the desert spilling out before them, he slipped his hand into hers.Slowly her eyes opened and she mumbled, "Yes, Perry."

He wanted to be with her always. They were so close to Yuma; they could pick up a marriage license there. 'Della Mason' he thought. He leaned over and gently kissed her cheek, then her lips.

"Not now Perry, I still have notes to type," she murmured. "Maybe later."

He realized he too must be tired. They had discussed marriage before; he already knew her answer. He sighed, leaned back in the seat watching her sleep, enjoying the moment.

"Perry." Paul Drake nudged him.

Mason's eyes were still glued to her face, his mind drifting.

"Perry, the ring!"

Like a man awakening from a trance, he repeated. "Yes, the ring."

Perry Mason could feel all eyes suddenly turning to him as he dug into his tuxedo pocket.

Della's eyes creased with amusement as she watched; his mind had been off somewhere along with hers. She too had felt the heat of the desert and the softness of his lips against hers.

Perry handed Drake the ring and watched as Paul repeated the vows and slipped it on Eve's finger. The maid of honor handed Eve the ring for Paul and again the vows were repeated.

Perry looked at Della. Tears were forming in her eyes and she quickly looked away.

The minister pronounced the couple husband and wife. Paul and Eve Drake turned to face the audience both beaming as flashbulbs blazed. The happy couple moved down the aisle.

Della quickly wiped her eyes as she moved forward, slipping her arm through Perry's. Their eyes met, his sending heartfelt messages to her. Again the cameras snapped. Perry could feel her tighten her hand around his arm as they walked from the church into the coolness of the late afternoon.