This is the final installment of a three part story. The first two are TCOT Elevator Enticement and TCOT Spurious Haircut. Hope you enjoy it! Thanks to Michelle, who vetted my ideas. It helps more than you know. Of course, I don't own these characters.


Seated at the bar, the two of them were enjoying drinks, cigarettes and the view of the floor show when a blonde approached and asked Perry for a light. She'd held his hand longer than necessary as he applied a match to her cigarette. Her conversational advances had none of the crass directness of a bar crawler. She appeared to be single, well-educated and a witty conversationalist. Despite her attempts, Paul Drake's expression was decidedly amused as he watched Perry Mason politely but firmly let the stunning woman know he wasn't interested.

As she moved away in search of more malleable companionship, the detective grinned at the lawyer. "Blondes are more fun, but brunettes are more interesting, right?"

Mason glanced at his friend from over the rim of his glass. "I believe the term is 'blondes have more fun'."

Drake rolled his eyes. "Not in this case. This is the first time in months that you've gone out with me. You're approached by the best looking dame in the place, and you turn her down flat."

Mason shrugged.

"Time was," Drake continued, "when you would've left me high and dry and jumped at the chance to take her home. It doesn't take much of a detective to figure out what's changed."

Mason chuckled good-naturedly. "It's not that I don't appreciate a beautiful woman, Paul. But these nightclub types are just...missing something. You're right - they're beautiful, but they're not 'interesting'."

Drake nodded and lifted his glass. "Here's to brunettes," he said.

Mason tapped his glass against Drake's. "Beauty and brains."

The fiery liquid slid down his throat as he considered the toast. Beauty and brains? She had them both, in spades. He'd been painfully aware of that fact for a year or more, and yet unable to do anything about it. She had completely derailed his interest in other women, but prevented him from pursuing an interest in her.

She left him dissatisfied, irritated and unfulfilled. In a word, Perry Mason was frustrated.


The phone on Della Street's desk rang. Walking past on his way back to his office, Perry Mason's long arm snaked out and picked up the receiver.

"Law office, Mason speaking," he said, his voice somewhat distracted as he thumbed through the contents of the file in his hand.

"Is Miss Street there, please?" The speaker's well-modulated voice sounded slightly familiar.

"No, she's on an errand. Care to leave a message?" His picked up the pad sitting, efficiently, next to the phone. His eyes scanned the desk's surface for a pencil.

"Yes, please. This is her mother."

Perry smiled. No wonder the voice was familiar. "How nice to speak to you, Mrs. Street."

"You too, Mr. Mason. Della has mentioned how much she enjoys working in your office." There wasn't any real warmth in the statement.

"I'd be lost without her," Mason said. "Shall I have her call you when she returns?"

"Yes. Please ask her to give me her flight number for when she and her Aunt arrive tomorrow evening."

"Flight number...ok. I've got it Mrs. Street. Anything else?"

"You might let her know that Michael Domenico is coming to pick them up at the airport. He said he," she paused, "had something to ask her." The voice at the other end of the line chuckled softly in the same rich tones of his secretary's voice.

Perry sucked in a breath and laid the folder down. "I'll let her know," he said, his voice unconsciously grim. It took him a moment to realize that the caller was saying goodbye.

"Mrs. Street?" he said quickly.


"I - I just wanted to let you know that I, well, I am very, very glad to have your daughter as my secretary. You should know that she is a terrific employee and I've never had anyone who could do a better job."

"Why, thank you Mr. Mason. Her father and I have always tried to instill a strong work ethic in our children. I hope you'll be able to find someone just as satisfactory as Della when the time comes," the woman said brightly.

"When the time comes?" he repeated, his voice wary.

"Well, yes," she hesitated, sounding suddenly unsure. "When she marries, of course. She won't be working then."

"Oh. Yes, of course. I see." Perry matched her hesitancy. "I expect that won't be in the near future." He tried to sound more upbeat.

"Oh, I wouldn't count on that, Mr. Mason." She laughed again. "A mother knows when it comes to these things. I think perhaps our Della has been away long enough for... Well, I suppose I shouldn't say anything more. But her father and I are very hopeful."

"I'm sure you are," he replied. A wave of despondency rolled over him and he barely managed to make the polite niceties to break off the phone call. He finished writing the message and left it squarely in the middle of Della's desk, then walked into his office, closing the door behind him.

It was obvious what her mother was hoping would happen on this trip home. Did Della share those hopes? She'd worked for him for almost a year and a half and never asked for a vacation. She wouldn't be going now, but he'd insisted that she take some time off. She was taking her Aunt Mae back home to Illinois.

Was that the only reason she was returning? Was this Michael someone she was serious about? She'd never mentioned him. And as far as he knew she hadn't seen him in over a year. Surely if they were serious, he would have come to visit? Wouldn't he?

Perry fretted over these thoughts well into the afternoon. Della returned from her errand after lunch and didn't mention the message. They were busy up until closing time. He'd hoped to have a chance to talk to her before she left - to try to get a feeling for her reaction to the message.

Unfortunately, since she was about to leave for a week, both Gertie and Paul Drake's secretary cluttered up the office waiting room, giving Della their good-byes and sending her on her way. He even tried walking her down to her car, but the cadre of well-wishers seemed intent on doing the same. Withing moments she was gone and he was left standing in an emptying parking lot.

It was going to be a very, very long week.


Della Street inserted the latchkey and opened the door to her apartment. Once inside she held the door for her companion.

"It's good to be home," she said with a sigh and deposited her keys in a bowl on the table next to the door. "How about a drink?"

The older woman who entered the apartment was shorter than Della, but shared her dark curls and lively green eyes. "Maybe just one. I'll call a cab and drink it while I'm waiting."

"I'm not sending you home in a cab at this hour," Della said firmly. "You can either spend the night here, or I'll drive you home."

"I'm not going to trouble you any more, honey. I don't mind taking a cab."

"Stay the night, or I'm driving you. Those are your choices, Aunt Mae."

The older woman chuckled. "When did you get to be so bossy?"

Her niece's eyes twinkled. "I learned it from you. Now, set your bag down and lets have that drink and relax for a minute."

Della kicked off her shoes, leaving them lying in the middle of the floor and passed through the swinging door into the kitchen. Mae settled on the couch and contemplated her suitcase. Spending another night away from her own bed was not her first choice but it would save having Della out on the streets at night alone.

Della was a skilled driver. 'Maybe a bit too skilled,' Mae thought, remembering some of Della's high school escapades. But Mae didn't like the thought of Della returning home alone on the darkened city streets, late at night.

Ice cubes clinked against the sides of the highball glasses in Della's hands as she returned from the kitchen. After handing one of the glasses to Mae, the younger woman curled into the opposite end of the couch and took a sip. "Feels good to be back in Los Angeles, doesn't it?" she said.

Mae watched her silently for a moment before speaking. "I haven't really thanked you properly for accompanying me to Illinois, dear. I know you didn't really want to go."

Della flashed her a smile, "Nonsense! You should know I never mind spending time with you."

"With me, maybe," Mae said. "But you obviously don't have any burning desire for home these days."

Della glanced at her quizzically.

Mae took a drink. "I know you love your parents, dear, but it's obvious that the three of you don't see eye to eye any longer."

Della sighed. "We have so little in common anymore." She swirled the amber liquid in her glass. "Mother is busy with the garden club and her charities. Dad hasn't been the same since the business failed. I know he hates working for someone else, but his job at the bank is a good one. And plenty lucrative. But he's so unhappy that he makes everyone else unhappy too."

"He's always been that way," Mae said, speaking of her brother. "Even when we were children, he couldn't stand failure. If things didn't work out quite the way he planned, he obsessed over it to the point of distraction. That pursuit of perfection made him a very driven man."

Della raised her eyebrows in silent comment Companionable quietness filled the room. Eventually, Della set her half empty glass on the coffee table and said, "Illinois just isn't home anymore."

"Where is home, Della?" Mae asked softly.

Della gestured aimlessly around the room. A grin turned up the corners of her mouth. "Bloom where you're planted, you've always said."

Mae smiled at her. Silence fell between them once more.

At length Mae spoke. "You know I don't try to meddle in your affairs, Della."

Della grinned at her aunt from over the rim of her glass. "You always meddle in my 'affairs', Aunt Mae."

"Well, if you didn't have such appallingly bad luck with men, maybe I wouldn't need to!" Mae retorted.

Della laughed. "I wouldn't say it's been appalling! Some of it has been fun. And now that Michael finally understands that I'm not going to marry him, now or ever, maybe my luck will change."

Mae smiled indulgently. "Poor Michael. I think he finally understands what he lost when he lost you. Even though you do an admirable job of taking care of yourself, I can't help being concerned, dear. I feel responsible for you." She reached over and patted the younger woman's knee. "I see a lot of myself in you, and to be honest, it scares me."

"Scares you? Why?" Della turned to face her aunt more fully.

Now Mae was the one who studied the swirl of liquor in the bottom of her glass. "I think maybe you made this too strong. I've suddenly got a melancholy jag going here."

"Aren't you happy, Aunt Mae?" Della asked solicitously.

"I am," she replied firmly. "I made choices, good and bad, and I've stuck to them. And for the most part I've been happy with how things have worked out."


"But... You and I are very much alike Della. I couldn't stand the suffocating expectations of my family, either. And whereas you were smart enough to call off your wedding before making a mistake, I wasn't." She took a drink. "One choice I never regretted was coming to California after the divorce. I needed distance. And time."

Della listened silently.

"I am proud of the life I've lived since coming here. I've had a responsible job, saved up a little money and life is pretty comfortable for me now." She looked up at Della, her gaze captured by the spark of life she saw there. "However, I am missing something and I don't want you to make the same mistake." She leaned forward slightly. "Don't be alone all your life, Della."

A smile broke across Della's features. "I'm not alone, Aunt Mae. I've got friends and I've got you and I've even had a few romances along the way. I'm happy. Please don't worry about me."

"Hear me out, honey. I'm not your mother. I couldn't care less whether or not you get married or have children." She laughed. "Although, I must admit - a child of yours? I'd love to see that! I can just see you with a houseful of boys, all of them running around causing mischief and mayhem and being so adorable about it that you'd never be able to scold them."

Della smiled and shook her head. "Maybe, but I really can't see myself as a wife and mother, all wrapped up in cooking, cleaning and garden parties."

Mae smiled fondly at her. "That doesn't mean you have to be alone. I have a good life, darling, but it does get a little lonely at times. You and your brother have been like the children I never had, and that's been wonderful. But now, as I'm getting older, I miss having someone to come home to. I miss having someone who is interested in my life and what I do - someone who wants to share the small things with me."

Della was silent for a moment, then shook her head. "I don't want to share the toothpaste," she said at last. She was so deadpan serious that Mae couldn't help but laugh.

"I don't mean to criticize, dear. And I don't mean to imply that you should give up on your dreams and your independence. But I'm hoping that there is a man out there somewhere who will roll the toothpaste tube just exactly like you want it."

Mae picked up her glass, clinked it against Della's and favored her with a wicked grin. "Or, better yet, I hope you find a man who's so...incredible...that you won't care how he squeezes the toothpaste."

Della smiled enigmatically into her glass and drank the toast.


Saturday morning:

Seldom had he felt as unsure, and even ridiculous as he did just as he pushed the buzzer to Della Street's apartment. She was going to think he was crazy. And she wouldn't be far wrong. He'd worried and wondered all week. He knew she was supposed to return last night and he just couldn't wait any longer to find out if she was leaving him - leaving the job.

Cold regret still lurked in the pit of his stomach, where it had been lingered for days. Why hadn't he told her how he felt? How could he have let her go without knowing that she would be leaving behind more than just a job? The answer was obvious. Della wasn't interested in a relationship with him. They had a some laughs together, but it was the job - and only the job - that formed the basis for their friendship.

Within moments the door opened and he stared down at her. Slim, trim, and vivacious as ever. Her eyes twinkled with humor as she motioned him in.

"It's not even noon. On Saturday. Miss me that badly?" she teased.

"Possibly," he said, trying to match her playful tone. "How was your trip?"

"Not bad. The weather is already starting to turn cold there. The trees were beautiful - lots of fall colors." She seated herself opposite him on the couch and curled her feet up underneath her body.

"And your family?"

A slight frown crossed her face. She started to say something, then evidently changed her mind. "My Aunt Mae was just great."

Perry laughed. "What about your parents?"

She made a dismissive gesture. "Oh, just parents, I suppose. My father is quiet and bordering on grouchy. My mother is flitty and obsessive. And both of them wish I were doing something different with my life." She sighed.

"Must be hard to go against their wishes."

"Mmm-hm," was her non-committal reply. "So. What brings you out this bright and early on a Saturday morning?"

It was at that point that he remembered the file he'd so carefully selected the day before. The file that he needed to ask her opinion on. The file that he might possibly convince her was important enough to make him intrude on her vacation and privacy.

He'd left it back at his apartment.

Reaching up to rub the muscles that were tightening in the back of his neck, he said, "I had a file I needed to ask you about, but I managed to leave it at home. So now I guess I'm here to see if you've had breakfast yet."

She smiled. "Sorry, I ate already. How about some coffee?" She got to her feet.

"Sounds good," he said following her into the kitchen.

He watched silently while she poured coffee into a large mug. Her fingers brushed his as she handed him the cup. He could see the curiosity in her eyes.

"So what do your parents want you to do?" he blurted.

She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms over her chest. Leaning back against the counter, she spoke. "My parents would like very much for me to give up this reckless West Coast existence and come home to marry Michael James Domenico, like a good little girl."

Mason took a slow drink of his coffee. He studied her over the rim of the cup. "And what are you going to do?"

"Do?" She sounded surprised. "I'm not going to do anything!" She boosted herself up onto the edge of the counter, making herself closer to his eye level and all but glared at him. "I'm going to go on living my life the way I see fit. No one - not my parents, Aunt Mae," she paused, "you, or anybody else is going to decide what's best for me." Her eyes blazed.

"Me? Why would I have any thing to say about it?"

She did glare at him now. "Don't get any ideas about handing out advice, is all I'm saying. There are already too many people out there who think I'm just playing at being independent until I can get my hooks into a suitable man. Too many people who think they know what's best for me."

Mason smiled at her. "I'm just glad to hear that you aren't packing your bags for a return trip. I was afraid I was about to lose... a lot." A knot of emotion settled in his throat. He tried to gulp down more coffee.

Her expression softened. "I don't mean to take this out on you. This trip made me realize how tired I am of living according to other people's expectations. I like my life. I like working for you. I want to continue to do that. I'm not going to get married and give it up." She met his eyes in a brief glance, then turned away, busying herself at the sink. "Our work - my job - is the most important thing to me, right now. As for the rest of it, I have the freedom to do whatever I want. I can come and go as I please. I go to work and then come home and I don't have to worry about a house, or children or PTA meetings or dinner parties or whether or not my mother-in-law is happy with how I'm taking care of her darling son. I'm not going to change any of that."

He didn't know what to say. Part of him was thrilled to hear how happy she was working for him. 'Our work' she called it. That's exactly what it was - they were a team. Unfortunately, she didn't want things to change between them and she didn't want to marry. That realization made his heart feel heavy as it labored in his chest.

She reached for the coffee pot and refilled his cup, then made a few half-hearted attempts at wiping invisible spots from the counter tops. His eyes followed her movements, but he didn't speak.

She laughed nervously. "You're awfully quiet." She stopped puttering at the sink, and turned to face him.

"Sorry." He crossed the room to set his mug on the counter, then turned and leaned against the cabinet, next to Della. "Not much of a vacation, was it?"

She sighed. "It wasn't really all that bad. It's just that last night even my aunt got on the bandwagon. I can't believe she, of all people, doesn't understand that I don't want live that life. I never liked picket fences. Remind me too much of prison bars."

He smiled somewhat wistfully, eyes fixed on the pattern in the kitchen linoleum.

She turned to face him. "Look Chief, I'm still on vacation and you're obviously bored." She grabbed his arm. "Let's go do something!"

He couldn't help but laugh in the face of her sudden, almost child-like exuberance. "What did you have in mind?"


The two of them spent a warm Los Angeles afternoon at the zoo, followed by a movie and dinner. Their earlier discussion was pushed to the back burner and they enjoyed each other's company without the normal pressures of work. When they arrived back at Della's apartment, late in the evening, she offered him a nightcap.

Perry stared down into his drink, his earlier melancholia having returned full force once they got back to the apartment. He knew he was about to leave her, again, with maybe a quick, perfunctory good night kiss. Nothing more. And probably not even that.

Della sat quietly, her gaze focused on his face. She appeared to be waiting and guarded. After a silence that seemed to draw out to the point of uncomfortableness between them, he finally sat the glass down and turned on the couch to face her. His arm stretched along the back of the sofa. His fingers could easily have tangled in her hair, but he didn't touch her.

"Della," he said, his voice soft, his eyes searching hers. "Do you think -"

Suddenly she was standing, picking up their glasses. "Would you like another drink? Maybe something to eat?" Avoiding his gaze, she headed for the kitchen.

Perry sat back, watching her go, his expression darkening perceptibly. She returned to the living room a few minutes later. She breezed past him and sat in an arm chair.

"It's been a wonderful day, Chief. Great way to end my vacation." Her cheerfulness sounded forced.

"But?" His voice was flat.

"But?" She smiled although he could see the wariness in her eyes. Maybe even a little fear. "Oh, nothing. Just a little tired, I guess."

It was the fear that did it. He was so sick of the fear. Why couldn't she let go and trust him? There had been moments - all too fleeting - when she'd gotten past it. Automatically his mind flashed back to a scene weeks earlier.

The orchestra threw themselves into the dance number with abandon. Driving rhythms moved the dancers faster and faster across the floor. Della and Perry followed the intricate steps of their foxtrot with a precision born of frequent practice.

Perry loved to dance and had been delighted when Della accepted his invitation one evening after dinner. He was surprised to discover she was more than capable of mirroring and even anticipating his every move. They were perfectly compatible on the dance floor. From that first moment on, dancing became an expected addition to their usual dining routine.

This night wasn't any different. They'd worked late, Perry suggested dinner before calling it a day. They justified dessert by exercising on the dance floor. The orchestra played the last few notes of the kinetic music just as Perry swung Della away and then twirled her back into his arms. With barely a pause, the song changed and suddenly they were lost in the notes of a slow waltz.

He held her close. She began to hum the words of the song, barely loud enough for him to discern the lyrics. He turned his head, intending only to reposition himself to better hear her, and his cheek bushed hers. Without even thinking, he slid his lips along the line of her jaw.

She turned to him and their lips met, once, in the merest hint of a kiss. Then she was pulling away, feigning fatigue, and returning to their table. The evening ended as it always did, with him walking her to the door of her building, holding it open and accepting her thanks and her platonic adieu.

As the memory played in his mind, Perry felt very tired. He looked at Della; looked through her. He started to speak, but swallowed his words. She looked at him expectantly, her body tensed as if ready to run. Perry sighed.

"I should go." He stood from his seat on the couch.

Della started, surprised by his words. "You're leaving?" There was a hint of relief in her voice.

He looked over her head towards the door. "I can't...stay." Uncharacteristically tongue-tied, he ran a hand through his hair before reaching for his jacket. His eyes betrayed the emotion he barely held in check.

For a long moment he said nothing and once again studied the patterns in the flooring. When he finally spoke, his voice was quiet but firm. "I know you like your life and your job just the way they are. You are my most valuable employee and more than that, a good friend. As much as I would like too, I'm not trying to change things between us. But damn it, I have to tell you, just this one time, how I feel."

"What in the world-?" She tired to speak, but his eyes bored into hers, pinning her in place, rendering her unable to do anything except listen.

"I am in love with you, Della Street. I've been in love with you almost from the moment we first met. I have tried every way I can think of to convince you to trust me, but nothing has worked. You're still afraid of me, even after all this time. So, maybe it's time for me to give up on this crazy idea that the two of us could have something spectacular together." His eyes softened slightly, as did his voice. "I made you a promise the first day we met, and I intend to keep that promise, I swear. I'm not asking for anything in return, nothing has to change. When you come back to work on Monday morning, things will be just like they've always been. I won't mention this again."

Stunned silence followed. Surprisingly, the pounding of his heart against his rib cage made no audible sound. He waited, but Della didn't, perhaps couldn't, reply. Finally he stepped around her chair towards the door. He pulled it open. "Goodnight, Della," he whispered and stepped through, shutting the door behind him.


As he pushed the button summoning the elevator, he brushed a hand across his eyes. A headache was starting to pound. The elevator reached its stop and Perry shrugged into his suit jacket. The doors slid open and he stepped forward.

A hand closed around his arm.

"Wait, Perry." The familiar voice washed over him like warm rain. He turned towards her. "I don't want you to go. Please stay."

Perry couldn't quite meet her eyes. His voice was hoarse with feeling. "I can't keep doing this Della. If I stay..." He shook his head. "I shouldn't have said anything, but I can't help being in love with you and I'm so damn tired of..." He bit back the words he'd been about to say. "Please don't worry - I'd never do anything to make you uncomfortable. I don't intend to push you away; I can't afford to lose you."

"Lose me? I could never -," she broke off, noticing for the first time the elevator operator who listened wide-eyed to the two of them, his eyes moving from the lawyer's face to Della's figure. "Good-bye, Jerry," Della said firmly. Perry glanced over his shoulder at the man. He grinned apologetically and closed the doors, sending the car down to ground level.

"Let's continue this inside," Della said, pulling Perry by the arm.

"No, Della," he said, holding his ground.

"Why not? Can't you at least talk to me?" she asked, hurt in her expression.

He paused for a breath. "I just... I need to leave." He pulled his arm free and jabbed the elevator button once more.


He'd never heard her say his name like that before. Her normally rich voice deepened and the word seemed to slide out of her throat like a ribbon of dark chocolate. The mere sound of his name on her lips caused a knot of desire to form in the pit of his stomach. Slowly he turned to face her.

She took a deep breath, as if steeling herself to deliver some terrible news. "I love you, too," she said. The words drenched him in feeling so strong he was speechless. She stepped close, and placed her hands on his chest, fingers curled around his lapels. "Please don't go," she plead softly.

The elevator chimed and the doors slid open.

"I can't face the thought of losing you, either," she continued. "I'm not good at this and I'm so worried about failing, that I have been scared to even try." Her eyes searched his. "You're right - we can't go on like this. I'm tired, too. Tired of wanting and needing to be near you, to touch you, while a the same time trying to keep my distance and not let things become more personal." She ran her hands across his chest. "I'm ready to try, to take a risk."

He drew in a ragged breath, hope shimmering in his eyes. "Are you sure, kid?" he asked, his voice gruff with emotion. "We don't stand a chance unless this is what you really want."

"I'm scared, I'm worried, but I know how I feel. I've known for a long time; I've just been afraid that I couldn't make it work."

They heard a sigh behind them. Della jumped at the sound and Perry turned with a scowl. Jerry sat on his stool, regarding the couple with a goofy smile.

"Get lost, Jerry," the lawyer growled. He slipped his arm around Della's shoulders and began to walk back down the hall.

Perry opened the apartment door and stood aside to let Della enter. He could tell she was nervous. She stopped in the middle of the room and slowly turned to face him.

She bit her lip. Perry couldn't help but smile.

"So, what do we do now?" she asked tentatively.

"How about this?" he asked as he crossed the space between them. He swept her in his arms, crushed her to his chest and kissed her long and hard.

"Not bad," she said thoughtfully when he released her.

"Not bad? That's all you can say?"

Della shrugged and grinned up at him. "I've had better."

"You little minx," he growled and grabbed her once more. One arm circled her waist, holding her tightly to him, the other curled around the back of her neck, fingers twined in her hair. His lips descended on hers. Della wrapped her arms around his torso, beneath his jacket. He could feel her hands skim across his back as the kiss deepened.

She moved against him, giving him better access to the warm sweetness of her mouth. They battled within the kiss, fighting for both control and surrender. It was a delicious confusion, a train wreck of desire and delight.

Her hands clutched his shirt, nails digging into this back. He held her tighter, pulling her closer to his body. But it wasn't enough, too much still separated them. He had to have more.

Reluctantly, he pulled away, just enough to draw in a breath. Before he could speak, Della took hold of the lapel of his coat. She glanced back over her shoulder towards the bedroom.

"I never make the bed on Saturdays," she muttered.

"What?" he asked, obviously confused. The way her still moist lips glistened in the dim lamp light as she spoke guaranteed that he paid little attention to her actual words.

"It doesn't matter." She looked up at him, almost mesmerized by the dark desire in his eyes. Pulling him down to meet her, they once again locked themselves in a heated exchange. Perry leaned forward slightly, forcing her body to align itself against him to maintain balance. He knew she could feel the evidence of his arousal as she pressed closer still.

This time she broke the kiss, leaving him gasping for breath and grasping for control. Her hands cradled his face, as their eyes met. She pressed one quick kiss to his lips, then turned away, pulling him with her. Wordlessly she led him to her bedroom.

He stopped across the threshold and took a moment to survey the space, using the time to slow his breathing and to check his desire. He wanted to take his time, to savor every moment, every facet of the experience.

The room was well fitted to it's occupant. Elegant and efficient. The surfaces free of clutter, while at the same time tastefully decorated. Soft carpet, subtle lighting, the unmistakable scent of her perfume. The only island of incongruity was the bed.

The bed was a mass of textiles. Seemingly innumerable pillows of varying shapes and sizes littered the expanse of soft cotton sheets. A bedspread of some luxuriant fabric ebbed and flowed across the lower half of the mattress. It was shot with small metallic filaments that shimmered in the soft light. Sheets and pillows were twisted in amongst it's many folds.

Perry's eyes shifted from the bed to Della. "Are you really that violent of a sleeper?" he asked with a grin. She smiled apologetically. "I'm just sort of all over the place, I guess."

"Sounds intriguing." He reached for her and pulled her to him once more. "Are you sure there is room for two?"

"Depends. Are you a heavy sleeper? I might accidentally roll over during the night onto your side of the bed."


"No." The huskiness in her voice caused the blood to race through his veins once more. "I wasn't planning on sleeping, actually," she said.

He bent his head to her neck, tasting and teasing. "Mmmm...I like how you think," he whispered against her skin. She shuddered in his arms and held him more tightly as if afraid she would fall. Within moments they were both on the bed, stripping away the clothing that separated them from one another.

Perry Mason soon learned that sleeping wasn't the only thing Della did in bed with reckless unrestraint.

Ten years later:

Della fell back onto the pillows, breathing heavily, and reached for the sheet. She managed to pull it only up to her waist because it was still twined around her lover's legs.

"Perry, you..." she brushed her hair back from her forehead and looked over at the man lying next to her, "are incredible."

He laughed soundlessly, but she felt the movement in his chest. He repositioned himself slightly, bringing his head to her breast. "Just think, baby. If you married me, this is what it would be like every night."

"If you 'performed' like that every night, you'd likely be dead of a heart attack within a month and there is no way I'd be able to convince Arthur Tragg that I didn't marry you for your money and then kill you in your sleep."

Perry kicked his leg, trying to free it from the twisted sheet. 'Even after all these years, the woman still sleeps in a disaster area,' he thought.

"Maybe not," Perry said, "but Hamilton would never prosecute you."

She laughed.

"He'd give you the key to the city for getting rid of me, then he'd try to hit on you himself. The man has a terrible crush on you."

"What are you, twelve? A 'crush'? Who says something like that? And besides, he's a grown man - a married man! That's just silly."

"It's true," Perry said, and began to draw lazy patterns on her stomach with his fingers. "And it's a perfectly viable word. I stand by it. Hamilton Burger does indeed have a 'crush' on you."

"I doubt it," she replied, abdominal muscles tightening perceptibly in response to his ministrations.

Chuckling softly, he turned his head so he could see her face. "Why is it so hard to believe that a man like Burger finds you attractive? Just because you're not the blonde bombshell type? This is Hollywood, baby, those women are a dime a dozen around here. Sure, men like to look, and they're easy on they eyes. But you have something deeper. Something that makes a man want to take his time with you, to find out all there is to know about you, inside and out. You, my dear, are...intriguing."

He kissed the side of her breast. "And sexy." Another kiss. "And unforgettable." Another, this one eliciting a moan of response from its recipient. "And...mine."

The throaty sound of her laughter made him smile. She threaded her fingers through his wavy hair, hair that was just beginning to grey at the temples. Their eyes reconnected.

"Yours. All yours," she whispered. "Always."