Disclaimer: This is a prequel to a previous story of mine, SOMEONE LIKE YOU, written upon request. Thanks for the encouragement, ladies. I hope you will enjoy the ride. :) I still don't own these characters, but I love to explore the possible twists and turns of their private lives.


Perry Mason didn't remember the exact day when things had changed for him. When his perception had shifted, the way he looked at his secretary, noticed her scent. Suddenly he saw her beauty, not superficially - her eyes, her mouth, her skin - but that sparkle of hers from within. He knew the difference in her smile, when it was put on or when it was real, and realized that despite her warmth towards friends and clients Della Street smiled differently for him.

He had never seen himself as someone who would fall in love with a girl in his employ. But Della Street was different. He had known when she had first entered his office to look for a job a good two years ago, unannounced but utterly welcome. A chance encounter, working beautifully for them both. He had noticed the classic shape of her pretty face, had soon embraced her quick tongue and quicker mind, the efficiency of her tiny hands sifting through his morning mail. He had soon learned that Della didn't work her typewriter at full speed to get his attention, didn't bring him coffee to get herself a wedding ring. Miss Street loved to work, didn't mind overtime and complemented him where he needed order. She was like him in many ways, unconventional and diligent, and yet so lusciously different. She was a lady surrounded by impostors in a city of fake promises and smiles. His one in a million, steadfast and loyal despite his many peculiarities, never fishing for compliments but always welcoming them with a humble smile.

"Della?" Perry Mason shouted from behind his desk through the open door to the adjoined office of his confidential secretary.

"Yes, sir," Della gave back, already standing in the doorway with her pad and pencil in hand. "Are you ready for your dictation now?"

The lawyer took in the sight before him. As usual, her skirt was advertising her curves with class, her matching blouse and cardigan proper and decent, her hair curled up perfection. His eyes lingered on her brunette crop, peppy and elegant. And suddenly he wondered how long it took her to get her hair to look that way, if her curls were natural and tamed or created by bobby-pins each night. What it would take to see her hair curled up, what she would have him do? How her face looked without her makeup, how her mouth tasted with that lipstick...

"Chief?" Della ripped him out of his thoughts, a small smile playing around her lips.

"Did you have lunch already, Miss Street?" Mason surprised her with his question, broadening his secretary's smile as she leaned against the door frame, patting her notepad with her pencil in a bemused manner.

"Not yet," the girl Friday replied, then stopped her pencil and held it in position to take his order. "But fire away. What do you want me to get?"

Perry Mason shook his head. "Nothing. I'd like to buy you lunch instead," he said in a smooth voice that underlined the longing look in his eyes.

Della chuckled and blushed. "Oh," she said, pushed herself away from the door frame to stand straight and lowered her notepad, her shoulders unusually tense. "I suppose dictation can wait then."

"You don't have to join me if you'd rather stay in," Perry added quickly, sensing an uneasiness he was unfamiliar with.

"I just thought you had an appointment for lunch," Della Street replied demurely.

"I did," the lawyer agreed. "But my plans have changed." She didn't have to know that she had been the reason for his change of heart, that he had canceled the scheduled luncheon on his own account. That he'd rather spend the afternoon looking at her than listening to a room full of lawyers patting their own shoulders.

"So, are you ready to go?" Perry waited and watched his secretary as she was debating what to do. Her face didn't tell him anything beyond a small, polite smile. What he would give to see her at ease now, her eyes warm and loyal, her mouth curled up to display her contagious joy.

"I'll tell Gertie where to find us," Della finally said, still a little uptight.

"Do that." Mason nodded approvingly, then got up and walked around his desk to meet her in the doorway, stopping her on her way out by resting his hand on her arm, gently squeezing it to support his words.

"Is something wrong, Della?" He asked quietly, his eyes melting with hers.

"Not at all," the secretary lied, her face giving it away.

Della didn't flinch when his hand held her arm a little too long, when his gaze pierced her soul. She stood still despite the jolt his fingers sent through her when he finally reached up to caress the back of her neck, his hand slowly cupping the side of her face to draw her into a tender kiss.

He knew he loved her when she gasped a silent don't without rejecting his imprudent kiss. She was gentle in her response, reminding him of the risk of exposure although she so clearly wanted to kiss him again. It was the way she didn't mention his advances afterwards, didn't brag but blushed when his hand brushed against hers days later. It was her unchanged poise despite his longing, her wardrobe far from wicked, her dignity turning him on. And that growing twinkle of mischief, those moments when she dared to linger, resting her eyes so comfortably on his. When she chanced to caress his pinky with her own or fixed his tie to find an excuse to stand close to him. He had come to live for those minutes, those mere seconds, always gone too soon, too often interrupted by Gertie, Jackson or a case.

Really, Perry Mason did not know when it all had started, when Della had entered his mind as more than who she was supposed to be. But with each new week it became harder for him to resist, her mouth too skillful and inviting, her kiss delicious, arousing him from head to toe.