I have to thank two people for helping me delivering this puppy: one doesn't want to be named and the other one is a wonderful writer herself and I'm really grateful that she's always there for me!
Once upon a time in Mexico
Mexico, June 1953
The whole thing started with tequila. Tequila he had to drink because he needed to gain a person's trust. The old man was the only one who knew the hiding place of Mason's client and apparently he thought his trust could be won with the invitation to share an expensive bottle of tequila. The only one who was not served was Della, because the old man said such a delicate and beautiful senorita, she wouldn't survive a drink like this.
A wicked, amused smile played around her lips as she watched her boss while he kept the man talking. Fortunately, it took only a few shots before the old man forgot to check how much the lawyer actually drank, while he visibly relaxed under the influence of the liquid.
After half an hour of sitting on the porch of the desolated farm in the sun of the late afternoon, Perry finally knew what he needed to know and gave Della a silent hint to leave.
As they walked to the car, Della chuckled and said: "Now I know why you wanted me to join you."
"And why?" He asked, as he took her elbow.
"You need a driver."
"I'm sober," he insisted with a smile, but she laughed, " Well... just give me your keys. Let me drive back to the hotel. There are a few potholes between here and there that I don't want to end up in. These sandals aren't made for walking long distances."
"All right, all right. You win."
He searched his pockets for the key and gave it to Della.
"You know, that stuff isn't that too bad," he said, after closing the car door.
"I know tequila," she said with an amused expression on her face. "It can be vile."
"I didn't know they had tequila in the Smoky Mountains! Must be wild there after the sun has set."
She started the car, put on her sunglasses, and gave him a wicked smile.
"You have no idea, Chief."
Two hours later Perry and Della sat on the terrace of the hotel having dinner and enjoying the sunset. If the tequila gave him a hard time, it didn't show. The lawyer was as composed as always.
"I talked to Paul an hour ago," he said while refilling his glass with water. "His contact man says the fingerprints we found in the office match those on the murder weapon."
"And I hope they don't match with the fingerprints of our dear Mr. Baker who is hiding here."
"Actually, they don't match," Perry smiled. "As soon as we find him, we can take him home, because Mr. Burger doesn't have the evidence to charge him for murder."
Della leaned back in her chair and gave him a smile, "You did a great job." she said.
"Oh no... you deserve half of the cake. After all, it was you who found out Baker had gone to Mexico and not to Canada, as his wife wanted us to believe and..." he made a meaningful pause, waiting for her to demand an explanation.
"And your ravishing, delicate beauty distracted our tequila man so he didn't notice I was watering his flowers with my drinks!"
Della's mouth opened and she pretended to be offended, although she blushed, embarrassed by his compliment.
"He didn't even look at me!"
Perry shook his head and looked at her thoughtfully. "Of course he looked at you! They all do!"
She cleared her throat, "If you want to believe that, I won't argue much longer. But..." She bit her lower lip, trying to decide whether to add something or not.
"But..." he encouraged her, lighting and lit a cigarette.
"Don't tell Paul, but I'm glad he broke his leg. I simply love this place. It's just beautiful here."
She looked dreamily over her shoulder at the sunset.
"I guess the next time I have to make a trip because I have to find someone, I'll have to take you with me again. You're just as good as Paul when it comes to investigation."
"Don't tell him that... he was angry enough because he had to stay in L.A."
They laughed and then the moment got disturbed by the waiter.
"Senor Mason? There's a phone call for you."
Perry looked up, "Who is it?"
"The woman didn't mention a name..." the waiter said with a side glance at Della.
"Please, excuse me for a moment," Perry said and rose. Della smiled a smile that faded the second he was out of sight.
The lawyer returned 15 minutes later. Darkness had settled in and the only the lit candles on the tables illuminated the terrace. Hoping the night covered his intention, he let his eyes rest appreciatively on his secretary. Her hair played softly around her bare shoulders. From the moment he had seen her in the thin, white blouse that exposed more of her figure than it actually covered, he had had a hard time not to staring at her. At times, he was afraid she was too much of a woman for him to ignore and the worst thing was, she didn't even know it and therefore he couldn't ask her to stop. Della Street was one of those natural beauties who had no idea what they could do to a man by just looking at him. It was a gift that offended other women who were not sure enough of themselves.
"Tequila?" he asked teasingly, as he sat down with a small bottle in one hand and two shot glasses with lime in the other.
"You said you know tequila... be my guest. The bartender said this type was very smooth."
"You really love to live dangerously, don't you? Is this a test?" she winked at him.
"One can run, but one can't hide."
Her back connected with the wall next to the door leading to her room. Feeling his hot breath in the crook of her neck set her whole body on fire. Her skin was tingling and she arched her body against his, eager to feel his touch everywhere. She heard herself moaning when his hand came to rest on her breast, massaging her through the thin fabric of her blouse. A heatwave took possession of her, but she was sure the alcohol wasn't the essence she could blame for her behavior. The fire, the danger was within her and she didn't want to fight it. She wanted him, badly and she knew she could have him, no questions asked. Her mouth phrased hushed words of desire, words she wouldn't remember afterwards, but he understood them. His mouth traced over her naked shoulder, her collar bone, and found its destination on her mouth, silencing her efficiently. Her fingers ran though his hair and then down his neck, caressing and squeezing him. Their passion grew as the kiss went on, but neither of them wanted to break apart, afraid to lose the genuine passion, afraid to remember they shouldn't do this, because it could only complicate their lives.
Groping her mercilessly, his hands explored her body. Wanting nothing more than to get rid off the disturbing clothes that covered her, he memorized every detail of her body. He felt her breast tighten under the palm of his right hand and enjoyed the feeling of her tensed muscles when his other hand cupped her bottom. All he had to do now was find the key, open the door, and take her inside.
It was the slight taste of alcohol left in her kisses that awoke doubts in him. He knew she wasn't drunk, maybe not even really tipsy, but the idea she could wake up next to him, regretting what they had done, disturbed him; yet every fiber of his body screamed for her, wanted her. He forced his hand away from the warm place underneath her breast and placed it tenderly on her shoulder, stroking the heated skin there with his thumb. He had to catch his breath when he broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers.
"You have to send me away," he said hoarsely. "Otherwise we won't even make it inside."
"I want you to stay," she whispered back and kissed him again.
"The damn tequila... you don't know what you're doing..." he objected, weaker this time, because her lips teased the skin under his ear lobe.
"Try me..." her body was pressed against his. Fitting perfectly to him, she ran her hands under his jacket to get a hold on his shirt.
He didn't know where he gained the strength to break apart from her, but he did it
As gently as possible he took her hands, kissed each and held them to his chest.
"No Della... I can't... please, we'll talk tomorrow morning."
Wishing she were tipsy for real because that way he had another explanation than natural desire for the way she had reacted to his assault, he exhaled and turned. He left the hallway as fast as his steps could take him without starting to run. He needed a cold shower to survive tonight... and maybe another drink.
She knew it wasn't the alcohol that had her head spinning and her body burning. She could still feel his hands all over her body, her lips were swollen, and she had no idea how get rid of the perfidious tickling that possessed her. It wasn't sane to feel attracted, actually more than just attracted, to her boss?
Unhappy with herself, she picked up her robe and went into the bathroom to prepare for the night. She knew Perry had done the right thing when he stopped before they had crossed the line, but her body wasn't so convinced. This was going to be a long night.
With the knock on her door, pure electricity rushed through her veins. For several moments she was startled until she could turn just to stare at the door. She didn't dare to breathe while she waited. Would he go, if she refused to open? Would he wait? Insist? She had no idea. He knocked again.
"I see the light, Della," he said calmly. "Please, open. I promise to behave."
She sighed, "Just a moment."
She fastened the sash of her robe, exhaled deeply and opened the door. He had removed his tie and had opened the first buttons of his shirt. His hair looked messed up and she remembered she had run her fingers through it... she cleared her throat and asked him to enter.
"So?" she asked after she had closed the door. Her heart beat faster and she halfway expected him to fire her.
"I want to apologize. My behavior was inappropriate... from the moment I asked you the taste the tequila."
"It's all right. I should have declined."
He looked at her. "I like you," he said without taking his eyes from her. "I like you very much. You're intelligent, caring and you're fun... working with you is a pleasure..."
"And let me guess... that's the problem."
"No. I'm the problem, because I don't want to change it..."
"So, maybe I should be the one to ask you to fire me," she concluded. He looked at her, surprised, even shocked.
"Do you want that?"
She shook her head, laughing unhappily, "No, that's not what I want. But as I see it, one of us has to make a decision..." her voice trailed off.
"What's his name?"
"Whose name?" she asked, shocked. There was nobody... not beside him.
"You've changed in the last few weeks... you smile more often... you look better than ever... I thought it could only be a man... someone you date..."
She shook her head, "There's no one..." she swallowed the "Only you" part of the sentence and looked down on her bare feet.
"Who is she?" she asked back.
He narrowed his eyes. "The woman on the phone. The one that gave you the idea of the tequila."
Mason sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. "Someone who's hard to live with."
"I see... She's a lucky woman."
Years later she remembered that moment as the reason for not asking him to fire her. She just hoped to stay with him, no matter how and why he wanted to keep her. Her heart had definitely started using a language she found hard to understand, but suddenly that didn't matter anymore. She had made her decision.
"And now?" he asked, his hands buried in his pockets. "Where do we go from here?"
"I guess we could try and be... boss and secretary?"
He nodded slowly and she couldn't say, if he was happy with her suggestion or not.
"Deal... what about friendship?"
She smiled, relieved, "I can imagine being the best of friends with you."