See chapter one for disclaimers
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To Rebecca, my sledge-hammer wielding soul mate. Nothing can demolish the love I have for you, sweetheart (Did you spot my pathetic attempt at a pun? <g>)
"I've got a proposition for you." Terri announced, shutting Devlin's cell door softly and ignoring the dissolute grin that greeted her. "And you can get your mind out of the gutter, because it's not what you're thinking."
"Oh yeah? And since when did you develop the ability to read my mind?" Devlin countered, relishing Terri's somewhat endearing chagrin.
Terri gave her a tolerant smile. "I'm not psychic Devlin, you're just not as capricious as you like to think."
"Well then, you should count yourself lucky - because if anyone else spoke to me like that, they'd soon be discovering the repercussions of opening their big mouth." Devlin's tone radiated hostility, but the twinkle of affection in her eyes made the implied threat seem negligible.
"I thought we'd established that I'm immune to any form of intimidation," Terri enunciated, watching Devlin's eyes narrow in feigned animosity and sticking her tongue out in response. "See?"
They shared an indulgent grin, eyes sparkling with something neither were prepared to acknowledge at that particular moment in time.
"How do you think the inmates would respond if I organised a tennis tournament?"
"A tennis tournament?" Devlin glanced at Terri in wry amusement.
The governor sighed audibly, relieved when her ribs offered no objection to the harsh release of breath. "Yes Devlin, a tennis tournament. Now, could you actually voice a response because I don't think I've quite mastered the art of reading eyebrows."
Devlin grinned. "Well, it's not a bad idea... if you're planning to instigate world war three."
"All right. Fine, just forget I even mentioned it."
"Hey." Devlin studied Terri's dejected countenance in concern. "I'm just a little wary of any form of competition, that's all. The girls around here are the type to take defeat personally and when you consider the consequences..."
"All right." Terri hesitated. "What about inmates versus officers?"
Devlin considered. "No, I think that'd just reinforce the notion of 'them and us.'" She paused momentarily. "How about we play doubles and get the inmates to pair off with an officer? That way you're coercing them in to co-operating with one another. It might ease some of the tension."
"You know, that's not a bad idea." Terri nodded tentatively, a smile spreading across her attractive features. "But what are we gonna do about the inmate-to-officer ratio? There're only twelve officers on C-wing, so there's bound to be an over-supply of inmates wanting to take part."
Devlin shrugged. "Make them go through qualifying or something. And you'll need umpires and ball girls, too, so they'll all be able to get involved."
Terri nodded, impulsively reaching out to ruffle Devlin's ebony tresses. "It's good to know that there's a functioning brain beneath all of that brawn."
"You're pushing your luck now, Kirkwood." Devlin captured a slender wrist as it made a rapid retreat, piercing blue eyes studying Terri's face for any adverse reaction. All she saw was wry amusement. Her lower lip curled in to a carnal sneer and a perfectly plucked eyebrow raised nonchalantly in response. All right, this is war. Slowly, she brought the hand to her lips, kissing the silken skin with surprising tenderness. A grin graced her chiselled features as Terri's expression reverted to stunned astonishment, a blush promptly colouring her countenance.
"You don't play fair," the governor chastised as her trembling hand was released.
"And you look cute when you pout."
They gazed at each other for a moment, Terri well aware that she should voice some objection to Devlin's behaviour and the inmate silently waiting for a reproach that never came.
"Right, well I'm going to go and draw up a notice on the DTP," Terri eventually interposed, in a semi-successful attempt to ease the stifling tension.
"You know, being completely reliant on modern technology is not a good thing."
Terri smiled sheepishly. "There isn't an alternative in my case. I can't draw to save my life."
"Then how about I make you a nice, traditional, hand-crafted poster?" Devlin ventured, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
Terri glanced at the inmate curiously. "I didn't realise art and design was your forte."
"Yeah, well chronic boredom can make doodling with a black marker pen seem like a trip to Disneyland."
"OK. If you're sure." Terri studied the gleam in Devlin's captivating eyes suspiciously. "Why do I get the feeling that you're up to something?"
"Moi?" Devlin feigned innocence. "I wouldn't dream of it. I just want to make sure that this idea of yours is promoted in the best possible way."
Terri was beginning to discover the merits of using her eyebrows to articulate a range of emotions. "Really."
Devlin grinned. "C'mon, don't you trust me?"
"Right at this moment? No, I don't think I do."
"Well, I'll just have to prove you wrong then, won't I? Come back in a couple of hours and it'll be ready."
"OK." Terri hesitated. "Just don't make it too risqué."
"For God's sake, you make it sound like I'm amoral or something. All I did was murder someone." Devlin's typically deadpan demeanour faltered, moulding in to a contented grin as she watched Terri struggle futilely to suppress a peal of melodious laughter.
"You're priceless, you know that?" Terri studied the inmate with affectionate awe, relishing the admittedly inappropriate rapport that had developed between them. Her respect for Devlin seemed to amplify with every moment she spent engaging in their gratifying and often shamelessly flirtatious banter. The fact that she was physically unable to stop herself from responding unnerved her, and yet she enjoyed the inmate's company to such an extent that withdrawing from their friendship would truly traumatise her.
"Priceless, huh?" Devlin studied the array of emotions momentarily playing across Terri's countenance. "In the context of a compliment or an insult?"
"What do you think?" Terri grinned. "I just have to restrict my phraseology to ensure that your ego doesn't expand beyond its limitations."
For some unknown reason, Terri's innocent quip stirred an unexpected upsurge of bitterness within Devlin and her previously light-hearted tone became infiltrated with anger. "Believe me, I don't have a problem staying grounded in this shit hole. I know you're just brimming with naive ideologies, Terri, but in case you hadn't gathered, prison doesn't exactly do much to enhance your self-esteem."
Terri was momentarily bemused by the seemingly unfounded diatribe, until it became evident that she'd unintentionally struck a chord within the ravel of suppressed emotion lurking beneath Devlin's placid exterior.
"I know. I'm sorry," she whispered softly, laying an apologetic hand on Devlin's tense forearm, her emerald eyes shining with empathy.
"Don't be." Devin glanced at her in sheepish remorse. "Terri, it's not you. Let's just say that I have a built-in defence mechanism which gets triggered way too easily."
Terri shrugged amicably. "Maybe so, but you don't need to apologise for it. Hell, if I'd been through the shit that you have, I'd probably react in the same way."
"No you wouldn't," Devlin countered with conviction. "I can't picture you taking out your frustration on anyone aside from yourself. Well, except maybe Lee of course, but he would've been enough to push Mother Teresa over the edge." They shared a smile, but the moment of amusement did little to appease the suddenly earnest atmosphere.
"Look Devlin, I don't want you to be wary of voicing your opinions. I actually find being screamed at less adversarial than the dreaded stoic silence." Terri studied the inmate pointedly. "You sometimes look like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders, and I'd do anything to help alleviate that."
"Why?" Devlin looked at her questioningly. "There're a lot of girls in here who're considerably more fucked up than I am. Why don't you waste your time with them?"
"Because wasting my time is precisely what I'd be doing. I've done everything I can for a lot of people in here, but there comes a time when they have to get a grip of their lives and begin that god forsaken process of self-realisation. You on the other hand, are completely the opposite." Terri purposely ignored the eyebrows that rose in a challenge to her impending speech and continued regardless. "You're not wallowing in self pity and you don't depend on other people to appease your ego. You try to figure out everything for yourself when sometimes it'd be a whole lot easier just to talk it over. Bottling everything up only leads to self-destruction, Devlin, and I don't want to see that happen to you. I don't know what that goddamn jury were thinking when they returned a guilty verdict, but you have so much potential and I'm not about to let you throw it all away." Terri halted upon seeing the moisture glistening in Devlin's lustrous eyes and suddenly found herself swallowing a prominent lump in her own throat. She tenderly reached out to wipe away a stray tear as it skulked down the inmate's cheek. "And in case you hadn't noticed as of yet, I also happen to like you a lot more than I probably should."
Not sure if she could suppress the onslaught of emotion any longer, Terri stepped away from the silent inmate, her hand lingering on Devlin's arm for slightly longer than necessary. Taking a moment to regain her faltering composure, she turned and wordlessly left the cell, leaving Devlin staring after her in awed admiration.
"You're spending a lot of time in Devlin Fielding's cell," Lee ventured, intentionally intercepting Terri in the deserted corridor leading towards her office. He glanced at the governor with a mixture of distaste and curiosity, disappointed with her stolid reaction. It was impossible to imagine just what exactly went on within the recesses of Terri Kirkwood's mind, especially as her emerald eyes failed to register any extreme of emotion during their encounters.
"Spying on people is a form of harassment, Lee." Terri eyed him pointedly. "I hope you're aware of that."
Lee laughed, the grating cackle unnerving Terri more than she was willing to admit. "Come on, you're in and out of there like a yo-yo. Everyone's noticed it," he enunciated, his eyes gleaming mischievously as he saw an iota of alarm briefly dent her stoic composure.
"Really?" Terri forced incredulity to emanate from every inch of her petite frame, even though inwardly her heart was pounding erratically. "Well that's surprising, considering no-one else has mentioned it. I can only presume that you're being overly scrupulous, Lee." She paused for effect. "Again."
"Oh, I don't know." Lee edged closer to her, giving Terri direct access to his putrid breath. "Maybe I'm the only one around here who isn't fooled by your sweetness and light routine. I know exactly what you're up to, Terri. I'm more perceptive than you think."
"Oh well, in that case please enlighten me, because I really don't have a clue what you're ranting on about." Terri met his gaze unflinchingly, daring him to confirm his indiscreet insinuations.
"You're shagging her."
Terri let out a bark of derisive laughter, her heart suddenly returning to it's natural rhythm. "Lee, I'm not denying that I've made a few brief visits to Devlin's cell, but if you think we were doing anything other than talking, then you're very much mistaken." Her eyes crinkled in amusement. "You might only be able to last for two minutes, but even when I'm in the mood for instant gratification I try to prolong things for a little longer than that."
Lee stared at her, somewhat stupefied and festering in suppressed indignation. "Don't talk to me like that," he eventually rasped, his eyes narrowing in contempt.
Terri had once again managed to strike a chord within the insubordinate officer, but her triumphant smile rapidly faded. "I wouldn't have to if you weren't prone to making such wild accusations. You should watch what you say in the future Lee, because spreading allegations like that'll probably show you up for the incompetent, narrow-minded bigot that you are. Now, I'm getting sick and tired of you harassing me and if you do it again, I'm going to make a formal complaint, you got that?"
"Ma'am." Lee glared at her, stepping back to make way for his loathed superior as she sauntered past him, the epitome of authority. He knew there was no point in instigating another war of words with Terri, namely because he always suffered a humiliating defeat. There were discreet alternatives to direct confrontation though, and he had a feeling that adopting less blatant tactics would compliment the underhand workings of his mind.
"Prepare yourself," Devlin warned Terri with a conspicuous wink, uncovering her alleged masterpiece - previously swathed in bog roll - with exaggerated gusto. She studied the governor's reaction attentively, breaking in to a grin as she saw tears of stifled laughter well in Terri's expressive emerald eyes.
"Oh my God, Devlin, it's brilliant." Terri giggled in delight as she studied the unflattering caricature of Lee Robinson. The officer was depicted wielding a tennis racket, clad in tight shorts which showed off his acute cellulite to perfection. The buttons on his bland T-shirt were undone, giving access to a sinisterly hairy torso, and the flimsy material itself was saturated with rank sweat. Unsightly features screwed up in intense concentration, Devlin had captured Lee making a desperately futile lunge to return the ball situated only a few yards away from him. The caption evoked another peal of laughter: 'You think you can give this man a run for his money? In case you hadn't gathered, stamina's not required.'
"He's gonna go ape shit." Terri whispered, her mischievous grin conveying that the thought wasn't entirely unwelcome. "God, I can't wait to see the look on his face."
Relishing the opportunity to reveal her rarely disclosed revelry, Devlin's eyes sparkled with devilment. "I was hoping to induce a heart attack. You think I'll have any luck?"
Their eyes simultaneously dropped to the picture and then met with uncanny understanding, making both of them dissolve in to a fit of melodious giggles which took several moments to subside.
"We're not being petty and immature, are we?" Terri ventured with feigned concern, glancing at Devlin wryly.
"Nah, we're just overly enthusiastic about our advertising campaign." Devlin hesitated, her grin giving way to sobriety. "Listen Terri, about earlier. I just wanted to say thank you for making me acknowledge a few home truths." She studied the floor in an attempt to hide the unshed tears welling in her eyes. "It means a lot to know that someone actually gives a damn about me."
"Hey." Terri instinctively reached out to lay a hand on Devlin's forearm. "You don't have to thank me. If it wasn't for you, I would've given up on this job a long time ago." She smiled at the dubious expression etched across the inmate's countenance. "Devlin, you're the only person in the whole of this cursed establishment who I actually enjoy conversing with. And anytime you need to talk, I'll be here for you, OK?"
"I thought you said I didn't need anyone to appease my ego? Because right now, you're doing a pretty good job of it." Devlin gave Terri an affectionate grin and then gestured to the picture she was clutching against her chest. "Are you really gonna use that?"
Terri laughed. "What, are you kidding? I'm not about to let all your talent go to waste, am I?"
"And God forbid that anyone would miss an opportunity to piss off Lee," Devlin teased, with a knowing wink.
"Well, I'm not about to deny that I have an aversion to virtually all of his traits. Especially as he's been even more of bastard than usual lately."
Devlin frowned. "In what way?"
Terri noted the sharp edge to the inmate's tone and decided not to inform her of Lee's latest accusation. "It's nothing I can't handle. I just had a run in with him earlier, that's all. No matter how many times I humiliate him, he just keeps coming back for more. I think I might have really struck a chord this time, though."
Terri grinned. "I made a joke about his lack of sexual prowess, and it must have hit home pretty hard because he was actually rendered speechless for all of about a second."
"So the lovely Mr Robinson's all talk and no action, huh?" Devlin gave a self-depreciating laugh. "God, I just love accumulating more fodder to taunt him with."
"I know the feeling." Terri hesitated. "I take it you're going to get involved in the tennis tournament?"
"The fact that it's my brainchild isn't enough?"
"Well to be honest, I was kind of hoping that you'd be my partner."
Devlin glanced the governor lasciviously. "Are you propositioning me again, Miss Kirkwood?"
"Well yeah, I suppose I am." Terri met the penetrating blue eyes with a coy smile. "So, what do you say?"
Lee Robinson frowned as he studied the group of giggling inmates gathering around a nearby notice board. He loathed the sound of laughter, especially when it arose from flagrantly amoral women who were supposed to be suffering the effects of a meagre and demoralising lifestyle. "All right, what's so fucking funny?" he demanded, shoving the crowd aside and ignoring the indignant yelps of those on the receiving end of his elbows. Upon seeing the poster, his eyes at first widened in shock, and then narrowed in fury as the laughter around him intensified. Yanking the paper from the board, so vehemently vexed that his blunt nails left trails of animosity in the thin sheet of MDF, he turned to face the cackling congregation.
"Right, that's it. Shut up." His words had little effect in quashing the mocking grins that greeted him. "SHUT THE FUCK UP." With veins bulging and palpable stress chorusing through every capillary, Lee's multi-decibel yell could be heard reverberating across the wing.
Terri, watching the scene unfold from a nearby corner, dissolved in to helpless laughter. Leaning against an amused Devlin to prevent herself from collapsing, she held up her hand triumphantly. The inmate grinned, slapping it companionably and suppressing her elation as Terri assumed a gentle grip upon her wrist.
"You're unbelievable, you know that?" Devlin breathed the words in to Terri's ear, noticing the responsive shiver as she allowed her lithe form to brush lightly against the governor's back.
"So are you." For one blissful moment, Terri became immune to her surroundings and began absently caressing the silken skin beneath her finger tips. Reality was quick to kick in though, and she promptly released Devlin's arm, glancing upwards to gauge the inmate's reaction. "Sorry."
"I don't remember complaining." Devlin met the apologetic gaze with wry amusement, deciding to take pity on Terri and move away before a blazing blush could conquer her countenance.
Lee meanwhile, having ordered the inmates to return to their cells, stared at the crumpled poster in his trembling hands. He was not blessed with the trait of being able to laugh at his own misfortunes, and the fact that the whole Wing had seen him at his most vulnerable did little to appease the rage throbbing through his rigid form. He knew that Terri Kirkwood was behind this demoralising attempt to taint his dignity, and his ever-present lust for revenge suddenly intensified. The governor had a seemingly infinite supply of inmate-friendly sentiments, and the tennis tournament was just another example of her painful naivety. She didn't suffer fools gladly though, and Lee sensed that manipulating her would not be an easy feat. That said, he'd never been one to disregard his chances, however minimal they appeared to be. The temptation of reprisal was simply too enticing to resist.
To be continued in Chapter 7....
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