Bound and Determined
exactly a hardship,” she admitted with a smile.
    “Even so.” He smiled at her backhanded compliment. “Kidnapping me, agreeing to have sex with me; they’re big steps to help someone you don’t know for sure a jury will find guilty.”
    Kerry shook her head. “He has no one on his side. The investigator has decided he’s found his man. The public defender is overworked and, I think, out of his league. Mark had plenty of access to the money and ample motive. His wife is overwrought and not equipped for the stress. He has no one to help him except me, so I’m going to do what I can. I owe him that.”
    “Owe him how? Because you share blood?”
    “He practically raised me. Our dad died in a car accident when I was two. So Mark, my mom, and I were tight. When I was little, we lived in this teeny apartment near the mall. Not the best neighborhood, but all Mom could afford.” Kerry paused, swallowed. “When I was eleven, I was really sick; high temperature, sore throat, the works. My mom ran to the corner convenience store at, like, midnight to get me some cough syrup.”
    She got quiet, teared up. Rafe had a bad feeling he knew where this story was going.
    “Asshole with a gun?” he asked gently.
    Kerry nodded. “The robbery was in progress. He shot her twice, and that was it. Her life was over. I remember thinking at her funeral that mine was, too. I still miss her so much.”
    Rafe understood. The words clogged in his throat, so he just kept stroking her back, offering silent comfort.
    After a sniffle, she went on. “The foster system got ahold of us after that. At least they kept us together. Mark sheltered me from everything bad. He helped me with homework, protected me from school bullies who threatened me, beat up guys who thought I was an easy target. I still remember him trying to explain my period to me when he barely understood it.” Her shimmer of a smile brimmed with affection. “He taught me physics, how to play football. Mark did his best to be both a mom and dad, even though he’s only four years older.
    “When he turned nineteen, he scraped together somemoney and petitioned the courts for custody. At the time, he was working for a bank, so he got custody. It was so great to be out of the system, away from people who never let you forget for an instant that the only reason you lived in their house was because the state paid them.”
    Without thought, Rafe tightened his arms around her. She’d had a tough childhood, and her brother, guilty or not, clearly meant a lot to her.
    “You and Mark are real close, it sounds like.”
    “Mark is all the family I have left. I’d do anything to help him.”
    “I got that.” He caressed her shoulder. “So he took you in when you were fifteen, and things have been peaceful until recently?”
    “I wish.” Using the cuffs’ retractable feature, Kerry sat up and curled her knees up to her chest, securing them to her with her arms. “Just before I turned seventeen, Mark was diagnosed with an advanced form of melanoma. He lost his job because he missed so much work. That meant he lost his insurance, too. I took afternoon and weekend jobs to pay rent, buy food, pay bills. It wasn’t enough, not even close. I felt like I let him down.”
    Rafe grasped her face between his hands, forcing her to look at him. “You were a kid. You couldn’t have done more.”
    She shrugged. “When Mark recovered from cancer two years ago, I thought he finally had a second chance at life. He was beginning to pay off his medical bills, though it’s going to take years. I’m helping him as best I can. And he married Tiffany six months ago. She makes my neighbor’s poodle look like Einstein, but Mark loves her, I guess. His life should finally be happy. Instead, he’s facing this crap.” She shook her head. “It just not fair. He sacrificed so much to see me happy. Once, he even sold the stamp collection he’d had since he was really little to buy me a birthday

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