Bargains and Betrayals
returning to where we all stood. He grinned at Pietr.
    Pietr went wild and Max’s arms were suddenly filled with a snarling, snapping werewolf clawing toward his antagonist. To Pietr’s credit, his sudden loss of control made Derek jump back. The smile fell off his face and from the dim room behind him someone reached forward and took his arm.
    “Don’t be stupid,” a dark-haired woman with fine features advised Derek. Slender and well dressed, she didn’t carry herself like an agent. Catching a glimpse of her tailored outfit and high heels I doubted she was a normal feature in the bunker. “Come away now. We have a session.”
    Tight-lipped, he spared us one more look, then raised his chin arrogantly and followed her back into the dim room.
    Snapping and thrashing in his wolfskin, Pietr struggled in Max’s grip, his brilliant red eyes never leaving his ex-rival. I doubted he’d even seen the woman ghost in and away.
    With a grunt, Max dragged himself and his more than human burden toward the door.
    My mind racing, I ushered Cat out ahead of me, scooping up the remnants of Pietr’s jeans with my shoe.
    Household expenses would again be on the rise, it seemed.
    By the time we’d gotten out the front door, Pietr had changed back and slipped into his shredded pants, holding them together at his waist with a clenched fist. He didn’t say a word, just sat in the car, staring grimly ahead.
    Max dug into the glove compartment and handed him a belt to twist through his tattered waistband.
    We drove home in silence, each of us surely thinking of how we’d alone been responsible for our joint failure.
    Pietr was brooding.
    I was allowed no such luxury. Now was a time for action, not sorrowful introspection. If only I knew what action to take.…
    Pietr was the first out of the car, throwing his door open with so much force its hinges groaned and Max shouted. We shadowed him up the stairs, onto the porch, and inside the house.
    There, hidden from the potential curiosity of nosy neighbors, Pietr let loose.
    He tore through the house, filled with a white-hot anger, kicking door jambs, punching walls, and cursing. Bilingually . Cat followed, a banshee wailing for him to stop—to think  … I reached for my cigarettes and trailed them like a ghost.
    What could I say or do? My grandfather’s science was what had brought us all to the realization that Mother was dying. And we couldn’t free her—couldn’t save her.
    When Pietr cleared the small, marble-topped table at the sitting room’s edge, sending the pieces of the family’s matryoshka flying, Max took him to the ground.
    Pietr snarled and spat, cursing beneath Max’s greater bulk. Quaking with rage he was as helpless as any of us—and as helpless as Jessie had been the day her mother burned to death in their family car.
    When he turned his glowing eyes away from mine I realized he knew that, too.
    I knelt beside Pietr.
    “How long, Alexi?”
    The breath thickened in my throat, wedged beneath a lump.
    “How long does she have?”
    “Pietrrr…,” Cat whined.
    Max raised his chin and sucked his lips between his teeth, pinning them. His nostrils flared and he looked away.
    “I don’t know,” I admitted. “Months?”
    Pietr’s eyes squeezed shut. “Not even years,” he said, his tone clipped and brutal. He nodded. “Months.”
    “Maybe less.”
    He nodded again, taking it like a blow to the gut he’d somehow anticipated. “We’re not enough to get her out.”
    Max grunted and, rocking forward, stood. His hand out to help Pietr up, he said nothing. His macho posturing was gone, deflated by fact. He did not bull his way through the conversation. Shoulders slumping, he pulled Pietr to his feet.
    “What if there are more like us?” Max asked suddenly.
    “What? More Russian-Americans in Junction?” Amy asked, rubbing her workout towel around her damp ponytail, fresh from a run. “Shi—oot. What happened here?” she asked, her eyes shooting from the

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