Mike Shepherd Vicky Peterwald: Target

ISBN 13: 9780425266571

Vicky Peterwald: Target

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9780425266571: Vicky Peterwald: Target

The first installment in the Vicky Peterwald series

BEAUTY AND THE BATTLEFIELD

Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe-Peterwald, daughter of wealth and power, was raised to do little except be attractive and marry well. Then everything changed—her brother, her father’s favorite and the heir apparent, was killed in battle by Lieutenant Kris Longknife, daughter of the Peterwald’s longtime enemies. Vicky vowed revenge, but her skill set was more suitable for seduction than assassination, and she failed. Angry and disappointed, her father decided she needed military training and forced her to join the Navy.

Now Ensign Vicky Peterwald is part of a whole new world, where use of her ample charms will not lead to advancement. But her father is the Emperor, and what he wants he gets. What he wants is for Vicky to learn to be efficiently ruthless and deadly.

Though the lessons are hard learned, Vicky masters them—with help from an unexpected source: Kris Longknife.

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About the Author:

Mike Shepherd is a pseudonym for Mike Moscoe. Moscoe is a full-time writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of the Kris Longknife series including Kris Longknife: Defender, and the Jump Universe series including To Do or Die. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

HER Imperial Grace, the Grand Duchess Lieutenant Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe-Peterwald watched the romantic vision on the screen. Slowly, Kris Longknife broke from her embrace and first kiss with her chief of security, Captain Jack Montoya.

It sure took you two long enough.

The flashing red icon at the bottom of the screen told Vicky that she was the only one watching the touching scene. Captain Drago had pulled the quarterdeck video from the public net.

Who would have taken the hard-nosed skipper for such a softy, letting the star-crossed lovers have their privacy?

Vicky saw no reason for anyone to have any privacy. Not if it cost her her life. She’d paid a pretty penny, with a few extra benefits on the side, to make sure anything that happened on the Wasp was no secret to her.

It was very unlikely that the small personal tragedy playing out pier side would impact Vicky’s safety. Still, she watched. How would the ineffable Kris Longknife handle this situation? Though Vicky doubted she’d ever have to leave her one true love, still, it would be well to study how a Longknife did it.

Who knew what might come in handy someday?

Kris certainly had the “sincere” down solid. Vicky would have bet money that she and that big loving lunkhead of a man were seriously thinking of taking the chance, trying their luck at outrunning or outfighting the dozen battle-armored Marines the local admiral had brought to make sure her orders were obeyed.

With slow agony, the great Kris Longknife took another step and broke finger contact with her frozen-in-place love. Vicky could almost hear the strings in the background that always went with such movie scenes of heartbreak and denial.

Vicky felt like puking.

She didn’t. Her staff was watching her watching Kris, and Vicky would measure her reaction to their expectations of their lord and master.

Finally, Kris turned from Jack and hurried into the waiting courier ship.

“I’m glad that’s over,” Vicky said dryly to her own audience . . . and switched gears, back to survival mode. “Lieutenant Heinbock, drop down to the wardroom and see if you can overhear anything about what they intend to do with this wreck of a ship. Chief Materhand, you know where the CPO still is. Go have a drink. Hang around and see if they have any better scuttlebutt.”

Her two subordinates might be serving members of the Greenfeld fleet, but here, on the strange ship that Kris Longknife had put together with more spirit than intent, they had become accepted as just one of the boys. Vicky still wasn’t sure how to take that. After all, the Peterwalds and the Longknifes did hate each other’s guts.

The two men hurried off to obey her. Vicky turned to Kit and Kat, two of the most deadly women she had ever met. Each was 120 pounds of death in either hands, feet, or, no doubt, other portions of their lovely bodies.

They were also her body servants. “I would kill right now for a clean set of underwear.”

Since freshwater was flowing from the station into the wreck of the Wasp, laundry was finally possible. The two set to work on that immediately.

That took care of four of Vicky’s five remaining friends in this world, if you could call those bound to obey her every whim friends. Her one true friend, Dr. Margarita Rodriguez, had been making herself scarce for the last couple of weeks. The good doctor hadn’t much cared for the attack that killed, what, billions of aliens. She had been in a huff after Vicky went on a bender and very likely said some really nasty things.

Vicky, of course, had no recollection of anything she said that night. All she remembered was something about showing up on Kris Longknife’s doorstep and maybe something about Doc Maggie, and then waking up violently ill the next day.

I must be more careful with alcohol.

That left Vicky assigning herself a task.

Kris Longknife had been right about one thing: Vicky dare not go ashore. Until she got an update on conditions at her father’s Imperial Palace, there was no way to guess if, no, not if but rather how many assassins would be waiting for her the moment she set foot off the Wasp.

Vicky had come a long way on the Wasp and, at least of late, no one among the crew had tried to kill her. Strange as it sounded, this Peterwald had come to feel safe on this Longknife’s ship.

Vicky shook her head at that unheard-of thought. Her family and the Longknifes had been at each other’s throats since before the Iteeche Wars. For over a hundred years, if she was to believe the angry words her dad threw around at the mere mention of the Longknifes. Her father liked to brag that the Peterwalds had had wealth and power since the times when the Pope still had an army. But for three generations it had been the Longknifes. Always the Longknifes. Every turn, every twist that had kept the Peterwalds from their just place at the forefront of human affairs had a Longknife at the bottom of it.

Vicky had grown up believing every word her dad spoke. Lately, watching one Kris Longknife at work, Vicky was having trouble matching those words to Kris’s actions. Had her dad and granddad been mistaken, or was Kris just a different kind of Longknife?

And did Vicky want to become a different kind of Peterwald?

Could she?

Vicky mulled that question as she headed for the Forward Lounge. There, if anywhere on the crippled Wasp, she might find out both the fate of the ship . . . and her own.

As Vicky expected, Mother MacCreedy was back in business, if not fully restocked. Vicky ordered a beer at the bar and turned to survey the place for potential sources of information. It took her only a second to spot her best bet.

Kris and her team usually took the table most forward, the one just below the huge screen. The screen was dead at the moment, like so much in the ship, but Jack Montoya of the recent kiss and Penny Lien Pasley were huddled together over beers at the usual table.

Vicky headed for them.

As so often happened when Vicky approached a conversation, it died. It wasn’t just that way on a Longknife ship. It had been that way everywhere and for as long as she could remember. She’d put it down to being born to power, but she couldn’t help but notice how rarely talk came to a roaring halt when Kris joined a conversation.

More to think about . . . when she found the time.

“Do you mind if I join you?” Vicky asked.

“No,” Jack said. “Pull up a chair.”

Vicky chose to sit across from Jack. Penny had been resting her hand on Jack’s but had quickly withdrawn it when Vicky approached. Vicky didn’t want to appear a threat to them. Still, she had to wonder just how consoling Penny might be, and how much “support” Jack was willing to accept.

Vicky quickly went down the short list of what she was supposed to know and decided a good opener was, “Jack, you look terrible. Is something wrong?”

“Kris has been rushed onto a fast courier for Wardhaven,” Penny supplied.

“Without any security support,” Jack growled into his hardly touched beer. “Not me. Not anyone.”

Vicky decided that a few supportive words might be in order. “If Wardhaven fast couriers are anything like the ones we have in Greenfeld, they’re about the safest way to travel in space. The crews are small, and they’ve been scrubbed for any security flaw. If Kris got on one, I’d bet anything she gets off of it.”

“Yes, but where?” Jack snapped.

“Her great-grandfather, the king, wants to see her,” Penny provided.

“That sounds reasonable to me,” Vicky admitted. “We did kind of start a war out there.” Vicky found herself glancing over her shoulder as if she might, even now, see some angry alien raider chasing after them. They had been chased nearly halfway across the galaxy.

“I know, I know,” Jack said. “She’s safe on the courier. She’s safe around the king. But what next? Where will they send her? Wherever they do, she’s going to need security. Me. My Marines. A secure inner and outer perimeter. Otherwise, her odds of staying alive aren’t any better than yours.” Jack finished by running a worried hand through his hair. He was long past due for a haircut. It had grown out wavy and kind of cute on the guy.

Vicky kept her hands to herself. No running them through that mane.

Off-limits, girl. No one else may have seen that kiss, but you did.

“Wasn’t it the king himself that got Kris her security team?” Vicky said. “Abby, you, Marines, then more Marines. Don’t you think he’ll be careful with his great-granddaughter?”

Jack glanced at the blank screen, then closed his eyes, as if to avoid seeing something only he could see. “Yes. Yes. Yes. I know. The king will do his best, but will it be enough? I know Kris. I’ve kept her safe for five years. I know the damn fool stuff she does. Sometimes I know what she’s going to do beforeshe knows she’s going to do it. I can keep her safe. You willing to bet anyone else can?”

Vicky would bet that the real center of this conversation was that secret kiss, but Penny was shaking her head no, so Vicky shook her head no. That seemed to satisfy Jack. He put his head in his hands, rested his elbows on the table, and went silent.

Penny rested a supportive hand on Jack’s arm. Vicky was about ready to give up on finding an opportunity to raise her own concerns when Penny turned to eye her.

“How are you doing?” the intelligence officer asked.

“I’m still breathing,” Vicky admitted. “Not all that sure that I will continue that bad habit if I go ashore. How safe is High Chance?”

Penny almost chuckled. “Last time we were here, it was the dead end of nowhere, but I hear things have changed. Now it’s part of the Helvetican Confederation and becoming something of a trading center. This station is still U.S. territory, though. Don’t ask me to explain how we ended up owning the station above a sovereign planet. It’s a long, twisted, and kind of funny story.”

“Kris said I wouldn’t last an hour if she put me ashore.”

“I think she might have gotten carried away,” Penny said of her friend. “You have to weigh the odds. Your enemies only have so much money to hire assassins. They can’t know where you’ll be coming back to, or, let’s face it, even if we were coming back. I think you’ll be safe for now.”

“That your professional opinion? What you’d give Kris?”

That got Vicky a wry grin. “Kris could make enemies on the spot in no time at all. You don’t strike me as that kind of gal. Are you?”

“I try not to inspire murder by my walk.”

“On the contrary,” Penny said, now smiling. “Your walk inspires a lot of things in men’s minds, but murder is hardly one of them.”

Vicky shrugged. “I am what I was raised to be, somebody’s wife.”

“But now you stand to inherit an empire, Grand Duchess.”

“Weary rests the head that wears the crown,” Vicky said.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. So, I don’t see any of your four security types following you. You feel safe on the Wasp?”

“Hard as it is for me to believe it, yes.”

“So you’re wondering how long you can stay in this safe cocoon, aren’t you?”

“Am I that transparent?”

“I’m an intelligence officer. I’m paid to connect the dots. Your dots are rather obvious. And I’ve been wondering, too. The chief engineer told Captain Drago this morning that he was down checking the reactors for space. He wanted to go cold steel just as fast as he could. Ship’s Lieutenant says that the only thing keeping space out of half of the Wasp’s spaces is emergency goo, and we’re not supposed to trust our lives to goo. At least not on a regular basis.”

Penny took a moment to reflect on the information she’d just passed along. “My best guess is they’ll scrap the Wasp here at the pier, or haul her out and set her on a course to crash into the sun.”

“It’s a coin flip, huh?”

“Mimzy, what’s your call?” Penny asked her computer.

“Chance is growing economically at nine to ten percent a year,” the computer answered. “The price for scrap metal is twelve percent above the average. There’s a ship wrecker on Bern just three jumps away that’s likely to bid on any contract to take the Wasp apart and drop it dirtside. While the reactors may not be safe for space, Chance is hungry for power and will jump at the chance to get two more reactors, cheap. If you gave me fifty-fifty odds she’d be scrapped, I’d take the bet.”

“No bet, Mimzy. I’d never bet against one of Nelly’s kids,” Vicky said.

“It would be dumb to,” Mimzy agreed.

“Are they all like that?” Vicky asked Penny, with a raised eyebrow.

“It’s hard to be humble when you’re that great,” the Navy officer said with a grin.

“We are humble. We know our limitations,” Mimzy shot back. “But calculating the odds on a simple economic transaction is something we could do all day and never get wrong.”

“You have limits?” Vicky said, surprised to hear one of Nelly’s kids admit to any such thing.

The computer got real quiet.

Vicky turned back to Penny. “So you don’t think I need to worry about anyone trying to kill me just now. But about the time I need to start worrying about somebody getting here with a contract on my fair head, I’m likely to be shut out of house and home and dumped on the beach.”

Penny winced at the obvious conclusion to her assessment. “I guess I did say that, didn’t I?” the intelligence officer admitted. “You want to run for it now rather than wait for them to come here?”

“Run for where, and with what? Your Kris kind of got my fleet whipped out.” Vicky had shown up to join Kris’s Fleet of Discovery with four of the biggest battleships in human space. She was coming back from the other side of the galaxy with little more than the clothes on her back. She would have some explaining to do when she got home. No doubt about that.

Penny’s face got circumspect as she nodded agreement. “We lost a lot of good people.”

“I lost just about everybody I knew. Everyone I could count on or trust,” Vicky said, and had to make herself not reach for the beer. She’d gone there, and it hadn’t worked all that well. She needed to keep all her wits about her, or she would die dead drunk.

Jack looked up from his funk. “I’ve got to get to Kris. I’ll go talk to Admiral Santiago. There has to be a ship leaving for Wardhaven soon. Maybe she could order that cruiser guarding the jump to the alien worlds off station for a quick run.”

Penny was shaking her head even as she said, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Jack. The scuttlebutt is that they want to keep the crew together for a debriefing. Or maybe to keep the newsies away from us. We’re on lockdown, Jack. I’m not even sure the Marines at the brow would let you go see the admiral.”

“I’ve got to try, Penny. I’ve got to try.”

Jack was up and fast-walking for the exit. Penny trailed him by only a few paces. She glanced over her shoulder at Vicky. “Sorry, I got to run. Men!”

Vicky raised a hand for a sardonic wave. It must be nice to have a friend at your side, trying to keep you from making the worse mistake of your life. Though, from the looks of it, Penny’s chances of getting through to the big lug were pretty slim.

Did he tell her what happened on the pier? Does the poor woman know what she’s up against?

Vicky shrugged. That was their problem. She had her own.

And no one to talk it ov...

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Descripción Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. BEAUTY AND THE BATTLEFIELD Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe-Peterwald, daughter of wealth and power, was raised to do little except be attractive and marry well. Then everything changed her brother, her father s favorite and the heir apparent, was killed in battle by Lieutenant Kris Longknife, daughter of the Peterwald s longtime enemies. Vicky vowed revenge, but her skill set was more suitable for seduction than assassination, and she failed. Angry and disappointed, her father decided she needed military training and forced her to join the Navy. Now Ensign Vicky Peterwald is part of a whole new world, where use of her ample charms will not lead to advancement. But her father is the Emperor, and what he wants he gets. What he wants is for Vicky to learn to be efficiently ruthless and deadly. Though the lessons are hard learned, Vicky masters them with help from an unexpected source: Kris Longknife. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780425266571

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