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Fortune's Risk - A Novella

Star Thief Chronicles 1.5

Captain Nick Finn has spent the last seven years trying to escape his drug-running past and become the perfect MYTH soldier. At the peak of his military career, he should be leading missions to capture the galaxy’s most wanted criminals. Instead, he’s stranded on a stolen MYTH ship with Viktis, a notorious pirate and an unlikely ally.

Being on the run from MYTH and trying to keep a low profile is nothing new for Viktis, so he’s happy to set course for bustling Forever Station – the perfect place to restock supplies and squeeze in a little entertainment on the side. But for Viktis, this visit is less about fun and games and more about revenge. Kitty Cordoza, a notorious mob boss and his sister’s killer, has gone all-in on a high-stakes poker game.

Only Finn can help him plant the evidence that the Station’s security needs to put her away for life. But the Queen of Crime has a few tricks up her sleeve, and as they’re about to find out, she’s not going to show her hand until it may be too late to fold.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Captain Nick Finn raised an eyebrow at the Ileth pirate lounging in the captain’s chair. “You want me to do what?”

“Help me win a poker game,” Viktis said, lowering his voice and glancing around the Athena’s command center.

Finn pushed himself off the railing and shook his head. “Why the hell would I do that?” They’d been on the run two weeks. Somehow, in Viktis’s head, that made the two men friends. He was sorely mistaken. “We don’t have time for games. MYTH’s after us. We have to keep moving.”

“We’re going to be on Forever Station for at least two days, Cap. That’s more than enough time for you to win the tournament. Take a look.” Viktis passed over his tablet.

The red, flashing font demanded Finn’s attention as he scanned the garish advertisement. “The Point Blue Casino Charity Poker Tournament,” he read aloud. “Five hundred thousand credit payout. Win a prototype Long-Range Ultra-explorer. Drink your weight in champagne with the most beautiful waitresses on the station.”

Finn shoved the tablet back at Viktis. If the pirate thought Finn was going to help him rig a poker game, he clearly needed professional medical attention. “Oh, hell no. This is not going to happen while I’m in charge.”

Viktis tucked the tablet into the inside pocket of his coat. He then got to his feet, coming to stand beside Finn at the CIC railing. His long, leather jacket, similar to the one Renna favored, flared out behind him as he walked. Maybe it was some kind of thief uniform he wasn’t aware of. Things had changed a bit since he’d been in the business.

“Listen, Cap. I know you want me off your ship and out of your life. I know you want to live happily ever after with our girl, Renna. I know you hate my Ileth guts. But did you know that the fastest way to get me out of your hair is to help me get my own ship?” Viktis grinned, rubbing his hands together. “That beauty is calling my name. She’s meant for me—I can feel it in my bones.”

“You sure that’s not just the STDs spreading?” Finn leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms. “Why not steal it? You’re a pirate.”

Viktis scoffed. “Did you catch that this tournament is for charity? I’m not going to steal something that could help a bunch of kids.”

“Well isn’t that sweet? Maybe you do have a heart after all. But I’m still not helping you.”

Viktis glanced at him from the corner of his amber eyes. “Poor little orphans don’t move you? You’re a hard man, Captain. Think about this for a minute. That mob family back on Hesperia? The ones who kept Myka in that crate for weeks?”

“The Cordozas.” How could he forget? The kid had been filthy, nothing but skin and bones when Renna had rescued him. The mob had moved him between five cities in four weeks. He didn’t know how Myka had survived.

“Kitty Cordoza, the head of the family, will be on the station for the tournament. And to sell some recently acquired tech to the highest bidder.”

“And exactly why should I care?” Finn had heard more than a few stories about the dangerous Cordoza family, including chilling tales about the woman who’d taken over for her husband after he’d been assassinated. Rumors had circulated for years, suggesting she was behind it, but no one could prove it. Her ruthless nature had earned her a host of nicknames – mostly so people didn’t have to use her name in public. Whatever the truth, she’d made the Cordozas one of the most powerful mob families in the sector.

Finn had no intention of tangling with the Black Widow, especially not with MYTH breathing down their necks.

Viktis arched an eyebrow ridge, tsking. “Why, Captain. I thought your halo was shinier than that. This is the perfect opportunity to take down the whole Cordoza organization. You’d be a fucking hero. Renna wouldn’t be able to keep her hands off you.”

Finn started to shake his head, but Viktis threw up a hand. “Very well, if that’s not enough to convince you, I’ll agree to split the pot with you – fifty/fifty. I get the ship, you get the credits. It’ll be a good start for keeping up with Renna. We both know she’s an expensive girl to love.”

Finn glared and leaned toward the pirate. “How many times do I need to say this? I am not helping you cheat at poker. We need to keep a low profile. Besides, what makes you think you’re going to be the one to take Kitty down? She’s got a dozen dirty lawyers ready at a moment’s notice if any law enforcement agency so much as sniffs the air around her. And half a dozen senators who’d spring her if it ever got that far.”

“Ah, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?” Viktis shrugged. “I’m going to do this, with or without your help. I just thought you’d want to iron another badge on your MYTH uniform as the person who helped rid the galaxy of the evil Cordozas. It’s kind of your thing.”

“Yeah, but cheating isn’t.”

“It’s more like a set-up, Cap. The only person getting hurt is Kitty. The kids still get their money, I still get my ship, and you get your credits to build a love nest with Renna. Everyone wins. Not to mention it’ll be fun. Or have you forgotten what that is? You’d better hope Renna’s gotten a lot less adventurous since I knew her. You’re going to bore the girl to tears.” Viktis shook his head and stalked away.

Finn clenched his hands around the cool metal railing until his knuckles turned white. Godsdammit! He wished the slim, metal pipe was the alien’s fucking neck. Viktis would be lucky to get off this ship in one piece—unless Finn decided to blast him out of the airlock.

“Everything all right, sir?” Lieutenant Keva asked from her station, tilting her head in concern.

Finn carefully wound his flaring temper into a tight coil, schooling his features into a mask of impassivity. His XO saw right through his Zen bullshit most of the time, but it didn’t hurt to try to keep himself in check. He was the captain of this ship, after all. He had an example to set. Even if the shithead alien threatened to launch Finn’s hair-trigger temper every time he opened his mouth.

“That damned pirate better be blessing the stars that Renna made me promise to behave. Otherwise, I’d be happily teaching him religion, by offering him up to one of the gods,” he added ominously.

The Delfine’s grin made a dimple flash in her cheek. “He’s…interesting. I found him waiting for me outside the showers this morning. Asked if I needed some help washing my back.”

Finn gritted his teeth until his jaw ached before he spoke again. “Anyone who bothers my crew isn’t welcome on this ship, friend of Renna’s or not.”

“It’s fine, Captain. I can take care of myself. Viktis won’t be hanging outside the showers ever again.” She smiled sweetly and Finn shook his head.

“I should have known you’d put him in his place.” If only Finn could do the same. But that man got under his skin in ways he didn’t think possible. Finn had been through basic training with the nastiest officer in MYTH. He’d been a part of Blur’s gang of miscreants. He’d even killed some of the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy, but none of those men had gotten to him like Viktis.

None of those other men had slept with Renna, either.

Finn shoved away the thought of the two of them together. It was a different point in both their lives. Renna had thought Finn was dead. Finn thought Renna was a slaver. There were so many reasons why it shouldn’t matter. But every time he saw the Ileth, he couldn’t help but picture the man’s long fingers against Renna’s sun-kissed skin.

It made him crazy.

He knew Renna had carved out her own life without him. He should be able to get past this.

The fact that Finn hadn’t been able to let go of his animosity toward the roguish alien was shoved aside. He didn’t even want to consider the feelings and emotions tied to his behavior.

The snick of the intercom came a second before Lieutenant Kojima’s voice sounded in the CIC. “Captain, we’ve docked at the station.”

Finn sighed and straightened. “Thank you, Flight Lieutenant.” He turned on his own intercom. “We’ve docked at Forever Station to refuel and restock. I grant you all a forty-eight hour shore leave. Do whatever you’d like, but keep your comms on at all times. We need to be able to leave instantly if we’re discovered. Dismissed.”

Almost immediately, the ship filled with the sound of the crew scrambling for their gear. Forever Station was one of the biggest entertainment hubs in the Costa system. Every weird fetish, exotic food, or black market item was available there. And if it wasn’t, you weren’t looking hard enough.

Finn had spent entirely too much time there when he was younger, after his parents had been killed. He wasn’t exactly looking forward to going back.

“Sir, do you want me to stick around? Help you with the pirate? Or the Aldanis?” Keva glanced back toward the corridor where Viktis had disappeared.

“No, go on.” Finn forced a smile to his lips and nodded encouragingly. He’d been a monster these last few days, and Keva had borne the brunt of it. “You deserve shore leave more than anyone here. I’ll let you know if I need your help.”

He’d lucked out when Dallas had assigned her as his XO; she’d been the perfect person to help him run this ship. Now he’d forced her to go on the run from MYTH and become a traitor. Guilt surged through him, turning his stomach like he’d eaten a bad eel from Vesper Nine.

Keva nodded, oblivious to his discomfort. “Very good, sir. Comm me if you need anything.” She saluted as she left the bridge, leaving Finn alone with the quiet ship and his not so quiet thoughts.