Piotr doesn't notice Olivia until the day she slips into the room while Xav is giving one of the junior princes a truly scathing dressing down and then she bends her father's ear and two days later they have a captured Cetagandan general and two convoys full of supplies.
After that, he starts paying attention.
Xav's older girl is still just a girl, a little slip of a thing. Ezar laughs in his face when he says that, tells him he's been addled too much by wrinkled faces and soldiers aged too much before their time. Ezar laughs at him again when Piotr can't find anything to say to that.
Piotr admires dangerous things. Over the next year, he learns just how dangerous Princess Olivia Vorbarra can be.
The Princess has a kill count by the age of sixteen to rival some of Piotr's hand-picked men, and when Piotr goes to Xav to ask permission to court her, Xav throws him out.
The Princess hears about it and when Piotr returns to his troops, it's to find her sitting by the command tent, her feet up on the wood pile, going through Piotr's intelligence files. Piotr's men are giving her a wide berth and young Negri makes a frustrated gesture at him as if to ask what the hell he was supposed to do about all this.
"You are incredibly rude," the Princess says after Piotr realizes he's staring. "But we'll let that stand. You had a question for me?"
Piotr hasn't survived this long by failing to seize an opportunity. "I do, Princess," he says, very aware of the quiet witnesses all around them. "Would you do me the honor of becoming my Countess?"
"I think that's a little hasty," the Princess says. "We hardly know each other. Who knows, I might kill you in your sleep a week into it because I can't stand your snoring."
Someone, and Piotr is going to make sure he finds out who and strangle him, stifles a laugh.
"But you may certainly court me," the Princess continues. "At least until such time as I give you an answer to your proposal. And meanwhile, you can rest assured that you have the Emperor's permission to court me." The Princess smiles viciously at this tactical victory. A woman who can kill her share and is well-connected enough to go over her father's head by appealing directly to the Emperor's political sense; Piotr realizes that he's found a woman who could build a future for Barrayar if only the Cetagandans got out of her way. If Piotr could get the Cetagandans out of her way.
"I am at your service, my lady," Piotr says, bowing.
"Yes, quite," the Princess says and she stands up. She offers Piotr her hand and he kisses it. "Now, for my first courting gift, I would like you and your men to accompany me on a little venture. There's some troop movement going on to cover the arrival of one of their liege lords and I've found a way through their defenses. I'll need guerillas and a strategist. If Count Vorkosigan would be so kind, I would like a haut lord's skull for my birthday. And I absolutely insist on being on hand to make sure that it's exactly the one I want. I'm quite exacting, you'll find. My mother despairs."
Piotr has no trouble translating that. Neither does young Negri, from the slight widening of his eyes.
"How many men will you need?" Piotr asks.
The Princess shrugs. "I leave that to your discretion, General." She leans in and smiles coquettishly at him. "I'd be a terrible Helen, you know," she murmurs. "I'd rather kill my enemies myself. I trust that will not be a problem."
"None at all," Piotr says, mouth suddenly dry.