The Heart of a Hussar
(The Winged Warrior Series, Book 1)
By Griffin Brady
Poland is at war. He must choose between his lifelong ambition and his heart.
Exploiting Muscovy’s Time of Troubles, Poland has invaded the chaotic country. Twenty-two-year-old Jacek Dąbrowski is an honorable, ferocious warrior in a company of winged hussars—an unrivaled, lethal cavalry. When his lieutenant dies in battle, Jacek is promoted to replace him, against the wishes of his superior, Mateusz, who now has more reason to eliminate him.
Jacek dedicates his life to gaining the king’s recognition and manor lands of his own. Consequently, he closely guards his heart, avoiding lasting romantic entanglements. Unscathed on the battlefield, undefeated in tournaments, and adored by women eager to share his bed, Jacek has never lost at anything he sets out to conquer. So when he charges toward his goals, he believes nothing stands in his way.
Upon his return from battle, Jacek deviates from his ordinarily unemotional mindset and rescues enemy siblings, fifteen-year-old Oliwia and her younger brother, Filip, from their devastated Muscovite village. His act of mercy sets into motion unstoppable consequences that ripple through his well-ordered life for years to come—and causes him to irretrievably lose his heart.
Oliwia has her own single-minded drive: to protect her young brother. Her determination and self-sacrifice lead her to adopt a new country, a new religion, and a new way of life. But it’s not the first time the resilient beauty has had to remake herself, for she is not what she appears to be.
As Jacek battles the Muscovites and Tatars threatening Poland’s borders for months at a time, Oliwia is groomed for a purpose concealed from her. All the while, Mateusz’s treachery and a mysterious enemy looming on the horizon threaten to destroy everything Jacek holds dear.
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Enjoy an excerpt from The Heart of a Hussar:
As Jacek reseated his blades, he glanced at the boy and girl. Whether it was the light or some other trick of the eye, he couldn’t say, but for a moment he saw his sister in the bend of the girl’s head and the delicate curve of her shoulder. But that couldn’t be so, if for no other reason than his beloved sister had died years ago. A familiar, unwelcome pang of guilt stabbed him, and he immediately buried it.
“What of them, Commander?” He tilted his chin at the children.
“We cannot bring them with us,” countered Eryk.
Jacek looked around the leveled settlement. “There is nothing left here.” He had no idea why it mattered; they were the enemy, after all.
“You understand I did not actually intend taking her as plunder.” Eryk darted his gaze to the girl on her knees in the dirt.
“I do, yes,” Jacek replied evenly. He waited.
Eryk sighed and walked his horse toward them. The girl, who had grown silent when her strangling breaths abated, wrapped her arms around the boy.
“Please!” she implored in Polish. “I will go with you, but please do not hurt him!”
Eryk leaned over his horse’s neck and murmured, “Where is your family, girl?”
She glanced over her shoulder at the two bodies in the doorway.
“All dead, then?”
She nodded as she looked back up at him, meeting him squarely with dry eyes.
He straightened, backed up, and nodded at Jacek. “Get the girl.” He swung toward Henryk. “Bring the boy.”
Henryk deftly dismounted, seized the youngster, tucking him under his arm, remounted, and secured the child before him. The snuffling boy twisted, but his efforts were for naught.
The girl lifted her face as Jacek approached. He was struck by fear-filled light eyes in featureless, dirt-smeared skin; flashes of porcelain peeked from the stripes of filth. He was also struck by the fact that she pulled herself up, clenched her fists at her sides, firmed her trembling chin, and glared at him. Her fright now masked by audacity, he realized she was not a girl, after all—not yet a fully bloomed woman, but she soon would be. If she lived that long.
Her bravado crumbled as the boy renewed his weak struggles.
“We will not harm either of you, but you cannot stay here.” Jacek extended his hand. “Vyatov is in ruins, and your people have either fled or been killed. Come.”
Oliwia held her ground and peered up at the hulking, metal-clad warrior defiantly, belying the fear rippling through her body. She could have been looking into the face of an angel of death, but she willed her spine and legs to keep her upright. Then she noticed something out of place when taken with his fierce appearance. Though his feathered helm encased most of his face and obscured his features, sympathetic deep blue eyes fixed on her from either side of his broad nose guard. With his hand held out, palm up, he beckoned her to accept his offer.
“There is nothing for you here but death. Or worse. Come,” he urged.
She glanced back at her brother, who had calmed in the other soldier’s saddle. Shuffling her feet, she reached out a hesitant hand to the man on the combat horse. He leaned down and wrapped his arm around her waist, the metal of his arm guard digging into her hip as he hoisted her in front of him. Something hard rested against each of her knees, and her eyes fell on pistol butts protruding from red leather pouches on either side of the saddle. Behind her, the cold, unforgiving metal of his breastplate pushed against her shoulder blades. The odor of a man hard at work—but strange and different from anything she knew—wafted over her. Though she tried, she could not suppress a shudder. She scanned the group of grimy, grim-faced warriors, then darted her eyes to her brother once more.
You must stay strong for Filip, Oliwia. Stay strong.
Yes, Mother, I promise I will.
The lord—their commander—signaled with his raised forearm, and the riders fell in behind him in an orderly column. The pillagers had long scattered, and the village was empty and wholly ablaze. The heat of the flames brushed her cheek as they engulfed the scattered buildings one by one, like a great slithering beast devouring one carcass after another. As the riotous conflagration claimed structures, so did it claim bodies in its path, and she covered her nose.
The lord led them away with a shout. “Let’s put this stench and madness behind us before it catches us up in it!” Soon little would remain of her home but char and ash. She swiped at a wayward tear.
In the blink of an eye, her life, everything she knew, had been erased.
Griffin Brady is a historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. The Heart of a Hussar took third place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ 2018 Colorado Gold Contest and was a finalist in the Northern Colorado Writers’ 2017 Top of the Mountain Award.
The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning, Amazon bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.
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