Book Title: The Heart of a Hussar
Series: (The Winged Warrior Series, Book 1)
Author: Griffin Brady
Publication Date: 12th September 2020
Publisher: Trefoil Publishing
Page Length: 434 Pages
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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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Jacek exploded from the garrison and stormed across the yard to Mateusz’s home, fists clenched so tightly his forearms vibrated. It took all of Atlas’s strength to keep his fury contained in his body. He pounded on the captain’s door. It swung open, revealing Lady Barbara. She looked Jacek up and down, the hint of a smile curving her lips.
He glared at her through narrowed eyes. “Where is your husband, PaniZalewska? And do not think to test me.”
“I’m right here, Dąbrowski,” the captain called from behind his wife. “Barbara, leave us.”
She turned, and Mateusz’s eyes tracked her out of the room before he sauntered to the doorway, wiping wet hands on a linen cloth.
“You here to apologize for that urchin of yours? I’m still getting the blood off my hands. Christ, that boy’s a bleeder!”
Jacek’s tautened muscles bunched. “No. I’m here to do what he could not.”
Mateusz’s eyebrows rose to his hairline. “Oh, really? Ready for your own beating? You don’t have the stones to do it, so be off. Go play in the yard with your friends.” With a snicker, he jerked his chin to somewhere behind Jacek.
Jacek glanced to the side and caught sight of a ring of men in his periphery. He’d had no idea the garrison had followed him.
“Or did you bring them with you to do what you can’t?” Mateusz taunted.
“I didn’t bring them. I don’t need their help.”
Mateusz rolled his eyes and placed his fists on his hips, striking a bored pose. “Apologize for the brat, and I’ll let it go this time.”
“No, Zalewski. I’m not leaving until we settle this. Man to man, not man to boy.”
Mateusz threw his head back and laughed, then riveted bloodshot eyes on Jacek—blue-green swimming in spidery red. “It can’t be man to man, Dąbrowski, because you’re not a man. When will you get it through your cracked head?”
Then he raised his hands and looked past Jacek. “You all heard, yes? My subordinate challenges me. And for what? I taught his impertinent shaver a lesson! You are my witnesses.”
A voice called out from the crowd, “Brave man, Zalewski. Beating a child with a nadziak.”
“He had it coming!” The cords in Mateusz’s neck stood out. “He needed to be taught who his masters are. He wouldn’t do it,” he pointed at Jacek, “so I had to.”
A murmur waved through the crowd, and Jacek turned toward the commotion. Someone stepped out of the throng. Too late, he caught the blur by his right eye that was Mateusz’s cocked fist wrapped around something hard. Blindsided, Jacek dropped to his knees. Wet, warm, sticky blood flowed from his brow into his eye, eclipsing his sight. He swiped at it with the heel of his hand, his head exploding with stars against a black backdrop.
Jacek pulled himself up, and his eyes dropped to a stone pestle in Mateusz’s fist. Mateusz snarled, “That brat had it coming. And when I’m through with you, I’ll go see his sister and show her what it’s like with a real man.” He licked his lips. “After she’s had a taste of me, she’ll want nothing to do with you.”
Jacek vaulted at Mateusz, wrapping his arms around his middle, driving him into an outer wall. He grasped Mateusz’s wrist and smashed it against the wall. The pestle dropped to the ground. Mateusz grunted, then shoved his knee into Jacek’s gut. Dragging air and the rank odor of alcohol into his lungs, Jacek held Mateusz to him a few beats, then propelled himself backward. Mateusz pushed off the wall and came at him warily. Jacek wiped more blood out of his eye. They squared off and began circling each other.
From a back corner of his mind, Jacek heard the crowd buzz. Dogs barked. A woman gasped. Chickens squawked. Men cheered and jeered. A silver button glinted. Warm rays bathed moist spring leaves with light.
He pulled in a breath.
Wild eyes flashing, Mateusz threw a punch that sliced air. The momentum brought him forward, and Jacek jabbed his breastbone hard. The strike didn’t stop Mateusz, but it slowed him. Jacek kicked out, landing a heel just above his knee. Mateusz roared, staggered backward, but stayed upright. He dove for Jacek. Jacek sidestepped him, pounding his back with steely forearms. Mateusz’s shoulder rammed his hip, and he pulled Jacek down.
Mateusz sprawled in the dirt facedown, shaking his head. Jacek sprang out of reach, fists at the ready. A bottle flew from the crowd and landed by Mateusz. He seized it and leapt to his feet, breaking off the bottom against a wooden post.
Gripping the neck of the bottle, Mateusz came at Jacek with the jagged glass. He lunged. Jacek grasped the wrist holding the bottle, keeping it away from his body. They came together. Chest to chest, they strained against one another, grunting, growling, grappling, heels digging in, fighting for purchase. Jacek shifted his stance and managed to wedge his knee between Mateusz’s legs. Mateusz broke Jacek’s hold on his wrist, but Jacek pressed his weight against Mateusz’s inner thigh, and Mateusz stumbled backward, Jacek crashing on top of him. Mateusz’s hand flew open, and the bottle rolled harmlessly out of reach.
Jacek scrambled to his feet, crouching, while Mateusz heaved to his side. Before Mateusz could recover, Jacek cinched his arm in the crook of his elbow, pinning his other wrist to the ground. He leaned on him with all his weight, one leg straddling his lower body, digging his heels into the dirt. He tightened his grip on the arm. Mateusz cried out. Jacek clamped down harder.
Jacek jolted at the sound of Eryk’s voice, pushing himself off Mateusz. He stood apart, heaving in breaths, his hands pressed to his thighs. Eryk stood beside him while Mateusz stirred on the ground and cursed.
“This is done, Mateusz. He defeated you. Gather yourself and report to me in ten minutes.” Eryk pivoted, and Jacek watched as his retreating back parted the susurrating crowd.
A woman screamed.
Jacek was already in motion as a glint in Mateusz’s hand caught his eye. But Mateusz wasn’t coming for him. He raced at Eryk with murder in his eyes, the broken bottle in one hand and a dagger in the other.
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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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/griffinbrady