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Kathryn Troy | Exclusive Excerpt: A VISION IN CRIMSON


A Vision in Crimson
Kathryn Troy

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Frostbite #1

January 2024
On Sale: January 1, 2024
453 pages
ISBN: 1648984312
EAN: 9781648984310
Paperback
Add to Wish List

Also by Kathryn Troy:
A Vision in Crimson, January 2024
The Shadow of Theron, February 2023

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The unforgiving sun bore down on the desolate valley below, focusing its energy on the only thing moving as it slowly sank into the horizon. A tall, slim figure, clad all in black, cast a long shadow in the grass as he approached the remnants of a crumbling castle. His shadow was faint. He pulled his wide-brimmed hat low on his head, protecting his pale face from the last vestiges of the sun’s rays.

Just a few more minutes. He awaited the setting of the sun with the anticipation of the condemned beneath the executioner’s axe, eager for a single, forceful swing so that you could at last be done with it. Being half-human, he could bear the daylight, but on especially hot days like this one, it made his skin feel as if it were being peeled away from his flesh. The night brought sweet release from constant torture. But the day’s torments didn’t register on his face. Emotions rarely did. Half-vampire and cursed with eternal life, he had experienced it all. Most of it pain.

The sunset brought its own complications. Killing vampires at night, at the height of their power, was a fool’s errand for even the strongest hunters. With his horse being shod at the town that had hired him, he’d had little choice than to reach the ruins on foot, and it had taken longer than he expected. Abandoned for thousands of years, only a few heavy stones half-sunken in the dirt belied the layout of what was once a grand complex. But the solitary man had tracked down enough vampires to know that the one he now sought was nearby. Ruins proved too strong a temptation for the ancient beings. Their natural affinity for the old over the new attracted them without fail to the myriad shells of castles that dotted the countryside rather than more industrial, durable structures.

The hunter’s keen eyes spied an entrance to a subterranean passage, obscured by dense undergrowth. Whoever was there was bound to already be awake. In the end, it mattered little. He took one uncaring step forward, then paused.

Why am I doing this again?

The little village he had passed through was one of the few places to hire a dhampir hunter, even begrudgingly. The majority of the town had wanted to wait for another hunter to come along, but one young man was desperate to get back his bride of only a few days, pleading with the village mean to hire the dhampir.

They had balked at the price the hunter had quoted them. It was steep, given this particular vampire’s formidable reputation and the fact that there were several hostages. But the newlywed had assured him that the town would be able to pay him the minute he returned, that they just needed some time to collect the money.

The personal circumstances of his employers didn’t matter to the hunter. But he had envied the look in the young man’s eyes, full of worry for his beloved. In all his years, he had never been fortunate enough to have loved someone, or to be loved. There was no reason for both of them to be miserable, the dhampir reasoned, if he could help it.

Plus, he still hadn’t found the one vampire he really wanted to kill. With every job he took, he hoped finally to encounter the monster who had caused his wretched existence and destroy him. He was always disappointed. Still, there was nothing else for him to do but keep trying. The hunter took a deep breath, reached for the long, thin blade at his back, and crossed the threshold into the hidden crypt.

The hunter descended a narrow, winding staircase that led to underground catacombs. When he reached the bottom of the stone stairway, he entered a long hallway lined with dead bodies set into the wall. His eyes shone in the darkness as he sought out the vampire’s lair. His determined footsteps were silent, creating no echo that would give away his presence. In a few minutes’ time, his ears picked up the sound of women crying. Their wails emanated from an offshoot corridor to his right. He noted its location and continued forward into a broad, open space with a low curved ceiling.

The unpaved ground was littered with wooden boxes. He ripped the top off each and inspected their contents. He left a sole grave undisturbed; a rotted slat on the side of the box revealed a decaying arm in tattered clothing encased in dirt.

The overall impression of a grave that had been quitted for the night meant nothing. If his prey had left, the hunter would have seen him. Like it or not, dhampirs excelled as hunters. Especially this one, for he was so very thorough. He had outwitted even the most cunning vampires because he didn’t trust his eyes alone. He emptied every coffin, finding nothing but human remains. Even the box he’d left unmolested earlier seemed ordinary.

As he stared at the human husk within, contemplating his next move, he noticed that the box was unusually tall. Twice as tall, in fact, as the other coffins. He bisected the box lengthwise with his sword and kicked at the top half with his foot. The box and its contents toppled over, revealing a second coffin underneath, lined with a pristine fabric dyed a luxurious shade of red. It was empty.

“Very clever,” a deep voice echoed from behind him. The hunter turned to face his opponent. Across the dark expanse, the dhampir noted the vampire’s subtle similarity to his own facial features. They had the same nose, the same chin. His overall build was bigger but did little to mask the truth. The hunter had lost count over the years of how many of his victims had reflected a family resemblance.

The vampire saw it as well.

“So, you’re one of his mongrels, are you?” the vampire drawled, unfazed by the hunter’s swift discovery of his hideout. “I guess even the best of us get bored some of the time.”

To full-blooded vampires, dhampirs were nothing but the products of vampires’ attempts to entertain themselves in their eternal existence. They raped human women for the psychological thrill of it. It delighted them to instill fear, and it allowed them to exert lifelong control over their hapless victims, for endless hours of amusement.

The insult was meant to sting. That was the creature’s second mistake.

The hunter lunged at his opponent. Unarmed the vampire dodged the dhampir’s blade with incredible speed. He clawed at the attacker’s throat, but that was equally unsuccessful. The hunter was just as fast, and just as strong. And in the case of this hunter, his mixed nature gave him the advantage over human and vampire alike. The full-blood’s arrogance, underestimating the dhampir as even less than human, was the mistake that was fatal.

The vampire’s movements were slow, relatively speaking, his muscles relaxed and his attention lax at best.

“Although my mother was no mere worm, I, too, am related to—Augh!”

In less than a second, the skilled hunter had pierced him through the shoulder, pinning him to the wall. The vampire grabbed hold of the blade, and growled when he could not yank it free. The sword was lodged firmly in the wall, held in place by a physical and supernatural power far superior to the vampire’s.

“Where is he?” the dhampir demanded.

The vampire flashed the hunter a cruel grin in response. “If you haven’t figured that out yet, then you never will.”

The young man sighed as he pulled a wooden stake from inside his coat. The full-blood’s voice could not hide his fear in the face of his distant cousin’s determination.

“Now wait a minute. I said wait. Please! Don’t!

The vampire’s pleas fell on deaf ears. The hunter retained his blank expression as he impaled the vampire through the heart. In the same moment, the full-blood drew a hidden blade and stabbed the dhampir in the chest. He saw it in enough time to twist his torso and avoid being pierced in the heart, but just barely.

“Why?” the vampire sputtered. His flesh dried up and fell away without an answer, until all that was left was a dusty skeleton, hoisted to the wall by the wooden stake lodged between its ribs.

I don’t know.

The slim figure retrieved his sword from the bone and returned it to its sheath. He’d lost a lot of blood already. His wound refused to heal as he expected it to. It continued to agitate him as he retraced his steps, coming upon the hallway where the late vampire’s victims were being kept.

He found all eight women, trapped in an alcove that had been outfitted with heavy metal bars. They were huddled around a small fire they had made with some of the straw and grass strewn over the floor of their tiny prison. The group screamed as they saw the dhampir approach. In the dark and covered in blood, and with the flames lending his skin an eerie glow, he could almost understand.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My name is Luca. Your husbands sent me.”

“Bullshit!” an elderly woman cried. “Why would they send one monster to rescue us from another?”

“I’m not a vampire,” Luca answered as he bent the bars of their cage open with minimal effort.

“Half a vampire is still a vampire!” the crone snapped back as she walked through the opening.

Luca held out his hand to help the others through the bars, only to have each one of them ignore him in turn. He returned his arm to his side.

When they were all gathered in the hallway, he asked, “Is everyone here?”

“Yes,” a young woman answered. She was being supported by two other women, her breath labored. Though none of the women had been bitten, this one had suffered a serious injury to her leg. Luca approached and asked the two women assisting her to help her to a sitting position.

Her head shot up and her eyes bulged. “Why?” she asked. “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to heal your leg, if you’ll just sit down.”

“Oh no you’re not!” she shouted, her voice echoing through the passage. She seemed to want to climb deeper into the embrace of the women holding her upright.

“It’s bad enough we’ve been manhandled by a vampire. I’m not about to let a dhampir put his paws on me too!”

He just stared, contemplating the depths of her stubbornness.

I’m not contagious.

“It’ll only take a minute,” he offered again in a quiet voice.

She said nothing.

“You’ll be permanently crippled otherwise.”

She shrugged. She didn’t care. Hobbling around for life was preferable to being touched by a dhampir.

Luca sighed. “Suit yourself. The exit is that way.” He pointed down the hallway, allowing the group to walk ahead of him. Some sneered at him as they passed by, while the younger ones shrank away, scurrying quickly by him as if at any moment he might snap at them.

“You’re welcome,” he muttered under his breath as he turned to follow them out. He shook his head and put his hand to his still bleeding side.

They had better pay up.

 

Copyright © 2024 by Kathryn Troy

A VISION IN CRIMSON by Kathryn Troy

Frostbite #1

A Vision in Crimson

A hunter without a purpose. A witch out of control.Together, they will burn.Katelyn’s magic is risky, but she's desperate. Icaryan light is fading. A chance meeting with a half vampire might be her last hope.The darkly charming Luca is the one person able to stop Kate’s spells from swallowing her whole, but is he willing to follow her into a dark, wondrous world, full of magic and mischief at every turn?Kate and Luca fight side-by-side against assassination plots, long-lost lovers, an illegitimate heir, and a slaver’s growing appetite for Icaryan citizens. All the while, Kate’s power is growing, its source just out of reach. Pulled in every direction, the dangers they face threaten to tear them apart.Luca is faced with a terrible choice: turn her with his bite into the thing he hates most, or risk losing her forever.Torn between fear and desire, he abandons his own futile hunt to find and kill his father—the vampire lord who has never forgotten him.Perfect for fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Carissa Broadbent, and Deborah Harkness, A Vision in Crimson is the first book in this dark romantic fantasy series.

 

Romance Fantasy [City Owl Press, On Sale: January 1, 2024, Paperback, ISBN: 9781648984310 / eISBN: 9781648984327]

Buy A VISION IN CRIMSONAmazon.com | BN.com | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | Powell's Books | Books-A-Million | Indie BookShops | Ripped Bodice | Love's Sweet Arrow | Walmart.com | Target.com |

About Kathryn Troy

Kathryn Troy

I'm an historian by day, a novelist and baker by night. I like to write what I read - fantasy, romantic fantasy, gothic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, paranormal, horror, and weird fiction. In nonfiction, my research interests include Spiritualism, the history of the North American Indian, and issues of race, class, and gender in the West as well as the gothic/weird/occult traditions from around the globe in all cultural outlets (literature, film, folklore, etc.)

When I'm not writing or reading or teaching, I'm either playing a video game, or a board game, or watching a horror movie, making croissants, or adding some new weird creepy cool thing to my art collection. I love to travel and learn new languages, and... oh! Have fun with my adoring hubby and kids, of course.

 

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