Sunday, December 3, 2023

Heart First New Release Blitz #IndiGo

Title:  Heart First

Series: Hudson Valley Murder Mysteries, Book One

Author: S.B. Barnes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 12/05/2023

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 90800

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, gay, mystery, murder, campus, town/gown, professors, auto mechanic, family drama, classism, class difference

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Daniel Rosenbaum leads a predictable life. He’s a professor at Lobell, a small liberal arts college in the Hudson Valley, where he spends his days teaching classes and doing research alongside his friends and fellow professors, Colette and Mario. The biggest change Daniel’s routine has seen in years is when car trouble leads him across the Hudson and into an unexpected romantic encounter with local mechanic Tony.

When tragedy strikes in the form of Mario’s murder, Daniel’s orderly life is thrown into chaos. Not only is his friend dead, it seems Mario was keeping secrets that could cause rifts in Lobell’s close-knit community. At first, Daniel’s intensifying relationship with Tony is the only way he can find solace from his grief and confusion. But all too soon, the trail of Mario’s secrets leads Daniel to the same place he’s been seeking comfort: Angel Automotive, the auto repair shop run by Tony’s family.

Before long, Daniel is forced to question everything: his friends, his job, the way he lives his life, and the relationship he’s not even sure he’s in yet. Only one thing is for sure: Daniel is falling heart-first—in love or into mortal danger.

Heart First
S.B. Barnes © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Hello?” Daniel calls out into the seemingly deserted garage. “I, uh…I brought my car in?”

He winces at himself. Of course he brought his car; it’s an auto repair shop. What else would he have brought? A tricycle? There’s something about places like this that make him acutely self-conscious of his own ignorance. There’s probably nothing seriously wrong with his car, and he’s already bracing for some guy with a mustache and a baseball cap to tell him condescendingly he could have easily fixed it himself.

“Just a second,” a voice calls back, much closer than Daniel expects. He flinches and looks around, trying to find the source.

There’s a clanging noise, like someone dropped a tool on the floor, immediately followed by the sound of wheels scraping over asphalt. From beneath the sleek black car parked to the left, a guy in a pair of washed-out jeans and a stained white tank top emerges.

He has a mustache.

Daniel called it.

Granted, he also has a beard, which makes the mustache less out of place, but still.

“Hi,” Daniel says and waves awkwardly.

“Hey,” the guy says. “Wasn’t there someone at the front office?”

“There was.” Daniel bristled a little. “She told me to come here.”

The guy rolls his eyes and pushes a strand of hair out of his eyes. The rest of it is in a short ponytail at the back of his head, with the once close-shaved sides grown out a bit. With the mustache, it’s an intense look.

“Fuck,” the guy says. “Uh, sorry. I’m guessing she didn’t give you any paperwork?”

Daniel shakes his head. Mostly, the goth girl at the front desk snapped her gum and said “Uh-huh” when he tried to describe the sound his car started making this morning on the drive over from Rhinebeck. When he finished, she pointed him wordlessly toward the garage. She didn’t look up from her phone once during the interaction.

“I wish I could fire her,” the guy mutters to himself, wiping sweat off his forehead with his forearm.

It gives Daniel an unobstructed view of his arms, which are really nice.

Not the time, he chastises himself. Hitting on a mechanic in an auto shop in a dinky little town in upstate New York sounds like a neat way to get himself in trouble, and anyway, making a move on someone while they’re at work is just bad manners. Besides, that mustache is really something, and while it does suit the man’s face, Daniel’s not sure how he feels about it.

“Sorry, I’m Tony. I should probably have led with that.”

Daniel grins. “Hi, Tony. I’m Daniel, and I’m having trouble with my car.”

“Well, you’re in luck. I happen to be a mechanic.”

“Wow, what are the odds?”

Tony shrugs and gestures to the rows of different-size chains hanging on the wall. “You walk into a setup like this, it’s an even split—mechanic or sex worker.”

It shocks a laugh out of Daniel. He gets the impression he doesn’t need to worry about homophobia here if Tony’s using respectful language, which is a relief.

“So, what’s wrong with your car?”

Daniel winces. “It’s been making this weird noise all morning. Like a kind of irregular clunking?”

“All the time or just when you go over a bump?”

“Um…” Daniel considers. The roads are pretty shitty between Rhinebeck and Lobell College anyway, so he wasn’t exactly sure how frequent the noise was. He didn’t hear it much on the better-paved way into Kingston, but he was also focused on finding the garage and wasn’t really paying attention.

“Your muffler might be loose,” Tony tells him when he fails to answer the question.

“Okay,” Daniel says slowly. “And that’s…bad?”

Tony blinks. “Not a car guy, huh?”

“No,” Daniel says quickly. “Computers guy. Classic literature guy. Fourth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer guy. Very much not a car guy.”

A frown line draws tight on Tony’s forehead. “That’s a really bad season, which, okay, no one’s perfect. Here’s what we’ll do. Technically, we’re booked totally full today, but you’re here now, and I don’t feel great about sending you away when we don’t know for sure what’s wrong with your car. I’m gonna take a quick look at it to see what’s wrong.”

“That would be amazing,” Daniel says. “Thank you so much. I’m sorry to put you out.” It figures they’d be busy. He chose this place because it’s the only auto shop in a twenty-mile radius that takes walk-ins, and he couldn’t quite work up the motivation to call somewhere. He’s probably not the only one.

Tony waves a hand. “Don’t worry about it. Just don’t tell my boss or Mrs. Cooper when she comes to pick up her car in an hour.” He nods toward the car he’s been working on, and Daniel taps the side of his nose.

For a long moment, they grin at each other widely. Tony has really nice eyes. Daniel’s always thought brown eyes exuded warmth, and Tony has exceptionally long eyelashes. There’s something kind in there, in the crinkles around the corners. He must laugh a lot.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

S. B. Barnes attended college in the Hudson Valley, studying English Language and Literature and Anthropology (although unlike her characters, her time there was not interrupted by crime-solving). She grew up split between the USA and Germany, attending university in both countries before eventually settling in Germany. Today, she works as a teacher and lives with her husband and two cats in an apartment with too little shelf space. Fiction has always been one of her greatest loves, as a reader, as a teacher, and as a writer. While S.B. has been writing for most of her life, this is her first foray into publishing her work.

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