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Meredith Russell - Alter Ego

Book 1 in the Knowles Brook Series

Jay James is the confident, outgoing, flirtatious, lead guitarist of a 70s tribute band. But appearances can be deceiving. Jay James isn’t real. ‘Jay’ was born out of necessity and a way for James Hall to deal with life at home after coming out. James is shy and awkward, and can’t escape the shadow of his strained relationship with his mother. As ‘Jay’, James feels indestructible, like nothing can touch him, and he can have any man he wants. But is that really enough?

Danny Ashton is stuck, or at least that’s how he feels sometimes. Five years ago, he dropped out of university to look after his sick mother. He was never prepared for the hand he was dealt—a house to run, bills to pay, and a teenage brother to support.

Together, Danny and James realise ignoring their problems will solve nothing, and if they are to stand any chance of happiness and living as the men they want to be, then they need to move forward. Can the two men face their demons? Or will they end up pushing one another away?

52,500 words

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Excerpt

“Are you awake?”

James opened his eyes as his bedroom door opened. Lifting his head, he stared through the dim light at his mother. “Erm, yeah, I guess. What’s up?”

The mattress dipped as she sat down beside him. She pulled back the duvet, and the expression she wore at the sight of him exuded disappointment. “When did you get in?”

To lie or not to lie. “Not long. I stayed with a friend.”

“Clare?”

“No,” James said slowly.

His mother nodded knowingly and screwed up her mouth disapprovingly. “Are you okay to drive?”

James hesitated and his mother sighed. “I’ll be okay in a bit,” he said quickly. “Some water, a couple of paracetamol, and a bacon sandwich and I’ll be good to go.”

“I’ll get your father to drive you,” she said, leaving no room for him to argue. Though in all honesty, he knew it would take more than bacon to get him back below the legal limit. She got to her feet. “Be downstairs in half an hour.” And with that, she left.

James rolled onto his back. He eyed the sweeping lines of the stippled ceiling as guilt settled in his stomach. At nine last night he still remembered his duties for today, however, several pints of lager later, he had clean forgot he was supposed to be heading to the garden centre before lunch. Blowing out a breath, he sat up and rubbed at his face. Ah, there it was. The hangover had landed. It was only a two on a scale of ten, but drunkenness had still made way for a brewing headache and a queasy sting at the back of his throat. With a muted whine, he pushed the covers back and negotiated his light-headedness and the sheet tangled around his feet to stand up. God, now he felt sick. A tactical chunder might be on the cards to make him feel better, and yet, he really, really didn’t want to be sick. Throwing up had to be one of the worst feelings ever. All that heaving and straining. Groaning, he shuffled to the bathroom. He had thirty minutes to make himself look presentable—he shut the door—starting now.

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