Read No Matter What Online

Authors: Michelle Betham

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Family Saga, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Sagas

No Matter What

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No Matter What

 

 

By Michelle Betham

 

 

Copyright © Michelle Betham 2011

All rights reserved.

 

 

The story, characters and events in this book are a work of the author’s imagination, and are entirely fictional.
 
Any resemblance to any person, places or events is purely coincidental.

 

 

 

 

 

Dedications

 

 

First and foremost I want to thank my husband for his patience and help with putting this book together.
 
Without him this would have been a much longer and more frustrating process.

And some very big thank you’s go to my wonderful friends who, I have to say, have got the patience of saints for putting up with me throughout this whole process, but their support has been never-ending, always there when I needed it, and much appreciated.
 
To
Linz
, who has been with me from the very beginning and has read this book from first draft to last.
 
She knows the story and characters almost as well as I do, and to have someone there to talk to about it all has been a bigger help than I’d ever thought possible.
 
To Helen, who also read it through for me and gave me much needed feedback.
 
I know she’s a friend and they can sometimes be biased, but I don’t think she’d lie to me!
 
And to Jen, Rae, Laura and Lucy, who put up with my ramblings but always encouraged me.
 
Thank you, all of you!

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

 

London
- November 2009

    

 

     

 

The green room was stuffy and hot, a total contrast to the cold November day outside and probably more to do with the under-performing air-conditioning than anything else, but it still made for a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere.
 
Or that could just be because she was all too aware of what lay ahead, once she left this room.
 
Still, if she’d been back home in Los Angeles she might have said something, got someone to look at that air-con, but November in L.A. was a lot warmer than November in London so it probably hadn’t even crossed anyone’s mind here to check it out, and she wasn’t one to complain.
 
Even though she knew that if she had, they would have been on to it like a shot.

 

She was slowly getting used to being back in the
U.K.
but it was still difficult not to feel like a stranger, having spent so much of her life in
America
.

 

Sitting back against the sofa, she crossed her legs and scanned the room, looking far more comfortable than she actually felt as she watched everyone else milling about, chatting amongst themselves.
 
She was too nervous to do anything but sit there.
 
She laughed quietly to herself, studying her fingernails.
 
Nervous?
 
After all this time and everything that had happened, she was still nervous?
 
Of course she was!
 
So much had gone on, so many things - but everything was different now.
 
Time had moved on.
 

 

She smiled, still looking down at her hands.
 
They’d managed to pull it off so beautifully this time, so perfectly.
 
It had gone like a dream and for that, at least, she was grateful, but she couldn’t wait to get everything out in the open now.
 
It was time for everyone to know the truth, including those whose reactions she feared.
 
Those whose reactions she cared about.

 

She reached over to the table by her side and picked up her mug of tea - years in the
U.S.
hadn’t stopped her from loving her tea – taking a quick glance at the plasma TV screen in the corner of the room that was showing everything going on outside in the studio.
 
The current interview was coming to an end, which meant it wouldn’t be long now, and her stomach lurched slightly, even though she knew what they were going to ask, or she thought she did anyway.
 
And she knew what she was going to tell them, it wasn’t like she hadn’t gone through anything like this before, but - well,
that was then,
she thought, taking one last quick sip of her tea as the green room door opened.
 

 

“Are you ready?”
 
The young, dark haired runner smiled at India and she smiled back at the girl dressed in skinny jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt and thought how she’d been about her age when it had all started to happen – “it” being the journey that was to take her on that rollercoaster of an adventure and bring her right to this point.
 
A journey she could never forget.
 
Even the bits she’d tried so hard to.
 
A journey she had a feeling wasn’t quite over yet.

 

She pushed herself up off the sofa, and, as she walked to the door she felt around in the back pocket of her jeans, pulling out the photograph he’d told her to keep with her.
 
She looked at it for a second, smiling as she quickly returned it to her pocket.
 
Maybe everything
had
been worth it after all, and as she followed the runner along the white corridor leading to the studio floor, she felt uplifted, confident that this was all going to be ok because he was going to be by her side, wasn’t he?
 

 

But then, almost as if they’d appeared from out of nowhere, a mass of people started to gather around her, throwing questions at her from all directions for a reason she couldn’t explain.
 
She was totally confused.
 
She had no idea what was happening, or why it was happening, and she swung around to see what was going on behind her.
 
But, in that split second, in the time it took for her to turn around, she wished with all her heart that she hadn’t looked at all.

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK ONE

 

CHAPTER 1

 

1991

    

 

“Tell me again why we’re here?”
India
asked Charley as they tried their hardest to blend into a corner, somewhere near the free champagne.
 
If they had to be here they were having perks.

“Because Mr Rogers thought we’d make attractive wallpaper, remember?” Charley replied, putting her empty glass down onto the tray of a passing waiter and immediately picking up a fresh one.

Mr Rogers was one half of ‘Wheatman and Rogers’, a rather prestigious firm of solicitors based in the North East of England and tonight they were hosting a large benefit dinner for charity, an event which had caused a large number of staff members to become rather excited due to the names of some of the rumoured local celebrity guests.
 
That excitement had been quickly quashed, of course, when everyone had got wind of the ticket prices, with each ticket amounting to more than a month’s wages for most of them, thus rendering the whole evening a non-starter for the majority.

For legal secretaries
India
and Charley it had been a non-starter anyway.
 
Or, at least, it had been in the beginning.
 
They’d had other plans for that night, like planning their winter holiday to the
Spanish
Canarian
Island
of Lanzarote now they finally had the cash to go ahead and book it.
 
‘Wheatman and Rogers’ may not have been the height of excitement but at least it provided a steady - if not exactly over-generous - income.
 
India
especially couldn’t wait to get away from the North East for a couple of weeks.
 
She really needed a break; some time away from the mess that was her family – apart from Terry, her wonderful big brother - and the drudgery of that nine-to-five routine.
 
They’d also never been away at this time of year so it was even more exciting to think of spending their days sitting in the warm sun sipping sangria whilst back home the winter weather and countdown to Christmas swept the country with a vengeance.

India Steven was twenty-two years old with long blonde hair that hung down her back in loose, natural curls, large blue eyes and full lips in a face that was more than averagely pretty, infact, most people described her as beautiful but she never saw herself as that.
 
At five-feet-seven with incredibly long legs and a body perfectly in proportion she’d often been told that she could have been a model, but that wasn’t something she’d ever wanted to pursue.
 
She was more of a tomboy, and that probably came from having a professional soccer player for a brother.
 

Terry was the only stable thing around her, the only constant in her life.
 
Sure, they had their parents but they were now divorced and, as usual, far too wrapped up in their own problems to give a thought to their kids, so it had almost always just been
India
and Terry - the two of them against the world.
 
She only wished he was closer.
 
Ever since he’d moved to Merseyside she’d missed him, despite their almost daily conversations.
 
He’d suggested she move to the North West too, find a job there, start afresh in a new city but she couldn’t quite pluck up the nerve to move away from the only place she’d ever known.
 
She held the North East of England pretty close to her heart and she didn’t feel ready to leave that familiarity behind just yet.
 

Then there was Charley.
 
She didn’t really want to leave
her
behind either.
 
Charley Miles was twenty-three with long, chocolate-brown hair, dark brown almond-shaped eyes and an almost Mediterranean colour to her skin tone.
 
She was tall and slim, just like her friend, but whereas
India
was most definitely the tomboy type, Charley was the archetypal bubbly girlie-girl but they’d hit it off from the day Charley had walked into ‘Wheatman and Rogers’ as the new receptionist.
 
They’d been best friends ever since, as close as sisters, both of them loud, upfront and outspoken and both of them fiercely loyal to each other.
 
The only thing they ever disagreed on was music.
 
India
was a bit of a rock chick with a love of anything guitar based, but Charley was more of a pop girl.
 
It made for an interesting music mix at their parties, anyway.

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