Integral Instruments - With prelude to Justified Voices (Book 7)

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Well, apparently my little rant ended up landing me on some kind of news broadcast for the music world and the press fluttered to my house and my girls were asking about Ryan, even a week later.

I was curled in a ball on my couch, snuggling with Piper as she read me a book, when someone knocked at the door.

I silently prayed that it wasn’t Ryan. He hadn’t bothered to show again, although it hadn’t stopped him from trying to reach me. He had sent flowers daily, texted and even tried calling. I never responded to any of it.

“Uncle Davis!” Elle exclaimed.

“Let him in, Baby.” I said tearfully.

I heard him set some bags on the table and make his way in. When he walked around the corner he looked at me and sighed, “Sweetie... Are you okay?”

“Just peachy.” I smiled dryly.

“Mommy’s sad. She misses Ryan.” Piper told him.

“Mommy needs to talk to Ryan, to work some things out.” He smiled at Piper, “Ryan really misses you girls and told me to tell you Hi.”

“We told her that!” Elle shouted and continued coloring, “She’s not listening.”

“Look, I hate to do this, but I came for business.” He sighed heavily, taking a seat on the edge of my ottoman, “Rumor has it that I need a manager to help me clean up and run the place. Before I posted an add in the paper I wanted to ask you. Anyway, how about it? It’s 50k a year and you get insurance and all the perks and bonuses.”

“You can’t afford that.”

“I wasn’t able to a few years ago, but things are better now and I want you back, kid.”


“To be honest, I miss the kids in my office during the day, I miss hearing about all the funny stuff my nieces do and I miss listening to you play piano when you think no one is listening.”

“And risk running into Mr. Rockstar? No thanks.”

“Meg, you loved working at Roxy’s and I loved having you there. Despite all of the crap that went down with Ryan, you and I are a good team. We’re family.”

I had been hearing that a lot lately. I rubbed my forehead as I thought about it. I had lost my inspiration for painting and I did need to do something.

“When would I start?”

“Tuesday. I figured I would put you on the day shift for a couple days and ease you back in. Plus, the new position has perks.”

“Do I get to paint the ladies room?”

“And the men’s room and our office. We do need a little fresh paint.” He smiled, “How about it?”

“Why me?”

“I told you.”

“No. I mean, there are other women out there, worse off than me, why’d you welcome me and help me? Why do you continue to do this?” I cried and Piper handed me some tissues.

“Hey Piper, can you and your sister give us a second, please?” Piper nodded and took a very combative Elle upstairs.

“Meg,” He moved closer and grabbed my hands, “We all struggle. We’ve all been there at some point. I knew a woman like you once, with a beautiful little girl, who fought for everything she had, from the bottom up. She helped me when I hit my rock bottom and she wasn't far off from where I was herself. I never forgot that. I’m not saying that I took you under my wing because I’m paying it forward. I’m telling you because I see the same strength in you. I see you struggle, but you never complain, you always find ways to overcome and be there for your girls while you fight your internal battles and come out on top. You are strong and I believe in your strength.”

“I don’t feel so strong right now.”

“Sometimes it takes a bit, but that’s why you have me and Ryan, if you’ll let him in again.”

“He lied to me.” I cried.

“He omitted something, there’s a difference.” Davis pointed at me, "You, Miss control freak, needed him to push his way in, and if I know you like I think I do, you probably tried to push him away. He fell in love with you and you with him. So, he hid his social status, thinking it wasn't important.”

“I don’t want to be that same kid I was with Tom.”

“Ryan is not Tom.”

“I’ve got kids and he’s a Rockstar. He has a whole different life than I do.”

“You know that saying, “the grass is greener on the other side”? Well, to him, it is. These guys are tough and they like to party, but it gets old after time. They are normal people, like everyone else. They want that connection with someone, but sometimes the status can be a huge road block.”

“But I have kids!”

“And, according to Bree, he’s been so upset that he hasn’t been able to see them that he can’t concentrate on the publicity for their new album.”

“My kids?”

“Yes. He adores those girls.” He gave me a slight smile, “He misses them and when he found out I was coming over here to recruit you, he told me I needed to go the store and get the girls some ice cream.”


“He even gave me money and even told me who would want what and which one Piper needed.”

“I just don’t understand him.”

“It’s love. There isn’t much to understand.”

“So what now?”

“Well, are you taking the job?”

“Yes.” I let out in a huff.

“Good.” He smiled, then rubbed his hands together and shouted, “Now, who’s up for ice cream? I brought gluten free vanilla for Miss Piper and Chocolate for Elle, and... Where’s my other niece?” He looked around as all three girls clopped down the stairs, “Ahhh, there she is, I brought you brownie ice cream.”

“Awesome!” Arlee smiled.

“We’re celebrating, since your mom is working for me again.”


Rumor had it that Davis had hired Meg on as a manager and she had been there for the past few days.

Well... It wasn’t ACTUALLY a rumor... I had been the one to bring it up. He had hired her as a manager, but I didn’t intend for her to work there long.

I felt like shit and wanted to work this out with her. I needed to. Not just for me, but for her and the kids. I loved those kids as much as I loved their mom.

The door chimed when I entered the bar, but no one was tending it, instead, the sound of a beautiful, classically played piano hit my ears.

It was flawless and sounded to be done with perfection. When I peaked around the corner that held the piano I saw that Meg was the pianist, her back facing me.

I leaned against the entry to the dancefloor and watched as her hands glided along the keys with an ease that was so beautiful it made me weak in knees.

Then, before I could say anything, a little blonde head peaked around the piano and wide eyes met mine.

“Ryan!” Elle shouted and ran toward me. I scooped her up in my arms and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

“Hello, beautiful. Why aren’t you in school today?”

“I’m sick.” Her eyes went round and she sniffled to prove her point.

“Oh no!” I widened my eyes, “It’s a good thing Mommy can take of you then, huh?”

She nodded and snuggled into me. When I looked to Meg she was swiping at her tears, but not turning to face me.

“That was beautiful, Meg.” I began walking over to her as she spoke in a shaky breath.

“Thank you. It was one of my father’s.”

She said that she played when she wanted to feel close to him. She must be hurting and to know that I had caused it killed me.

“Baby, is Uncle Davis here?” I whispered to Elle and she nodded, “Do you want to go and visit him while I talk to Mommy?”

With another nod, she was off.

“Why are you here, Ryan?” Meg turned to me with tear stricken eyes.

“I need to make things right with you.”

“Yeah, well... You lied to me for nearly 5 months. I don’t even know you. You need to know a person to make things right between you.”

“I never lied, Meg. You know everything about me and the band. I told you everything, I just never used names.”

“Your life is in California.” She busied herself with picking up sheet music and placing it in a folder as she spoke, “You date supermodels, not single moms.”

“Megan, I’m supposed to leave tomorrow. I’m only going to be there 4 days, but I can’t go if we’re fighting. It isn't right and I don’t want to leave like this.”

“There’s no fight, Ryan. It’s over.” She was crying. I could hear it in her voice.

“It’s not over.” I ground the words out, “We need to work this out!”

“There’s nothing to work out. You lied to me. I went down that path with their father and I...” She sobbed, “I won’t do it again...”

“I never lied! Omission is not lying!”

“Tell me, Ryan! What are tabloids saying about me?”

“You never payed attention before, why now?”

“Because I am not a gold digger! I am not part of that life! I’m not one of THOSE people!”

“I know that, Meg! It's why I love you!”

“Don’t you see that you and I-? We don’t fit together.”

“Says who?” No. We fit together. I loved her and I loved those girls. “The media doesn’t KNOW me, Meg! You do!”

“But, I don’t know you!”

“My name is Ryan Thomas Ford," I shouted, "I’m the second son of Julie and Edward Ford. I lived a normal childhood. I went on fishing trips as a kid, hiking, swimming, I played soccer and had a normal life! I even went to college!"

"I have an older brother named Gregory, who has down-syndrome, and he’s my best friend." I swallowed hard as my voice became heavy with emotion, "He’s funny and not afraid to tell me when I fuck up. I play keys and guitar in a band, with my friends. We’re a big deal and the press hounds us because of, so I keep my private life private. I love my life and I love you, Megan O’Brian.”

“I can’t do this. Not today.” She cried, looking up to the ceiling and swiping at more tears.

“I met this chick who was amazing and awesome in so many ways, that being without her just crumbles me. Her kids are fantastic and I love them too. So, no. I didn't tell you about the band, because this part of life was so fucking good that the press ruining it for me.”


“Meg, you are my everything. You have been since that first day we went on that hike with the girls. Please! I need you to understand that!”

“I can’t do this again... I'm sorry.” She whispered, grabbed her folder and walked back to the office.

“MEG!” I shouted after her but she kept going, with a click of the door behind her.

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