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

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The entire week, I posed and did as directed, but my mind was still in Maine and everyone knew it.

I couldn’t look at any of my band mates or family, especially Greg. He was pissed at me, from what he saw on the media releases.

I missed the fuck out of Meg and the girls... My family... That’s what they were. It’s what they had become. I needed THEM more than they needed me. That much was certain now, I flew back.

“You should stop drinking, it’s not good for you.” My big brother leaned over to whisper in my ear.

We were on our flight back to Maine, my family coming along for the holidays, chose to fly back with us. Despite me just wanting to stew alone. This would have been our first Christmas together.

“I’m not in the mood, Greg.” I mumbled around my tumbler.

“What is your problem?” He glared at me, “All week you have been an asshole. We aren’t kids anymore, Ryan. You can’t be pissy to us when you do something stupid.”

“You wouldn’t understand.” I sighed and looked out the window, we were passing over a city in Ohio.

“I have down syndrome, I’m not an idiot, Ryan. You have already drank five airplane bottles and we are only half way there.”

“I just...” I was still so pissed at myself. I was such an idiot. Such an ass. I scoffed and shook my head, keeping my gaze on the city below.

“Is this about that girl that slapped the crap out of you?” That got my attention and my head darted toward him.

“How did you know about Meg?”

“Like I said, I’m not stupid. I keep dibs on you, little brother.” He sighed and crossed his arms in all seriousness, “By the sounds of it, you didn’t tell her who you were.”

“I told her everything about me, you, Mom, Dad, the band... I thought that was enough.”

“But, you left out the biggest part. You’re famous.”

“She would have put up a wall between us.”

“And you not telling her didn’t?” He sighed, “You are such an idiot sometimes.”

“I wanted to tell her," I explained, "I was going to play one of our new tracks for her and tell her, but she found out before I could. We had this normal life and I fell in love with her and her kids. It felt good to have more than the fame.”

“So, what are you going to do to fix it?”

“It’s not that easy.”

“Yes, it is." He gaped at me, "You love her and if she loves you it is easy.”

“She won’t even talk to me.”

“So, make her.” He looked at me like I was a moron.

“And how do you suppose I do that, smart ass?”

“Do what your good at, get loud and yell until she can’t ignore you.” He shrugged, “Or she punches you in the face, but if she does that, I want to watch. I think you deserve it.”

“Thanks, bro.”

“You're welcome.”


The girls weren’t listening to me lately, they were argumentative and Piper was back to carrying her backpack everywhere. It killed me, especially after what Arlee had said about it.

I had allowed myself to fall for a man that I truly didn’t know, and I had dragged my children along for the ride. I had hurt them and they all missed him.

Now, there was even added stress to this predicament and I wanted to talk to Ryan about it, but we weren’t talking. He had become my best friend in the five months we had been together and, although I had done it by myself before, it just seemed so much harder without him now.

I was cleaning the house after the girls went to bed and came across Piper’s backpack, which caused me to collapse onto the floor in tears, hugging it close.

What was I going to do? We were all broken... Especially Piper who wore her heart on the outside. We all loved him and wanted him in our lives, but how could I forgive him? How would I be any different from what people were expecting me to be?

Tears fell from my eyes as I sobbed, holding my baby’s backpack close.

I had never opened it... Not once. Every once in a while I would see Piper add mysterious little trinkets or pull out her journal to write in it, but I had wanted to give her privacy.

Something in me said that I had to know... I had to know what my baby was thinking and what went through her mind as she added things to this bag.

My hands shook as I slid the zipper open. There were clothes, snacks and toys. I laid everything out, folding the clothes neatly as I cried...

My baby...

When I reached her journal I froze, holding it tightly in my hands.

Part of me said that this was a huge invasion of her privacy, but the other part needed to know... I needed to understand my baby and what she she couldn’t express.

When I opened the journal I was shocked though.

There were no words inside. None. Just pictures... Pictures dating back to when she was little and Arlee got her first camera... Pictures I had taken of her and her sisters, pictures of me, Arlee, Davis, Elle... And Ryan... Pictures of us all together.

When I got to the last page it was a picture that Ryan had taken on a hiking expedition. It was all 5 of us, smiling as he took the picture in selfie mode, and underneath was the only writing I had seen. It read, ”My family.”

“I told you, she thought Dad was going to come back and take her away.” Arlee spoke softly as she knelt on the floor beside me.

“How did she get these?”

“She asked me for some pictures.” Arlee shrugged. “She said that she didn’t want to forget us. That was when I put two and two together, but I didn’t give her these.” She pointed to the last several pages that included Ryan. “Ryan must have helped her.”

“She loves Ryan...” I cried.

“We all do, Mom.” She sniffled.

“Arlee, he lied to me. He lied to all of us.”

“Mom, I knew who Ryan was from the beginning, and I didn’t tell you either.” Arlee let out a breath of air then watched me as I gaped at her, “I knew you would push him away and I liked how he made you feel. You seemed happier, and Piper warmed up to him from day one. She feels safe with him and, to be honest, so do I.”


“Mom, I’m old enough to know that this is between you two, but you need to know that I knew and I didn’t tell you either.” Her face kind of scrunched, “I kind of even told him that I was excited to have a pool and at another point, I may have mentioned a new car.”

“Arlee!” I gasped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

"I'm still a kid here!" Arlee defended herself, "I only have nine months left on life's free trial and I still have stuff to do. I can't do anything with my car in the shop, especially when I don't even know what shop Ryan sent it to."

There was a knock at the door and Arlee went to get it then walked in with a confused look on her face.

“Mom, there’s two- uhm... Guys here to see you...” She cleared her throat, “Can you just hear them out?”

“What?” I looked at my oldest daughter in confusion before my eyes darted to the two men entering my living room.

“Bree told us not to come. She was worried I’d scare you, but I wanted to talk to you.” A smooth, deep voice came from one of the men as heavy boots clopped across my floor and two men, one I only vaguely recognized, stood before me. They were both tall, but that was the only thing they had in common.

One was very broad shouldered and muscular, with blonde hair and black eyes, while the other was thin, with black hair and icy blue eyes.

“You must be the infamous Megan.” The blonde smiled widely, speaking for the first time, “My name is Kade and this is Asher.” He motioned to the dark haired man, “Apparently you met him at the bar the other night.”

“You met my my wife Bree,” Asher said with a nod, “I kind of stood back and watched the scene. It was a little hard to meet you with all the fucking screaming you were doing.”

“Asher... As in-?”

“As in Ryan’s brother-in-law and Kade is his nephew.” Asher spoke pointedly as he crouched in front of me, “We don’t use band labels. We’re a family. Just normal people, like Ryan told you.”

“You know what Ryan told me?” I cocked a brow at him.

“He talked about you and the girls all the time.” He shrugged, "You're his family, just like we are."

“This is just too much...”

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