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

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I was finally home and I was finding that I was restless as hell.

It was 2 days before Christmas Eve and, although my family was dying to meet Meg, I still wasn’t certain she would even talk to me and I needed to try again to work things out with her, before our holiday traditions began.

Everyone was right, I really should have told her sooner, but I swear, I had been planning on bringing her to my house for Christmas and introducing her to my parents, I just hadn’t planned on her finding out through other means beforehand.

We were supposed to be meeting at Bree’s tonight and do the massive tree decorating and “baking” thing we did every year. The guys baked one way while the women made actual cookies.

Anyway, my brother and parents were already on their way over there, but I needed to talk to Meg first. I needed to see her. I needed her to forgive me and we needed to make things right between us.

When I arrived at her house her and Arlee’s cars were both in the driveway, but no lights were on. I knocked anyway, it was only 7pm, maybe they were watching a movie or something. Hopefully she would talk to me.

“Meg?!” I called out, banging my fist against the door, “Come on. Let me in.”

Nothing... Where were they?

“Meg!” I shouted and banged on the door, “Arlee?! Piper, Elle! Anyone?! Come the fuck on! I need to see you!”

Maybe it was the alcohol I had consumed before driving over here, or the pain that beat in my chest, but no one seemed to be home.

“Ryan, what is your problem?” An older woman came out of the house next door and hissed at me.

Mrs. Marcus. I had met her last fall. She was a retired school teacher and close to Meg and the girls. I think she was also close to a saint. She was always sweet and smiling and loved when the girls utilized her yard for activities. She always commented that it made their exploration ground larger. Hence the large snowman in her front yard, surrounded by little footprints.

My heart swooned as I looked at the icy man with the Harry Potter scarf and stock arms. My girls had done that, most likely to give Mrs. Marcus a friend.

“Sorry. Megan won’t talk to me and I’m trying to get her to open the door.”

The woman crossed her arms and examined me.

“Megan isn’t home, Ryan.” She huffed, “Mark Davis came to get them earlier tonight and they went somewhere. She dropped me off some cookies as they were leaving. She said they had too many.”

“Do you know where they went, by any chance?”

“No.” She shrugged, “But, if she doesn’t want to talk to you, I wouldn’t push it. Megan has a bit of temper.”

I bit my tongue. I knew Megan had a temper. I had seen it that night in front of Roxy’s. Hell, the world had seen it at this point.

“Thank you, Mrs. Marcus. I’m sorry I disturbed you.” I picked up my phone and called Davis as I climbed back into my car.

“Hey, Ryan. What’s up?” He answered.

“Are Meg and the girls with you?” I asked.

“Why, yes. They’re around here somewhere, flitting around in beautiful little dresses. Like perfect little princesses.”

I sighed, running a hand through my hair, “Can I talk to her please?”

“Who’s her? There are tons of beautiful ladies here tonight.” I heard the smile in his tone and it pissed me off.

“Don’t fuck with me, Davis!”

“Watch your language, your on speakerphone and pretty little ears can hear you.” His ass sounded like it didn’t have a care in the world.

“I want to talk to Meg!” I ground out and peeled out of her driveway. I was heading to Roxy’s. They had to be there.

“She’s a little busy talking to your mom and brother right now.” Mike laughed, “Can I give her a message?”

“She what?!” I slammed my breaks so hard that my car slid another three feet on the ice before stopping as the power breaks kicked in.

“What was that?” Our manager Liv asked in horror.

“His breaks.” Declan whispered.

“No, shit? Really? That’s what that sounds like?” I heard Kade laugh.

“Shut up.” Declan’s voice was muffled, “Horrible memories, you fool!”

“Why the fuck is she there?!” I ground out, over the voices.

“Because she's family now, asshole.” Someone, it sounded like Asher, laughed in the background before the line went dead.

I stared at my phone in disbelief. Did I hear that right? Meg was there with the girls? And my family?

I rushed over and made it there in record time, to find the guys all swarming around the living room, per usual.

“Yo, Ryan! About time you showed your stupid ass!” Kade shouted.

“Well, if someone had told me, I wouldn’t be late.” I spoke through gritted teeth.

“Same place every year, bro.” Asher welcomed me with a dry look as he tossed down a bundle of lights and picked up a vape pen.

Bree had a no smoking rule in the house and Ash was good the majority of the time, as long as he had his vape.

I smiled as a chorus of my name sounded and two little girls in fluffy red dresses came running toward me. My heart stopped as I crouched and pulled them into my arms.

Piper and Elle were so fucking cute in their matching dresses and big huge bows. They were the best sight I’d seen all week.

“I missed you ladies so much!” I kissed their foreheads as they giggled.

When I looked up, Arlee was standing a couple feet behind them in a matching red sweater dress and leggings.

“Arlee.” I cocked a brow at her, “You still pissed at me about the car?”

She didn’t say anything, she just shook her head as her eyes glazed over.

I let her sisters go and stood, taking the two steps to reach her, pulling her into a tight hug as she began to cry.

This kid acted tough, but she was still hurt by what her father had done to her. It hadn’t helped that I left while Meg and I were arguing. If it was hard on me, it had been even harder on these poor girls who were used to being abandoned.

“I missed you guys so much.” I whispered to her, “If I go again I want you all to come with me. You, your mom, if she forgives me, and the littles. No one ever gets left behind, okay?”

“I still think you take up too much space.” She mumbled and I laughed.

“Why aren’t you with the other teens?” I asked curiously.

“I was. When Noah said that you were on your way I came out.” She whispered, “They’re cool, but I wanted to say hi. The littles missed you.”

“You did too, apparently.” I sighed, hugging her again, “I’m so sorry, Arlee.”

"Eh, I really just want my car back." She snorted and I began to laugh, with the mood now lightening.

“Ryan, do you like my dress?” Elle asked, flattening the front of her dress so I could see it.

It was then that I noticed little traces of flour powdered on her velvety dress.

“I think it’s absolutely beautiful.” I smiled at her then turned to Piper, who had less flour on herself although it was still noticeable, “And yours too, Miss Piper! Have you you girls been making cookies?”

They both nodded, but Elle was the one to speak, “Aunt Bree had ingredients for all the cookies!” Her eyes bugged excitedly, “We even made some gluten free ones and ones in the shape of candy canes!”

“Wow!” I acted shocked, “I’m going to have to try some!”

“Mom’s in the kitchen, I know you want to see her.” Arlee whispered.

I wanted to see her more than anything, but would she want to see me?

When I made my way into the kitchen, I heard the guys start to joke and play with the girls.

Kade was bowing and asking Piper to dance and Asher and Jason were laughing at something Arlee muttered under her breath while Chris and a couple of the others were in a deeply intense conversation with Elle. Those girls could melt anyone’s heart. God knows they melted mine.

“Always fucking late...” Declan shook her head, using a cookie cutter on the dough she’d rolled out.

“I should have bought him a watch for Christmas.” Lou joked.

“I DID...” Reegan added pointedly, “But he ain’t getting it until Christmas.”

I didn’t pay them any attention. My eyes were set on the beautiful brunette who was placing cookies onto a cookie sheet with my mom on the massive island. She wouldn’t make eye contact with me and it killed me.

“Meg.” I spoke her name with a sigh.

“Ryan.” She nodded in my direction, giving me a hint of a smile. All eyes were on us, but I couldn’t look away from her.

“What are you doing here?” I ignored my mom and stood in front of Meg to try to look her in the eyes, but she continued with the cookies as though I wasn’t there.

“Kade and Asher insisted we come and the girls wanted to see you.” She bit her lip nervously, “Davis thought it was a good idea.”

“It’s... I just...”

“Help or get out!” Ree ordered.

“I want to talk to Meg.” I glared at her.

“Has Ash strung the lights yet?” Bree asked, “We’re almost ready to decorate.”

“Looks to me like he was throwing in the towel.” I smirked when Bree froze and glared at me.

“Excuse me? He what?” It was my turn to smile, dude was in for it.

“Asher!” She stormed out of the room. One down... Only 7 more to go.

I walked to Meg and wrapped my arms around her waist from behind, “I missed you.” I whispered into her ear.

“I’m here for the girls.” She stiffened and gave a nod. I watched the silent tears fall from her eyes and slide down her cheeks.

I was well aware that we were being watched, not only by the others, but by my mother too.

“I love you, Megan.” I whispered in her ear. She leaned back into me and shook with her tears.

“If you want to punch him the face, remember I have to videotape it for everybody else.” Greg entered the room with a smile.

A twinkle of laughter escaped her through her silent cries.

“I do deserve it.” I told her as she turned around in my arms.

“In the worst way.” Her voice was still burdened with emotion, but she hugged me back tightly.

“That was too easy.” Ash’s mom glared at me as I kissed the top of Meg’s head, “At least smack him around a bit. Make him earn it.”

Meg giggled into my chest, “I missed him too much.”

My head fell back with a sigh of relief. God, I needed this woman in my life.

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