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

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I carried a sleeping Piper to her bed and placed her down gently, taking off her shoes and tucking the sheets around her, while Meg tended to Elle.

Once they were tucked in we resided into the hallway and stood there awkwardly.

We hadn’t really gotten a chance to talk with everyone else there, but I was dying to know what was going her head. Just as I was about to ask my phone buzzed.

I pulled it out and scanned it. It was a message from my brother that read, “Don’t fuck it up again. We like her.”

I huffed a laugh at my phone.

“Who was that?” She eyed the phone in my hand.

“THAT was my brother...” I placed the phone back in my pocket, “He’s telling me not to fuck this up. They liked you.”

“Yeah, well... Keep your eye on those boys.” She whispered, heading into her bedroom and motioning for me to follow, “They were a little flirty with Arlee tonight.”

“I don’t think I like that either," I smiled, closing the door behind me as she sat on the edge of her bed and pulled her boots off, "Teenage boys suck."

I still didn’t know what to do. Had we not been on the outs the past week and a half I would have been all over her by now.

When she was finished taking her boots off she looked up at me, “You know, I’ve been thinking this over and over in my head. You told me about them to a T, personalities and everything, but you never used names and I never questioned it.”

“I was waiting for you to take the first step and question me. Your so down to earth, kind and compassionate, I just didn’t want to scare you off.”

“I see your reasoning now, but in the moment I didn’t. I was hurt. I still kind of am, but it’s my fault too for not questioning you. I just liked the normalcy we had and how you just kind of slid into our lives so easily. I didn’t want to question it, in the fear that you would disappear.”

“I’m not going anywhere unless you tell me to. I want to be here with you and the girls.”

“Why me, Ryan?” Her sad eyes bore into mine.

“What do you mean?”

“You could have anyone in the world, why me?”

“Because, your beautiful inside and out. Your artistic, spicy, sweet and you put your daughters and their needs ahead of your own.” I walked over and crouched until we were eye level, using her knees to stable myself, “I love everything about you. Especially how I just feel like a normal guy around you. I’m not some Rockstar or part of a band when I’m with you, I’m me. I love how you and the girls make me feel needed. It’s so different than the band dynamic. When I spend the day with you and the girls I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’m happier and I feel wanted for who I am. Not just needed for what I can do.”

“Ryan, you do realize the difference in our lives right?”

“What differences?”

“I was at your friend’s house tonight.” She shot me an incredulous stare, “I live in a 3 bedroom colonial, with 1 bathroom and I’m assuming your sports car is worth more than my house.”

“I want you to move in with me.” I was blunt, but I didn’t care, “Move in with me and everything that I own will be yours.”

“Ryan, I can’t uproot the girls, the press would be all over us and Piper needs balance.”

“You would have more time with Piper, first of all. No more trips to Children’s Hospital for counseling. They would come to us in an environment where she’s happy and comfortable. If it’s here, it’s here, if she chooses my house, it’s my house.”

“Your house?” The look on her face told me she hadn’t even thought of me owning a house.

“What did you mean uprooting the girls?” I tilted my head in question.

“California is a long ways away, Ryan.”

“I would never ask you to do that. If your home is here and you want to stay here we will. I’ll travel here and there, like I did this week, but I have a house here too, with gated security and the whole bit. The girls could stay out of the press and we could have our privacy.”

“Ryan, this is big.” She gaped at me.

“It is, but I want this. You and I get along so well. We make a great team and the girls are amazing...”

“What if it doesn’t work out?”

“Keep your house.” I shrugged, “Bree still owns the house she grew up in. It belongs to Declan now and they use it as a little getaway.”

“This is a lot... I really don’t know...”

“Don’t make the decision on your own, okay? Talk to the girls. See how they feel about it.” I knew I at least had Arlee on my team.

“Why do I feel like this is that movie Overboard and I’ve kidnapped you to take care of my kids?”

I laughed and kissed her forehead, then moved to the door but she called me back.

“Where are you going?”

“I was going to go home.” I looked back at her with a smile, “Didn’t think you wanted me to stay.”

“I didn’t say I wanted you to leave.” She blushed, looking at her hands, “I... Just, if you stay, can you stay the night? I sleep better with you here and I haven’t slept well all week.”

“Won’t that bother the girls, to wake up with me in your bed?”

“It’ll bother me to wake up alone again.”

I rushed to her and pulled her to face me, my lips crashing into hers.


The next morning I woke up to a little finger poking me in the face.

“Ryan, are you awake?” Elle whispered in my face.

“Am now, little one.” I returned her whisper.

“Did you have a sleepover with Mommy?” I looked to Meg for my answer to her daughter, but she was sound asleep.

“I did.” I smiled and her returning smile brightened my entire day already.

Meg got this every morning and I understood, even more, why she would do anything for her girls. Just their smiles alone made me want to spoil them rotten.

“Are you hungry?" I asked her, "Do you want me to make some breakfast?”

“I have to pee first.” Her eyes went wide, “I’ll meet you down there.”

I peeked at Meg who was still out cold, in my shirt and then gave Elle a nod.

“You head out first and I’ll be right along.” I couldn’t wear my t-shirt, but had to put some pants on first.

She obliged and I found my pants and made my way into the hall when Arlee started shouting.

“Eww!" She screeched, "Elle, close the door!”

“I didn’t know you were awake! I had to go fast! Ryan’s here!” Elle shouted back and that was when Arlee looked away and right at me coming down the hallway. I froze nervously as her eyes narrowed.

“So, this is a thing now? Your finally not ditching out at 5am?”

I slipped my hands into my jean pockets and shrugged, I hadn’t felt like this since I was a kid, leaving Marsha Minder’s house and her brother caught me, “I’m not leaving again until one of you or your mom tells me to.”

Her features softened slightly, “She really missed you, you know?”

“I really missed her too.” I looked to my feet, not knowing what to say next.

“He’s going to make us breakfast.” Elle spoke from the bathroom as the water began to run.

“Whatever.” Arlee rolled her eyes and walked in as Elle was coming out.

“Let’s go, kiddo.” I scooped her and and jogged down the steps.

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