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

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I woke up to Panic! At the Disco coming from my lower level and the girls laughing.

I opened my eyes and looked to Ryan wondering what they were doing, but he wasn’t there. He had left again, despite the fact that I had slipped his t-shirt on so he couldn’t leave.

I sighed. I had to get out of bed and get down there before they made messes trying to make breakfast themselves, leave it to Elle, the mess was probably already made.

I heaved darted out of bed, still throbbing with that pleasant ache from last night and ran down the stairs, despite my jelly legs.

When I made it to the bottom step I froze at the sight. What I saw was so sweet that it nearly brought me to my knees and I had to hold onto the banner.

All three girls were laughing and dancing as they laughed at Ryan doing the robot... Really well, I should add. I tried to cover my smile with my hand, but Arlee caught my amusement and began to snicker a laugh.

Hearing Arlee and seeing her looking behind him, he turned to face me and his face turned beet red.

“We-uhm... Were letting you sleep in.” He came over to give me a kiss, his embarrassment evident.

“Mmmm.” I tried to bite my laughter back. I tried hard, but a snort escaped me from my efforts.

“Yeah...” He sighed with laughter, but put his arm around me and helped me down the last step as I snickered.

“Didn’t know you had those stellar moves.” I laughed, pulling him into another kiss.

“Oh yeah?” He smiled slickly, “I’ve got more.”

He stepped back, grabbing my hands and twirling me around as I laughed.

The girls began to cheer with laughter as he continued to dance with me.

This was Ryan... This is why I had overlooked who he was and not questioned anything, because when he was here with us, we were happy. We laughed, we joked, things were more relaxed and our worries and fears faded into the background.

“Can we play in the snow today? I want to build another snow man.” Piper asked Ryan.

“Uh,” Ryan gave me a sideways glance and I knew where he was going with this. He was putting the ball in my court.

“Well, baby,” I knelt down to talk to Piper as Ryan turned the stereo down, “Ryan invited us to his house for the day.”

“Ryan has a house?” She was just as confused as I was last night.

I nodded, “He does and he said that he has a big yard. Maybe we want to build a snowman there?”

“What if our snowman gets lonely, since we won’t be there again?”

“I think you’ll have to come over a lot and visit your snowman.” Ryan smiled at Piper, then turned to Elle, “What do you think, kid?”

“Is it a big yard or a super big yard?” Ryan laughed at her question.

“Super big!” He exclaimed, mocking her enthusiasm.

“Yeah!” Elle shouted, “I’m gonna go get dressed!”

“Okay!” I laughed, “What about you, Piper?”

Piper nodded and made her way up the steps, then I turned to Arlee, who was watching the two of us skeptically.

“What say you, my love?” I asked.

“I say, let’s do it.” She shrugged, “I get first shower though. Since we have one bathroom and who knows how long he’s gonna take in there.” She threw her thumb at Ryan as she hopped up the stairs.

“Is this really a good idea, Ryan?” Meg scrunched her face nervously.

“I think so.” I shrugged and pulled her in for a hug.

“What if they break something expensive? You don’t normally have kids around.”

“I honestly don’t care. I’m the only one in my house 90% of the time and it’s boring.” I sighed, “It might be fun if they break something.”


Ryan drove my car. After about a 30 minute drive he pulled through a large gate, made of concrete and iron.

He had a smile on his face as he turned to look at the girls, “Look how safe this is, Piper. Do you see this metal? It surrounds my whole yard. It protects us once we’re inside. The only people who have the code to the gate are the people we saw last night.”

Piper was holding her stuffed kiwi tight, her thumb in her mouth as she gaped out the window. New places scared her and last night had been a huge step for her as it was. I had expected her to melt with the huge crowd of people at Asher and Bree’s, not to mention the house itself being new, but she’d pulled through and as soon as she’d heard Ryan’s voice on the line she’d put her backpack down and waited excitedly for him.

It melted my heart to know that she felt safe with him.

“My mom, dad and brother are here too, do you remember them from last night?”

“I do! She snuck me cookies! I ate so many I thought I was gonna vomit!” Elle exclaimed and I laughed, but stopped as the house came into view.

“They’re just here for the holidays, but they were looking forward to seeing you girls again.” Ryan glanced at me but I couldn’t look away from the house.

It looked like a huge cottage and by huge I meant HUGE... The closer we got to it the bigger it got.

The drive turned into cobblestone that made up the lower 3 feet of the vast exterior and the porch, while the rest was large windows and a dark wood siding. It was modern, but yet, still like a large cottage.

“God, how many rooms are in this place?” Arlee asked.

Ryan chuckled and came to a stop, “Seven bedrooms, eight and a half baths, but I turned one bedroom into a studio.”

“This is too much.” I gaped out the passenger window.

“It’s too much when I’m alone, yeah, but my parents visit often and I have the band over here and there.” I felt him shrug out of the driver’s seat and the cold, frigid air hit my face, waking me up from my daydream.

I blinked. No... This wasn’t a daydream. The house was still there.

Once inside, we were met by a large mahogany staircase that seemed to wrap around the upper level, meeting half way and splitting before it hit our level. I heard Piper gasp.

“Wow! Cool!” Elle exclaimed.

“Now I see why you take up so much space in our little house.” Arlee scoffed.

“Arlee, shut up.” I said as I gaped around the entry, “Girls, take your shoes off so we don’t track anything on Ryan’s floors.”

“We’ll do it to make your mom happy, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s all hardwood. Easy for the maid service to clean, when they come in.” I could hear the smile in Ryan’s voice, but I ignored it as my eyes focused just past the entry, into a large great room with modern black furnishings and multi-paneled floor to ceiling windows.

The windows showed a view of a large pristine, untouched yard, covered in snow. It was so beautiful and peaceful. It made me want to cry in all it’s serenity.

“Wow, Mommy.” Piper whispered as I helped her with her boots, “It looks so pretty. Can I sit near the windows and read my book?”

“We’ll see, baby.” Although, it was what I wanted to do at that very moment.

“Tell you what, why don’t you girls go and explore. Any open door is a welcome area. The only closed doors should be the rooms my family is in and my bedroom.”

“We’re all in the kitchen, so just explore at your heart’s content ladies!” Ryan’s mother chorused from around the great room.

The girls all paused, looking from me to Ryan, the look of curiosity and want of exploration so expressive in all their features. Even Piper was ready to see what this house had.

“Go,” I smiled and they all took off excitedly, Piper following Arlee, “Just don’t touch anything expensive!”

Ryan laughed.

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