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

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The next morning I woke up and rolled over to see Ryan sleeping next to me.

He was such a handsome man. Muscular and strong and sexy as hell.

“You’re staring at me.” He mumbled with a slick smile.

“Jerk!” I pushed his shoulder and when his arm snaked out and grabbed for me I rolled away laughing.

“If your going to stare, the least you could do is answer my question.” His voice was a growl in my ear.

“I told you, we have to talk to the girls first.” I laughed, pushing him off and climbing out of bed, “I have to pee.”

I opened the door noticing a glimmer on the door knob, but ignoring it and running into the hallway.

Then I froze. My morning bladder emptying routine forgotten. My hand was shaking and weighted down.

I looked down to my left hand and stared in silence.

Ryan’s words on repeat in my mind, “The least you could do is answer my question.”

When had he even asked me?

I turned and slowly made my way back to the bedroom.

He was now sitting up in bed with his hands folded behind his head and huge grin on his face. If he wasn't so sexy I would beat him with a pillow.

“Well, you gonna answer me?”

“Are you serious?” I held my shaking hand up for him to see.

“Yes.” He gave a nod, “You look surprised.”

“You wouldn’t say...” I deadpanned.

“I want you to move in with me. I love you and I love the girls. What more is there to do?” He shrugged.

“This is huge.” I pointed to my ringed hand that I was still holding up as though it was a torch. “Huge, Ryan. When did you plan this?”

“A couple weeks ago.” His brow furrowed but the smirk never left his face.

“Mmm-hmm!” I bit my lip, looking at the ring again. “That makes no sense.”

“When did you even get it on me? How?”

“You sleep like a rock, we were cuddling and I slipped it on you.” He shrugged again.

“Stop shrugging. It drives me crazy.” I ran my opposite hand through my hair. “Today is Christmas Eve. How are we going to tell the kids?”

“So, does that mean yes?” He cocked a brow at me.

“Duh.” I finally let out the breath I’d been holding only to start laughing as he jutted out of bed, grabbed me and pulled me back to it.

I landed on top of him in the tangled blankets as we laughed.

“I love you Meg.” He began to kiss me on my neck my cheeks my forehead, anywhere that his could make purchase, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

“He’s kissing her again.” Piper’s voice squeaked from the door and I turned to see her standing with her kiwi in hand and Elle next to her, with bright little morning smiles on their faces.

“Yup.” Elle rolled her eyes and went to the bathroom while Piper climbed onto the bed, her thumb in her mouth.

“You wanna tell her?” Ryan cocked a brow at me.

“You’re so good with words, why don’t you?” I tossed him a snarky glance, before sitting up and pulling Piper into my arms.

She snuggled in close. I wished she could stay this small forever. Even though she was nine now and more than half my size.

“I went to the bathroom. Now I’m going to lay with you until I know what I want for breakfast.” Elle came back into the room and clambered into the bed with us.

“Ryan is going to tell us something.” Piper told Elle and they both looked at him expectantly.

“Well...” He looked to me for help and I shrugged... Know it all... “I asked your mom to marry me.”

Piper’s thumb made a popping sound when she pulled it out of her mouth and Elle began to yell.

“What did she say?! What did she say?!”

“She said yes.” He laughed and both girls began to squeal, jumping on the bed.

“We probably shouldn't have told them before the coffee.” I grimaced.

“I totally agree.” He laughed.

“I’ll go start a pot.” I shook my head and headed down the stairs.

“Why are they screeching at 6:30 in the morning? It’s not even Christmas yet.” Arlee emerged and I shoved my hand into her face as I walked by.

She gaped and grabbed my hand, pulling me back.

“Did he just walk in and say, “I want the most expensive thing you have?!“” Her eyes bulged, “That thing is huge!”

“Arlee!” Now was my turn to gape, but instead of countering, she pulled me into a hug.

“I’m happy for you, Mom.” She whispered, “Just remember, I’m not into pink, so a blue pony is good.”

She snorted as I laughed, “Go in there and make sure that the poor man can still hear okay. I think your sisters may kill his eardrums.”

“On it.”

I went to business making coffee and breakfast for the girls. Everyone fanned down in the meantime and huddled in the kitchen.

Piper and Elle took their seats at the table and were coloring while Ryan helped me with the eggs and bacon.

“Ryan, does this mean you’ll be our dad?” Piper asked, her voice sounding hopeful.

Ryan turned to look at me, as if to ask and I nodded. He was free to tell them what he wanted and I wanted to hear what he had to say.

“Well,” He walked over to her and crouched next to her, “I would love to be a dad to you, if you want me to.”

“Oh! That would be so cool!” Elle shouted, “We have a dad!”

“Can we call you Daddy? Is that okay?” Piper asked and he smiled warmly.

I looked into the living room where Arlee sat, pretending not to listen. Her eyes were glazing over and she was looking everywhere but at me.

“I will answer to anything you want to call me.” I heard Ryan tell her softly, but my eyes were fixed on Arlee as the tears streamed down her cheeks.

I put my spatula down and went in to see her, “Ryan? Would you mind manning the stove, hun?”

“Not at all.” He smiled and gave the girls each a kiss, noting the direction I was heading.

“Hey, kid.” I sat next to her and pulled her into my embrace.

“I’m happy for you.” She swiped at her eyes.

“And what about you?” I whispered as I kissed her temple.

“I told you. I want the blue pony.” She shrugged and snuggled in further.

“That’s not what I mean. You can hide behind your sarcasm and snarky remarks, but I see it. What’s wrong?”

“I’ll be the step kid.” She whispered so softly that I barely heard her, “Piper and Elle are so little that they’ll be his and I’ll be the step kid.”

“No,” Ryan caught me off guard with his soft voice as he knelt down and tugged on Arlee’s hands to pull them away from her face, “You will never be the step kid. Got it? If they want to call me Dad, you call me Dad too. Hell, you can call me asshole, for all I care, as long as it makes you happy. I’m not here just to buy you that blue pony. Which I totally will, despite your mom’s protests. Hell, it’d Be safer than that car you drive.”

“I like my car.” She cried.

“Listen, Arlee. I’m here for the full haul. Baggage and all. It doesn’t end when you turn 18, got it? I’m marrying your mom because I love you all. I look forward to your bitter attitude, Piper’s snuggles and Elle’s bluntness. Your mom is the just the icing on the cake, because she’s all 3 wrapped into one, but as long as you’ll allow me to, I want to be your dad too.”

“You're not gonna cry are you?” She sniffled looking into his eyes, “Because that would be really awkward.”

He chuckled, “No. I’m a tough guy.”

“Yeah. Okay.” I could almost hear her rolling her eyes at him, “I may not do it right away, but, maybe in the future? You know... I may call you... You know...”

“I totally get it,” He huffed, “Trust me. It’s a big step for all of us.”

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