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

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“It’s so dark out! What if I get tired and fall asleep? Santa won’t know where we are!” Elle argued from the back seat.

“Elle, if you get tired we’ll just have to tell Bree and Asher we have to leave. There is no way that they’ll let you miss Santa, okay kid?” I told a wide eyed Elle as we drove to Bree’s.

It was 5pm and past dark. The kids were excited and wound for sound tonight. The cookies I gave them after lunch hadn’t helped either. Piper was the only one who had gone for her strawberries instead.

That was when she told me that she knew the truth about Santa and it broke my heart. I asked her about Elle and she said that Elle still believed, but Arlee knew too.

When we arrived we were greated by the whole gang and their friends and family per usual, but this time I got some surprised glances as I held Piper in one arm and a gluten free dessert in the other.

“Got it.” Asher grabbed the tray.

“Those are Piper’s gluten free brownies.” I told him.

“I’ll tell Bree. She’s been working on some gluten free shit today too. Tend to the kid. She can’t see.” He gave a nod and was gone. When I looked down at Piper I noticed her hood was over her eyes.

“Oh, there are those beautiful girls!” My mother came running to greet us as I attempted to slowly lift Piper’s hood. With her sensory it might be hard on her to do it too quickly.

“They’re here.” I smiled dryly, watching Piper’s eyes as they slowly began you focus. “So am I. You know, your son, band member and friend, but eh... Who cares about Ryan?”

“Did you do it?” Mom leaned in and whispered hopefully.

“That depends, what “it” you’re talking about.” I teased, finally getting Piper’s hood off and watching her smile up at me. It melted me every time.

“Did I do that right?”

“Yes.” She nodded and wiggled down to the ground.

“Hi, Sweetie. Do you remember me?” My mom didn’t skip a beat or act offended by my answer in the least. I had to hand it to her, the woman was smooth.

“Oh, yes.” Piper smiled now, “I’m sorry. It was dark outside and it’s bright in here. Ry-I mean Daddy... He was helping me.”

“Daddy?” My mom whispered excitedly, looking from Piper to me, “She said yes? She said yes!”

My mother began to bounce in the foyer and attacked Meg with squeals as she entered the door behind me, carrying Elle.

“You’ve had a lot of changes lately, huh, honey?” My mom asked as Piper allowed her to take her hand and pull her over to Meg and the girls.

Piper nodded up at her.

“Wait!” Elle gaped as she looked at my mother and my Dad, who was now walking into the entry, “Does this mean that I will have a Gramma and Grampa too?! Oh! This is so cool!”

“You can me Gigi and him Peppe. How does that sound?” My mother beamed.

“So cool!”

“Wait!” Bree shouted, running into the foyer, “Did I hear that right? Are you engaged?!”

Meg nodded and blushed as she was pulled into another hug by Bree. As soon as Bree was finished she stood back looked at Elle. “It also means that everyone here is your uncle, aunt or cousin. Your becoming part of one huge family little Elle.”

“Wow!” Elle gaped.

“I may be high, but I take it congratulations is in order.” Asher smiled at Meg who was still stuck in the doorway, frozen, staring at them all.

“Thanks.” She smiled, but her brow furrowed.

I smiled back at him and walked over to give Meg a kiss. I knew what she was noticing and I couldnt help but laugh, because I knew she was holding her questions back.

“Hey ya’, Arlee.” Noah came and stood next to his dad, giving Arlee a little wave.

As Arlee blushed I was seeing what Meg had meant. She liked him and apparently he liked her. We would have to watch them. Closely.

“Declan! Do you see the rock on that Meg’s finger?! You thought your mine was a new car, her’s is Royce!” Bree howled, as all of the others flooded into the entry.

We hadn’t even closed the door yet.

Once the excitement died down slightly, Bree shouted, “Okay everyone, we need to leave them alone so they can go change!”

Meg gave me a confused look as she whispered, “Are you sure this isn’t a cult? They’re all wearing matching uniforms and want us to change too.”

“Matching pajamas on Christmas Eve. It’s a Bree and Declan thing.” I ran a hand through my hair, “We do it to make them happy.”

“That’s why they did at first, but now they do it for the fans that love to see we’re having fun.” Bree gave Ryan a pointed look and he shrugged.

“Sure, who doesn’t like us making asses of ourselves?”

“Shut up and go change.” Bree laughed, “I have sets for you and the girls up there too. Once your changed we’ll take pictures, then on with the fun.”


Once we were all dressed I looked at her and smiled.

“Looking good.” I chuckled.

“Dork!” She laughed. I couldn’t help but pull her in for a kiss.

“Are you ready for our photo opp?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” She bit her lip nervously, “I mean, your fans know who I am because of our very public fight, but the girls?”

“Do we want to leave it up to them?”

“No, I think, if they take my approach and don’t follow the news stuff we’ll be fine.” A smile crept onto her face, but it was a sadder one, “I missed you so much when we were apart. Having you in my life is the best thing that has ever happened to me. You fit into our world like a glove and if this, matching Pjs and stuff, is what it’s like in your world, I’ll do it, like you do mine.”

“What about reward shows, concerts and press? We can keep the girls out of it, but it may be hard.”

“We will deal with things as they come.” She sighed, “Right now, let’s rock this family photo thing, okay?”

“Okay.” I moved in and gave her another kiss.



“I know you said you played strings and piano, so I thought I’d show you the studio.” Noah shrugged, “It’s pretty cool. We've been in here a lot lately, working on our album.”

He was so cute that I got butterflies when he was around, or when he texted me, or when I thought of him.

I had spent hours planning my cute outfit, but it got sidetracked by his mom’s matching pajama rule. Which he totally rocked, meanwhile I looked like a total dork.

“I play violin and piano. Classical music, not Rock and Roll.” I blushed. God, I was a dork.

“Lindsey Sterling plays a violin.” He smiled at me through his dark hair, “Rocker chick style.”

“I may have dabbled here and there, but I'm nothing like her.” I shrugged and tried to play it cool, “When I go to Julliard, I’ll hone my craft and we’ll see where it takes me.”

“Julliard?" His brows creased together, "Wow, don’t they have waiting lists forever?”

“They do. It’s a very prestigious college, but I’ve worked hard. I play in the orchestra at school, the Junior Orchestra at The Playhouse, and I also do solo concerts here and there, then I work at the library and save my money. It adds to what my grandparents left me, so hopefully I can pay for my schooling outright.”

“Wow, you seem to have everything planned out.” He leaned against the table with a lopsided smile. Oh, those deep blue eyes. Wow... They were like sapphire.

“I do. I’ve had it planned out since I started playing violin.” I bit my lip nervously, noticing that I was staring and feeling like a total idiotic nerd.

He pushed himself off the table and stepped closer. My breath got stuck on my lungs and my heartbeat sped up. God, I hoped he couldn’t hear it.

“Your hair is so cool.” He played with a loose strand, “Do you dye it?”

“No. It bleaches in the sun and grows out a darker blonde, like Elle’s.”

“I like you, Arlee.” He blushed and stood back again, rubbing the back of his neck, “You're not like other chicks. You're deep, you understand more than hair and nails and you don’t play stupid. You're super smart and you own it.”

“I just have goals.” I shrugged.

"I can see that," He smiled and it was beautiful. “I was wondering if you wanted to go out some time, like, a date or something.”

O.M.G. Was he asking me out?! Drooling! Totally drooling!

“Uhm... Well...” I fidgeted. I wanted to say yes, so bad, but when would I find the time? “I-uhm... Don’t date.”

“Your not allowed.” His smile turned awkward and he gave a nod.

“I-um... No. I just never have time.” I shrugged again, looking everywhere but at him, begging for a distraction from those eyes, “Between helping my mom and my jobs and school, I just never really gave it any thought.”

“You’re 17 and you’ve never been on a date?” His black eyebrows drew back into his messy black hairline.

“Well, when you put it like that I sound like a loser. I’m just too busy to get distracted.” I shook my head.

“But you've texted with me until 2am?” He cocked one eyebrow at me and I melted. He had a point.

“That’s different," I swallowed hard, "I talk to you while I do my work.”

“My dad says emotions are the core of music,” He smiled at me, “He says, if you go on like a robot your music will suck, but if you feel your emotions and emit them, your music fallows suit.”

“Emotions can be triggered by other things, not just relationships.” I told him.

“True, but do you ever get the feeling like you know someone, even though you never met them before? Like, how we became instantly close? Last night we talked about a lot of stuff.” He stared at me and it felt like those glassy blue eyes could look right through me. It was almost dizzying.

"Hey, Noah, you seen-?" Ian, his cousin, came in paused, looking between the two of us curiously.

Ian was a year older than Noah, and two years older than me, but the two of them totally could have passed for twins, except for the slight differences.

Both had stark black hair and were tall, but Noah was taller than Ian, and where Noah's eyes were a deep, sapphire blue, his cousin's were an electrical green.

“Arlee?” Ryan’s voice sounded down the hall, “You in here?”

"I found her, Uncle Ryan." Ian snorted, but his eyes never left his cousin's.

I turned as Ryan came in the door, his smile fading as he saw us standing there.

“What are you two up to in here?” He looked between us, surprised.

“She said she liked music. I thought I’d let her check out the studio.” Noah shrugged.

“Cool.” Ryan sighed and ran a hand through his hair, “Arlee, I got you something for Christmas and I want you to check it out.”

“Me?” What could Ryan have gotten me? He looked nervous.

“Yeah.” His lips went tight. Oh, he was freaked. I had only seen him like this a few times.

“You bought us those ponies, didn’t you?” I deadpanned, “Mom’s going to be pissed.”

“Just come on, before she finds me.” He ushered me out of the studio as I teased.

He pushed me down a long hallway and into what looked like a huge garage.

Everyone stood around smiling at me.

“What-?” Before I had a chance to ask I saw a big bow on a blue Volkswagen.

“No way...” I gasped.

“Ryan says it’s one of the safest cars for teens.” Mom glared at him and I guffawed, "Apparently, this is why you haven't been told where your car was."

“I was just kidding when I said I wanted a pony.” I didn’t look at him, I couldn’t look away from the prettiness of the car in front of me.

It looked brand new. No rust, no chips in the paint and I bet it even had that new car smell.

“I know.” Ryan chuckled and I turned to see him trying to hide his smile.

“Are you serious with this?” I gaped at him, “You seriously bought me a car? You do realize you can’t buy my love right?”

“You do realize, that because you are my daughter, I want you safe, right? Especially when you're traveling back and forth from New York in a couple years.” His eyebrow shot up in question.

“1.5 years.” I corrected, “But... It’s seriously mine?” I looked at my mom, “Like, your not making me return it?”

“Apparently, I can’t.” She huffed, glaring at Ryan, “It comes with marrying the man.”

“He bought Mommy one too!” Piper pointed to the new, red...

“Is that a Rav4 hybrid?”

“Yes.” Mom grimaced, “With all the buttons, gadgets and technology.”

“Oh,” I started laughing, “You are going to hate that!”

“Laugh it up.” Her lips went tight.

“This must have taken weeks of planning...” I glared at Ryan, “How did you even know that Mom would say yes?”

“I had actually planned on proposing, the night we got into that fight at the bar.” He shrugged, but the thoughtful smile never left his face, “These were already on order. Go. Check out your car.”

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