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

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“You have the divorce decree that states the house belongs to you.” Bree told my mom, “He has no footing.”

We had come over to Bree’s after the fight. Mom and Bree were growing close. It was nice to see that my mom had a friend. Especially one as crazy and sweet as Bree.

“Here’s some ice for your hand, Mini-Rocky.” Bree’s daughter smiled at me, handing me a bag of ice.

She was a lot older than me, by quite a few years, but she was really nice. They all were.

“If we can’t find where he’s staying though-” I heard my mom begin to cry.

This was killing her. Just as her happiness started, he was ruining it.

“I got his plates,” Mike told her, “They’ll find him and get him served. Once they do he can’t sell that house.”

“Are you sure?” She asked.

“Liv is working on it right now.” Bree told my mom, “She’s good. Trust me. She’s been doing this for decades.”

“He’s going to screw up the adoption.” I whispered in a daze.

“He can’t.” Declan told me quietly, as she plopped down on the couch next to me.

“How so?” I looked at her in question.

“You can testify against him, if it comes to that, but I doubt it will.” She sighed, “You may have punched him in the face and shouted at him, but the proof is that you’ve never been in trouble, you're a good kid and you’ve got goals. As for the little ones, he doesn’t know anything about them. He’s never tried to be there so there’s no backing for his case.”

“How do you know so much about this?”

“I was fifteen when Asher McGhee came back into our lives.” She gave me a lopsided grin, “I was terrified and thought he was going to hurt my mom. So, I did my research to figure out what my options were.”

“Was he mean? Did he not want you?” I couldn’t imagine that, with how much he loved them.

“No. He didn’t know about me. I was teen pregnancy, my mom got scared and ran.” She shrugged, “Then he left and didn’t come back for sixteen years. When I found out he was my dad he was yelling at my mom. He had a bad rapport in the public eye, and I got worried he was going to fight my mom for custody just to hurt her.”

“Really?” My jaw dropped.

“Yeah.” She nodded, “You know, I grew up with “Uncle Davis” too? Tell me, does he still hide the chocolate under the bar?”

“Yes,” I laughed, “Piper loves it.”

“I used to go in there and raid his stash, then my mom would wonder why I was all over the place, but it was our secret.”

“He doesn’t even like chocolate, you know.” I told her and we both broke into laughter.

“So, my brother tells me your sights are set on Julliard?” She asked me with a smile.

“Yeah.” I nodded, surprised he had told her, “My grandfather went and it’s always been a goal of mine.”

“Amazing.” She shook her head, “And you play in the symphony too?”

“I do.” I smiled with a nod, “I’m a nerd.”

“No, you just play a different type of instrument than we do, but the main denominator is that you like the music.” She smiled slyly, “Do you write anything? Like music or poems?”

“I love to write, but I don’t think I’m any good at it.” I shrugged.

“You’re an artistic mind.” She winked, “Trust me, it’s good.”

“Oh, hey honey! How was your date?” Bree sounded.

“It was fine.” I heard Noah.

He hadn’t mentioned dating again after Christmas, but we still still texted nightly. Starting at around 11 he’d text me something stupid and we’d go on about our days and everything under the sun.

I looked at the giant clock on the McGhee’s living room wall and it showed 10:50. Oh... Well, wasn’t I an idiot? While I was sitting around nightly, waiting for him to text me, he was out on his dates.

“Why does everyone look so glum?” I heard him ask.

“It’s adult stuff, hun.” Bree told him, “Arlee’s in the living room, if you want to say hi.”

“Arlee’s here?” He asked, “I didn’t see her car.”

“She left it at the old house. They’re staying the night, Ryan is putting the little ones to bed.” Bree told him.

It had been decided that we’d stay closer to the old house for the night, incase there was an issue.

Ryan was set on having someone change the garage door along with the other locks on the house and putting in an alarm system, first thing in the morning.

“Mini-Mahammad couldn’t drive herself after she knocked out her old man.” Declan laughed and I couldn’t help but laugh at how stupid it sounded.

“You okay?” He came into the living room, his look full of concern as he examined the bag of ice on my hand, lifting it to check out my bruised knuckles.

“I’m fine, just sore.” I tried to smile up at him. I probably looked like a hot mess. I had been crying for hours.

“Eh, she’s just sore that she only got one punch in before Kade had to hold her back.” Declan joked and I smiled at her lightness of the situation.

“Kade didn’t have to hold me back. I only needed to hit the jerk once.” I told him, using my good hand to tuck my hair behind my ear.

He sat on the other side of me and gingerly placed the ice pack back in place, “That’s going to hurt tomorrow.”

“It’s already throbbing.” I sighed, “Looks like the orchestra is out for a few days.”

“Two weeks.” My mom said from the kitchen.

“What?! Why?!” I screeched, causing both Noah and Declan to cringe.

“Because, although justified, you resulted to physical violence and your mom and I don’t agree to it.” Ryan came around the corner and smirked at me as he dipped a cookie in a glass of milk, “My first real act as your dad is to officially tell you the bad news. Surprise, your grounded kid.”

“But- He deserved it!” I gaped at him.

“He did, but it should have been one of the guys to do it, not you.” He pointed at me around the glass, “You’re too pretty to fight. Besides, you know what we’re facing with the adoption and if he brings it up, we have to show the courts we’re taking it seriously.”

“I have never been grounded before!” I argued.

“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” He shrugged and popped the cookie in his mouth and turned to my mom, “There, I did the bad thing, can we go smoke now?”

“Yes.” She sighed.

“This sucks!” I scoffed and fell back into the couch.

“Just be thankful you don’t date.” Noah told me coldly, “If you did, they’d take that away too.”

“Oh, is that some hostility there, little brother?” Declan squinted her eyes mockingly at him, “What? Did she see through your bullshit and turn you down? I knew I liked her.”

Kade came in with a smile, having no idea what had just happened.

“Got Junior to bed! Can I smoke with the grown ups now?” He smiled at Declan.

“Stop calling him that!” She rolled her eyes, “I obviously can’t smoke, thanks to you, but I’m gonna go get some ice cream and chill with you.”

She stood and stretched, looking to me, “If this little shit gives you a hard time, just go Rocky on his ass.”

“Sure thing.” I saluted her with my good hand.

“She’s cool, but she can be a dick sometimes.” He spread out to his full length and draped his arm on the couch behind me.

“I like her.” I shrugged.

“Of course you do.” He huffed and turned the TV on.

“What does that mean?” I glared at him.

“What do you want to watch?” He ignored my question and began to channel surf. How can someone so cute be so infuriating?!

“I’ve been through a lot of crap tonight and I don’t want to put up with stupid, teenage bullshit right now, Noah.” I glared.

“So no teen movies?” His one eyebrow rose in question and I wanted to smack him.

“You are such a dick.” I scoffed.

“How so?”

“So, you go out on dates until 11 then you text me?” I glared up at him.

“My curfew on school nights is 11.” He didn’t bother to look at me as he continued to flip through the channels.

“So I’m what? A last resort friend?”

“No. I don’t consider you a friend, Arlee. I like you a lot more than that and shouldn’t. I’ve wanted to be out with you every night until my curfew, but you won’t allow it.” He still wouldn’t look at me. He just stared at the channels flipping by.

“I. Don’t. Date.” I hissed.

“And I’m glad.” His head fell back, “Your hot, Arlee. I’m sure I haven’t been the only person who’s noticed. I just know that I'm not right for you.”

Truth was, he wasn’t the only guy that had noticed. I had been asked out by guys in the past, but there was something about Noah that I just felt connected to.

He was deep and thoughtful and always talked to me on my level. He was sincere and caring and we’d shared things I was sure he hadn’t told anyone else.

“Why are you so weird and cryptic?” I pulled one of the braids out of my hair and began to unwind it.

“Because, I like you, Arlee.” Now he looked at me and his blue eyes melted me with their intensity, “Like, really like you and I’m not like you. I want you to be my girlfriend and that can’t happen.”

“Because I have goals?” I bit out.

“No, because I’m not your type.” He spoke through clenched teeth.

“How do you even know what my type is?”

"I just know that I'm not it."

I snorted and his head jutted to the side, to examine me.

“Shit.” He growled, and before I could register, his lips, silky soft lips that I had only ever dreamed of, met mine. I melted instantly and allowed it.

This was my first kiss, well my first real kiss and it was giving me a tingling sensation that said I’d do anything for this boy. Even when he leaned over me, pushing me further into the couch.

His hands never left my hair, but he felt like a nicely weighted blanket on top of me as his tongue dove around mine.

“Oh, I guess she didn’t need my help after all.” I heard Declan’s dry remark from the doorway.

“Am I that high or are they seriously making out?” Kade laughed as Noah jumped up and we broke away from each other.

“I should go to bed.” I stood and walked past them as they all watched me awkwardly.

“I’d lock your door.” Declan called after me, “Unless... You know... You want to lose your virginity tonight.”

“Shut up, Declan.” Noah snarled.

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