Max took a slow breath, and I scuffed the linoleum floor, leaving black streaks while I figured out how to best deal with this outburst. She was obviously feeling strange about her place, defensive over our relationship, and conflicted about Pops and her lineage.
“Maddy… Max, his wife Cyndi, and baby, Isabel, as well as the little guy on the way, are all now an addition to the Saunders clan, okay? Don’t think of it as a change as much as an addition. Just because they are Cunninghams doesn’t mean you are.”
That’s when Max made a fatal error. “Well technically, she is a Cunningham but didn’t know it.”
I could see the moment the statement hit my girl. Her body went ramrod straight, her chest puffed up, and daggers seemed to fly from her eye sockets as she stormed in front of Max, got out that pointing finger of hers—the one I absolutely hated to be at the other end of—and shoved it against his chest several times. Ouch. I knew from experience that boney ass finger hurt.
“Are you certifiable? I know they do things different in Texas, but hear me and hear me well. I am, always have been, and will always be Madison Saunders. Got it? I was fine in my skin before, and I’m not changing it because some DNA test proves something. I’ll admit that I’m shocked that I have a brother and am actually happy about that fact, but you will not win me as some kind of Meryl Colgrove consolation prize. Got it?”
“Baby girl…” My own voice was unrecognizable with the amount of sorrow rushing through it as I put an arm around my sister. Her whole body slammed into my chest, and her face went right into my neck.
“I’m Madison Saunders! I’m not a Cunningham,” she sobbed, the thick veil of my hair covering her face.
“Hey, baby, nobody’s trying to change you, your name, or who you are. You’ll always be my sister. You’ll always be Pops’s daughter. Now, we just have a whole other part of our family to love and get to know. Nothing changes, Mads. Nothing. It’s still me and you against the world, okay?” She nodded but continued to cry. “I mean that. Max is not here to change anything, are you, Max?”
Maxwell cleared his throat and put a giant paw on the back of my sister’s head. “Sweetie, I already love you and Mia very much. You’re my little sisters, and from the moment we all met, I felt that tug of awareness, of family. I wanted you and your sister my whole life. Wanted that family. Now I have it, and I’m happy, honey. Cyndi, Isabel, and baby Jack are going to have some seriously awesome women in their lives, and I just feel fortunate. That’s all, darlin’. That’s why I’m here. To lend support while you and Mia take care of your dad.”
After a few moments, Maddy lifted her head. I cupped her cheeks and wiped her tears. “Nothing’s changed, okay?”
“F-Feels l-like a lot has c-changed.” She wiped her snotty nose on her sleeve. Yikes. We were both disgusting.
“Even though it feels that way, it really hasn’t. You’re still in school, you’re on the road to being Mrs. Matthew Rains, and you have me forever. Now, you just have a big, badass, rich cowboy brother.”
“Well, we’re all rich.” Max supplied helpfully, which really wasn’t helpful at all.
Jeez Louise. There had to be a shut-off button. Weren’t brothers supposed to come with one of those? I hadn’t had a chance to discuss the Cunningham Oil & Gas business when the news of Pops taking a turn hit.
Maddy’s eyebrows came together, leaving a cute little wrinkle above her nose. When she was little, I’d kiss that little wrinkle and tell her not to frown because it would stay that way and she’d hate it later on in life.