My Blue Heaven: A Blue Mountain Novella
They may be stepbrother and -sister, but there is no sibling love between Marcus Walker and Annie Sinclair. Marcus made sure of that and paid the price ever since.
Annie spent five years in self-imposed exile in New York. When her marriage ends, Annie and her daughter return to Blue Mountain to heal.
Seeing Annie for the first time since she got married is a shock. Marcus just begins to pick up the pieces of his life, and he isn’t ready to deal with Annie yet.
For two years, Marcus stays in the background, watching Annie heal. When she did, Marcus is there, but did he lose this second chance or can they find their piece of heaven on Blue Mountain?
Release date: January 27, 2019
Publisher: Francine Beaton
Print pages: 184
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My Blue Heaven: A Blue Mountain Novella
The two women looked at each other and smiled at the wonder in the boys’ eyes. Marcus, the eldest at almost six years, first responded, “Is it a real baby?”
“Yes,” his mother smiled. “Her name is Anne-Marie.”
Marcus’ eyes widened further. “It’s a girl?”
Anna and Nina laughed. A girl in both the Sinclair and Walker families were a rare occurrence. Anne-Marie was the first girl born in the Sinclair family in over thirty years. It had been the same for their neighbours and good friends, the Walkers. Nina still hoped for a little girl, but after three boys, she’d almost given up. Maybe this time…
Luke Walker and Nathan Sinclair were a year younger than Marcus. They, at Nathan’s instigation, soon lost interest in the new baby who had been born while Anna went to visit her parents. Anna had to stay in Pretoria for almost three months until Anne-Marie was strong enough to travel.
Anna laughed again when Nathan declared to Luke, “All babies do is eat and sleep. I thought the baby would play with me. And it’s a girl! Girls can’t play.”
“Yes,” Luke agreed. “At least Adam is a boy, but he also doesn’t play with us.”
Matthew Sinclair, a year younger than Luke and Nathan, followed the two boys when he noticed they had a ball.
The six-month-old Adam was fast asleep, unaware of the commotion.
Marcus, however, was still fascinated by the tiny creature cradled on her mother’s lap. He looked up at Anna and asked wide-eyed, “Is she my sister?”
Anna smiled and ruffled his hair, “No, she’s Nathan and Matthew’s sister.”
“I’m glad,” Marcus declared.
“Why?” Nina laughed at her eldest’s earnest face.
“Because I don’t like to have a sister,” he answered with solemn eyes. “But that’s okay. I can still love her, can’t I?”
“You can,” Nina indulged him, wondering what was going on in his mind.
Marcus smiled, asking Anna, “May I touch her?”
“Yes, but be gentle. She is still small.”
Marcus looked down at the sleeping baby. He lifted one finger and oh, so gently, brushed over her cheek and the other over her tiny palm. He whispered, “Don’t worry, Annie-baby, even though you’re not my sister, I’ll love you and take care of you. Always.”
At that moment, Annie opened her eyes and looked straight at Marcus with huge blue eyes. Both mothers later swore that Annie had then smiled at Marcus and that it wasn’t just gas.
Marcus swallowed as he watched the young, blonde girl drifting from one group of friends to another.
No, he was wrong. Annie wasn’t a girl anymore. Today she was eighteen—a woman. And Marcus could no longer deny his feelings. He was in love with her and had been for eighteen years. Marcus still thought it happened the moment he saw her for the first time. Then she'd smiled at him, a tiny finger curling around his own. That that had been the moment he had fallen in love with Annie—Anne-Marie Sinclair and now his step-sister. Unlike his brothers, he didn’t like that fact one bit.
He’d waited since her fourteenth birthday for this moment—since he’d kissed her for the first time.
He had already wondered about it then. Was it wrong to love your step-sister? Marcus shook his head. How could something that felt so right, be wrong?
He leaned against the wall, oblivious to the rest of the party-goers around him, his eyes fixed on Annie.
What was he going to do? He had plans to spend a year or two on South American wine farms to gain experience and see something of the world. Now his heart ached just thinking of leaving Annie behind. It was only a few months to his impending departure, and he already dreaded it.
His heart and mind had constant arguments. Should he tell Annie how he felt now before he leaves? That’s what his heart urged him to do. His mind told him to be sensible. Annie would only finish school in a few months. Then she would go to university, her first step on her journey to become a journalist and an editor like her mother. How could he ask her to wait for him to return? It wouldn’t be fair to her.
Annie turned her head towards him and smiled, and Marcus had his answer. His heart would always win when it comes to Annie.
The connection was brief, but when he saw her disappearing through the veranda doors, Marcus knew where Annie was heading.
And he would take that chance now.
* * *
Annie’s heart was still beating fast when she slipped out of her party to the gazebo. One look in Marcus’ eyes, one smile, and her heart galloped like a racehorse. Would it ever be different?
Leaning against the railing, Annie doubted it.
Not when she saw him walking towards her. If it was possible, her heart rate sped up another notch or two.
Marcus Walker was an attractive man. Long gone was his boyish good looks. At twenty-three, he had now the robust and chiselled face of a man. The only things that remained the same were his warm, brown eyes and the full mouth, often curled in a smile as it was now.
He looked attractive tonight in a white button-down shirt. It complimented the tanned skin and black hair. The black jeans fitted over his muscled legs and made him that more delectable. Annie had noticed the looks her friends aimed at him—all her brothers, in fact, but Marcus especially.
At least Marcus hadn’t taken notice of them, and neither had he smiled at them as he was smiling as he approached her.
Her mother had always said the boys could charm a snake with their smiles, and Marcus was no exception. No, Marcus had perfected that smile and his younger brothers had learned from him.
Their eyes held as Marcus came to stand in front of her, closer than he had been in years. His eyes slid over her face, and then he said, his voice deep and husky, sounding like a man, “Annie Sinclair, you’re eighteen now.”
Annie didn’t know why he was stating the obvious. They were at her eighteenth birthday party, after all.
She was so aware of Marcus being so close she couldn’t get a word out. When she nodded, Marcus smiled before he continued, “And I’m not your brother.”
Annie nodded again.
What was happening?
Marcus growled, “I’m done waiting for you to grow up, Annie. I’m done waiting to show you how I feel.”
Annie had managed a whispered, “How do you feel, Marcus?”
“Not like your damn brother,” he muttered. He lowered his head, and then he kissed her, as she dreamed of feeling those lips so many times over the years. His mouth moved across hers, slow at first, growing faster, bolder until they had to come up for air. They were both breathing hard as they stared at each other. When Marcus had enough breath in his lungs to talk, he huskily added as he stroked his fingers over her cheek, “I know I’m too old for you, and maybe I should wait, but it feels as if I’ve waited forever. I love you, Annie-Baby. I’ve loved you for a long time.”
To Annie, it was the best gift he or anyone else could’ve given her. She might be only eighteen, and some might argue that she didn’t know her own heart yet, but she’d known since she was fourteen she loved Marcus. That Marcus loved her too was beyond all her dreams and fantasies over the years.
All the time they’d spent together, all the talks, all the accidental touches, all led to this moment. She didn’t have to keep her feelings all inside her anymore, so she gave him the only answer possible, “I love you too, Marcus. I always had.”
Marcus exhaled, then he leaned down and kissed her deep. This time Annie could almost taste his love.
She wasn’t naïve. She’d seen movies. She read books and Annie had listened to her friends talking about boys. For goodness sake, she had grown up with three older boys and two younger ones in the household. She and Kathleen had spied enough on Sean, Kathleen’s brother and her brother, Luke. Annie had even kissed a couple of boys, so that first kiss from Marcus had not been her only one. She thought she knew what to expect.
Nothing, however, had prepared her for this kiss. Marcus had kissed her as if he couldn’t get enough of her and Annie fell a little deeper in love with him.
When they broke apart, Marcus took her hand and led her to the bench in the back of the gazebo. Interlacing their fingers as soon as they sat down, he said, “I guess it is selfish of me, but I’d like to keep what is between us a secret for a while longer. I know people might frown upon us having a relationship as you’re still in school, and I’m a final year student. I’m scared they’ll put pressure on us to break it off, especially our folks.”
Annie nodded. She had wondered about it too and knew Marcus was right. She anyway wouldn’t mind keeping it a secret. It would fit right in with all her teenage girl fantasies.
“So what do you suggest?” she asked.
“To be honest, I don’t know. Let’s play it by ear. We can meet here sometimes when the others go to sleep? I also don’t think anybody will think it strange that I come and pick you up at the hostel sometimes, will they? I’ve done it in the past. That way, we may get time alone.”
“I’d like that,” Annie agreed.
That was the beginning of an incredible summer. At first, while Annie finished her last few months at school, they had only seen each other over weekends, meeting in the gazebo at night when the others went to sleep.
When Annie returned to the farm after she had written her final exam to finish high school, she had one shock, though. A new woman was working at the farm doing her internship. Linda Malone was the daughter of one of Marc senior’s university friends who had begged Marc to give his only daughter an opportunity.
It was not the first time Annie had to stifle her jealousy when other women gave attention to Marcus, but Annie didn’t like the way Linda acted with him. Linda was a threat. Annie felt that instinctively. When she mentioned it to Marcus, he laughed it off and kissed her, “There is only one woman for me, Annie-Baby, and that’s you.”
Annie never doubted Marcus’ feelings as he showed her how much when they were alone how he felt about her. It was Linda who she didn’t trust.
* * *
He hadn’t planned it. Not yet, anyway, but Marcus knew he might not stop today. He tilted her face up as he pressed his body flush against hers. He could see the desire flashing through her eyes and the heightened colour in her cheekbones. Their kisses left her lips swollen and red.
He had been playing with fire, bringing her to the Hideout today. Last night at the dance, when he dodged Linda and got Annie alone for a couple of minutes, they arranged this meeting. He had picked her up from Kathleen’s earlier and brought her here.
Annie pressed closer to him, and Marcus groaned, “Annie-baby, be nice. You don’t know what you’re doing to me.”
“Don’t I?” she smiled as she slid her hand under his shirt.
Marcus groaned, “I may not stop when you do that.”
Annie licked her lips and, looking him straight in the eyes and whispered, “I don’t want you to stop, Marcus. Please?”
“Please what, Baby?” he asked, making sure he understood her.
“Make love to me,” she urged.
“Are you sure, Annie?”
Geez, he was stupid asking her, because his body begged for release which he could find only with the woman in his arms. Because, yes, she was a woman—or she would be after today—his woman. Marcus’ body reacted, just thinking of being with her, inside her. He had been a saint the last year, waiting for Annie. He couldn’t wait any longer.
Her answering nod was immediate, “Yes, I’m sure, Marcus.”
Marcus didn’t answer. His heart was too full.
He dipped his head to kiss a trail along her jaw to her ear, then back over her eyes, and nose, before he found her mouth. Marcus couldn’t hope for a better response. He dreamt about Annie’s love and enthusiastic return of feelings all these years.
Marcus was taking his time, slowly, gently, until she was ready for him. The moment he slid into her for the first time, he felt as if he was home.
He looked down at her, noticing that she had closed her eyes. Marcus leaned down. Before his mouth captured hers, he whispered, “I love you, Annie-Baby.”
Her eyes opened, and then she smiled, “I love you too.”
* * *
Annie sat with her back against Marcus’ chest and sipped the coffee he had poured for them. His one hand curled around her waist, resting on her stomach.
She listened to his deep voice, outlining the plans, “Right here, we’ll build our house, and after I had you to myself for a little while, we can fill the house with our children, building a family. Can you picture that, Love?”
Annie nodded, her eyes sliding over the neat vineyard in front of them where Marcus had planted his first vines next to the Eerste River. She could imagine having a house with large, open windows, watching the sunrise just like this, with this man on her side.
She sighed, “Our little piece of heaven.”
“With you, Baby, it will be,” Marcus added, pressing a kiss on her hair.
Annie put her now empty cup beside Marcus’ and turned sideways so she could look at him. He hadn’t shaved yet this morning. His stubble tickled her skin when she rubbed her hand over his cheek. He caught her hand and pressed a kiss in her palm before he smiled.
Oh, how she loved that smile. And how she would miss it soon when Marcus would leave. She couldn’t bear thinking about it.
Annie murmured, “I wish it is already time for us to make our dream come true. I love you, Marcus. I want to be with you like this, always.”
“Me too, Baby. Me too,” he sighed, looking down at her. She could see the desperation flashing through his eyes and changed the subject. She knew he didn’t feel much better about leaving than she did, and she didn’t want to make it more difficult for him.
“What grapes did you plant here? And what are you going to make with it?”
He smiled, and enthusiasm soon replaced the bleakness in his eyes. He was beautiful like this.
“I’ve planted Chardonnay. I hope to make sparkling wine, using traditional methods as they use in France. It is an experiment, and that is why it is such a small block. Can you smell the sea breeze?”
Annie inhaled and to her surprise, she could. Marcus smiled, “It’s coming from False Bay, and I hope it will benefit the grapes. The soil here next to the river is a blend of fine-grained clay, silt, sand, and gravel. It is ideal.”
“How long will it take before you can make it?” Annie asked. She didn’t know much about the agricultural side of the process, even growing up on a wine farm, but she loved to listen to Marcus talking about his beloved vineyards.
He scrunched his face, which looked so cute that Annie wanted to kiss him. Not that she didn’t want to kiss him all the time.
“Probably not for about five years.”
He grinned down at her and said, “I’ll call the wine after you. You’re my muse and inspiration.”
Annie laughed, “Don’t be silly. My name doesn’t sound like wine.”
Marcus turned Annie, and before she knew it, she was flat on her back on the blanket and Marcus was leaning over her. He chuckled at her surprised face saying, “Don’t you worry, Baby. I’ll find a way to name the wine after you. It will be just right.”
“You’re crazy,” Annie laughed.
Marcus leaned down, his mouth hovering above hers whispering, “Crazy about you,” and then he kissed her.
Annie felt the need for this man rushing through her like all the times he kissed her. Today their lovemaking was frenzied, as they both felt the desperation about saying goodbye.
It was only afterwards when they lay in each other’s arms, and they got their breaths back, that Marcus asked, “So, have you thought about our dream home yet? What would you like to see?”
Annie remembered her earlier vision and smiled. She could picture the house in front of her, describing it to Marcus in minute detail—from the large bay windows, the yellow-wood floors, the big family kitchen with a table in the middle where they could have their family meals. Annie could even see the two little boys who looked like Marcus, and a little girl, or two, who looked like her.
All the time she spoke about their future, Marcus kept his eyes on her. When she looked in his eyes, she saw something flashing through his eyes, but she forgot about it when he leaned down to kiss her, “I love you, Annie-Baby. I can’t wait to call you my wife.”
Annie lifted her hand to cup his cheek, “And I love you, Marcus Walker. I can’t wait to be your wife.”
Marcus closed his eyes for a moment, leaning into her hand before he opened them again. This time there was a look of determination on his face when he said, “I need to do something. I’m sorry to end our time, but I need to do it today.”
Annie didn’t question him. Marcus had so many duties on the farm, and she had no doubt he had to tie up a few loose ends before he was leaving next week.
The thought of him leaving caused her heart to clench. She didn’t want him to see how she dreaded it, because he had the right to live his dream. She’ll be waiting for him.
What she wanted to do was go with him. As his wife.
Marcus wiped the sweat from his palms and took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure what their reaction would be.
After another deep inhalation, he stepped into his father’s study where the parents had afternoon tea. He was in luck, as they were alone.
When Marcus closed the door behind him, both looked back at him. He did not doubt that tension radiated from him.
He cleared his throat and asked, “May I speak to you both?”
His father nodded and showed Marcus to take a chair, but he was too nervous about getting comfortable. He sat on the edge, clenching his hands in front of him.
“What is it, Marcus? Is something bothering you?” Anna asked as she put her cup back on the tray.
Marcus swallowed, “I don’t want to go to South America. Not now, anyway. I may go in a few years.”
“This was something you’ve spoken about, dreamed about for years. Why had you changed your mind now?” Marc senior demanded.
“When I made that decision, I hadn’t expected that it would be so difficult to say goodbye to…”
Marcus inhaled and exhaled before he admitted, “Annie and I are in love. I would like to stay here. And I would like to marry her.”
Both sets of eyes observing him widened. Judging by the scowl on his father’s face, Marcus doubted that the answer he was waiting for would be favourable. Anna, however, first reacted, “When do you want to get married?”
“As soon as possible,” Marcus admitted.
“It’s out of the question, Marcus. You are twenty-three and Annie only eighteen. You are way too young to get married. One of these days you’ll meet someone else, and then you’ll be sorry you got hitched so young. No. It will not happen,” Marc declared.
“Dad, I’ve only loved one woman ever in my life, and that is Annie. Time or distance will not change it.”
“So what’s the hurry? You can get married in five years when she’s finished her degree too. Don’t you think it’s selfish of you? You had enjoyed your university years and now you want to rob Annie of that opportunity.”
“No,” Marcus argued. “She can still go to university.”
“What about your dreams to go to South America, and Annie’s dreams to work for a big fashion magazine in New York or London?” Marc still argued.
“She can still do that. I won’t hold her back. I’ll go with her,” Marcus shot back.
Marc snorted, “And what would a wine farmer do in a big city? Have you thought about that?”
Marcus hadn’t figured that out yet, but he was so desperate to stay with Annie that he would do anything, even working as a waiter while she was living her dream. She deserved it.
He looked at Annie’s mother. She was an older version of her daughter, and in her fifties, still beautiful. Marcus pleaded with her, “The first time Annie smiled at me, I was not yet six. I’ve lost my heart then. Nothing has changed since that moment. I love Annie more than anything in the world. I’ll do anything to make her happy, even giving up on my dreams so she can fulfil hers.”
Anna asked, “And Annie? What does she say about your plans?”
Marcus swallowed, “She doesn’t know I’m here to talk to you. We’ve spoken about our plans for the future, and yes, it includes marriage but the closer it comes to the time for me to leave, the more I realise that I rather want to stay here.”
“Marcus, why are you in such a hurry?” Anna urged.
Marcus flushed, “Because I’m scared I’ll lose her.”
He read the sympathy in his stepmother’s eyes, but before she could respond, his father said quieter than earlier, “Marcus, I’m sorry, but I can’t give my permission.”
“Dad, we don’t need your permission anymore. Annie is eighteen. According to the law, she can now get married without your permission. I hoped it would not come to that, but if you don’t leave us any choice…”
Marc shook his head, “And risk the chance that in a few years when she realised what she has lost, she may hate you?”
Marcus frowned, “What do you mean?”
“You know that you all have trust funds that will pay out when you’re twenty-five?”
“Well, if you get married before then, you will lose it all. It’s up to you if you want to make that choice for yourself. You have a degree. You can look after yourself, but what about Annie? What if she sits back in a few years when you struggle to make ends meet with a child or two and think about the money and the different life she could’ve had? Don’t you think she might hate you then? Because, Son, I beg you to reconsider. You’re the older, more mature of the two of you. If you love Annie as much as you claim to love her, let her spread her wings on her own. Let her fly. If it’s meant to be, she’ll come back to you.”
“And what if she never does?” Marcus asked pained. “What if she meets someone else while I’m away?”
“Then it was never meant to be,” Marc stated.
“Please, is there no other way?” Marcus pleaded. “I can’t bear to be without her.”
Marc shook his head, “No, I’m sorry. I’m trying to think about what is best for Annie.”
Anna added, “I’m also sorry, Marcus. I know you love her. I can see it in your eyes every time you look at her but try to think for Annie. She would do anything for you, because yes, I’ve seen the way she looks at you too. I’ve seen it coming, but I hope, because you love her, you’ll give her a chance. Go, take your chance to live your dream. Go to South America. Let Annie finish her degree. Then you can plan. But give her a chance to live her dreams. If she doesn’t, she might one day regret it and blame you.
Marcus felt as if he couldn’t breathe or speak. His chest and throat felt too choked to get a word out. Finally, he managed, “I guess I don’t have a choice then. I hope you never regret your decision.”
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