Ever After Always (Bergman Brothers #3) - Chloe Liese



Playlist: “Melody Noir,” Patrick Watson

The day I met Freya Bergman, I knew I wanted to marry her.

Some mutual friends threw together a pickup soccer game one balmy summer Sunday and invited us both. I’d played in high school, kept up with a recreational soccer league while I went through undergrad. A poor PhD student by that point, I liked the game enough to value the opportunity for fun without a price tag. No awkward outings where I didn’t buy an entree because I’d just paid rent and emptied my account, no well-meaning buddies insisting—to my humiliation—on treating me. Just a place and time where I could stand tall and feel like I was everyone’s equal. A lazy morning under that bright California sun, juggling a ball, goofing off with friends.

But then she walked in and goofing off went out the window. Every man on that field froze, backs straight, eyes sharp, and all manner of stupidity vanished as quiet settled over the grass. My eyes scanned the field, then snagged on the tall blonde with a wavy ponytail, wintry blue eyes, and a confident grin tipping her rose-red lips. A shiver rolled down my spine as her cool gaze met mine and her smile vanished.

Then she glanced away.

And I swore to God I’d earn her eyes again if it was the last thing I did.

I watched her trying not to be flashy when she juggled the ball and messed with ridiculous moves that she nailed more than flubbed, how effortlessly she balanced skill and playfulness. I watched her, and all I wanted was closer. More. But when we broke into two sides, I realized with disappointment we’d been placed on separate teams. So I volunteered to defend her, with the arrogant hubris typical of twenty-something men, thinking a guy my size who could still put down some fast miles had a prayer of keeping up with a woman like her.

That was the last time I underestimated Freya.

I all but killed myself on the field, trying to track her fast feet, to anticipate her physicality, to find the same explosive speed when she flew up the sidelines, betraying a fitness I didn’t quite match. I remember marveling at the power of her long, muscular legs that made me daydream about them wrapped around my waist, proving her endurance in a much more enjoyable form of exercise. Already, I knew I wanted her. God, did I want her.

I may have been taking defense a bit more intensely than everyone else on that field. I may have stuck to her like glue. But Freya radiated the magnetism of someone who knew her worth, and in a flash of desperation, I realized I wanted her to see that I could be worthy, too, that I could keep pace and stick close and never tire of her raw, captivating energy.

In Freya’s aura, I forgot every single thing weighing on my mind—money, a job, money, food, money, my mother, oh, and money of course, because there was never enough, and it was an ever-present shadow darkening moments that should be bright. Like the sun ripping a cold, solitary planet into orbit, Freya demanded my presence. Here. Now. Just a few dazzling minutes in her gravitational pull and that pervasive darkness dissolved, leaving only her. Beautiful. Bright. Dazzling. I was hooked.

So, in my young male brilliance, I decided to show her my interest by sinking my claws into her shirt, tracking her every move like a bloodhound, and doing anything I could to piss her off.

“God, you’re annoying,” she muttered. Faking right, she cut left past me and took off.

I caught up to her, set a hand on her waist as she shielded the ball and leaned her long body right against mine. Not romantic, but I remember exactly how it felt when her round ass nestled right in my groin. I felt like an animal, and that was not how I worked, at least not before Freya. But she felt right, she smelled right, she was right. It was simple as that.

“Don’t you have someone else to bother?” she said, even as she glanced over her shoulder and those striking eyes said something entirely different. Stay. Try. Prove me wrong.

“Nah,” I muttered, my grip tightening in every sense of the word, my desperation for her already too much. Grappling for possession, I met her move for move in a tangle of sweaty limbs and scrappy effort, until finally I won the ball for the briefest moment and