Excerpt from ‘The Wall of Winnipeg and Me’ by Mariana Zapata promises the slow-burn of your dreams

Read an excerpt from The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata, all while checking out the new edition of this fantastic book, which sports some exclusive bonus content!

Mariana Zapata is the queen of the slow-burn, and if you’ve read any of her books, then you’ll know it’s worth every agonizing minute. The Wall of Winnipeg and Me is no exception, and now this book is back with a new edition, an adorable alternate cover, and some brand new exclusive bonus content.

If you’ve already made your way through The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, it’s very likely you’ll still find yourself drawn to this updated version. And if you haven’t? Well, what are you waiting for? We’ve got an excerpt below so you can see what you’re getting yourself into. And once you’ve done that, be sure to click one of the links at the bottom to pick up a copy or add it to your Goodreads list. You won’t be sorry!

About ‘The Wall of Winnipeg and Me’

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

the wall of winnipeg and me cover

‘The Wall of Winnipeg and Me’ excerpt

Not much had changed over the last two years.

Our work relationship had progressed past me calling Aiden “sir” and using more than two words at a time when I talked to him.

I knew everything I could about Aiden, considering how pulling personal information out of him was like yanking teeth. I could tell you how old he was, how much money he had in his bank account, what spices made him cringe, and what brand of underwear he preferred. I knew his favorite meals, what size shoe he wore, what colors he refused to wear, and even what kind of porn he watched. I knew the first thing he wanted when he had more time on his hands was a dog—not a family. He wanted a dog.

But that was all something a stalker could learn, or someone really observant. He held on to the details of his life with both of his dinner-plate- sized hands. I had a feeling the number of things I didn’t know about him could keep me busy for the rest of my life, if I were to try to pry them out of him.

I’d tried being friendly once I realized he wasn’t going to go Incredible Hulk on me for asking questions, but it had all been in vain. For the last two years, my smiles were never returned, my every single “How are you?” went unanswered, and other than that infamous look that made my imaginary hackles rise, there was that tone, that almost smug tone, he took sometimes that just asked for an ass whooping . . . from someone much bigger than me.

Our boss and employee roles became more and more pronounced each day. I cared about him as much as I could care for someone who I saw a minimum of five days a week, who I basically took care of for a living, but who treated me like the friend of a pesky little sister he would rather not have. For two years, it had been fine doing duties I wasn’t a huge fan of, but the cooking, the emails, and all things related to his fans were my favorite things about being his assistant.

And that was half the reason why I kept talking myself out of putting in my notice. Because I’d check his Facebook account or go on his Twitter and see something one of his fans posted that made me laugh. I’d gotten to know some of them over the years through online interactions, and it was easy to remember that working for him wasn’t so bad.

It wasn’t the worst job in the world—not even close to it. My pay was more than fair, my hours pretty good too . . . and in the words of almost every woman who had ever found out who I worked for, I “had the sexiest boss in the entire world.” So there was that. If I was stuck looking at someone, it might as well be someone with a body and a face that put the models I put on other people’s book covers to shame.

But there were things in life you couldn’t do unless you stepped out of your comfort zone and took a risk, and working for myself was one of them.

That was why I hadn’t actually gone through with it and told Aiden “Sayonara, big boy” on the eighty different occasions my brain had told me to.

I was nervous. Quitting a well-paying job—a steady one, at least while Aiden had a career—was scary. But that excuse was getting older and older.

Aiden and I weren’t BFFs, much less confidants. Then again, why would we be? This was a man who didn’t have more than possibly three people he spent time with when he managed to tear himself away from training and games. Vacations? He didn’t take them. I didn’t even think he knew what they were.

He didn’t have pictures of family or friends anywhere in the house. His entire life revolved around football. It was the center of his universe.

In the grand scheme of Aiden Graves’s life, I was no one really. We just sort of put up with each other. Obviously. He needed an assistant and I needed a job. He told me what he wanted done and I did it, whether I agreed with it or not. Every once in a while, I tried futilely to change his mind, but in the back of my head, I never forgot how pointless my opinion was to him.

You could only try for so long to be friendly with someone and have them shut you down with their indifference before you gave up. This was a job—nothing more, nothing less. It was why I had worked so hard to get to the point where I could be my own boss, so that I could deal with people who appreciated my hard work.

Yet here I was, doing the things that drove me nuts and putting my dreams off for another day, and another day, and another day . . .

What the hell was I doing?

“The only person you’re screwing over is yourself,” Diana had told me the last time we’d talked. She’d asked if I’d finally told Aiden I was quitting, and I’d told her the truth: no.

Guilt had pounded my belly at her comment. The only person I was hurting was myself. I knew I needed to tell Aiden. No one was going to do it for me; I was well aware of that. But . . .

Okay, there was no but. What if I crashed and burned once I was
on my own?

I had planned it out and built up my business so that wouldn’t be the case, I reminded myself as I sat there watching Aiden eat. I knew what I was doing. I had money squirreled away. I was good at what I did, and I loved doing it.

I’d be fine.

I’d be fine.

What was I waiting for? Every time I’d thought about telling Aiden before, it just hadn’t seemed like the perfect moment. He had just gotten cleared to start practicing again after his injury, and it didn’t feel right laying that on him then. I felt like I’d be abandoning him when he’d barely gotten back on his feet once more. Then, we’d immediately left for Colorado for him to train in peace and quiet. On another occasion, it hadn’t been a Friday. Or he’d had a bad day. Or . . . whatever. There was always something. Always.

I wasn’t staying on because I was in love with him or anything like that. Maybe at some point, right after I’d begun working for him, I might have had a giant crush on him, but his cool attitude had never let my heart get any crazier than that. It wasn’t like I’d ever had any expectations of Aiden suddenly looking at me and thinking I was the most amazing person in his life. I didn’t have time for that unrealistic crap. If anything, my goal had always been to do what I needed to do for him, and maybe make the man who never smiled, smile. I’d only succeeded at one of those things.

Over the years, my attraction to him had dwindled so that the only thing I really mooned over—correction: appreciated in a healthy, normal way—was his work ethic.

And his face.

And his body.

But there were plenty of guys with amazing bodies and faces in the world. I should know. I looked at models almost every day.

And none of those physical traits helped me in any way. Hot guys weren’t going to make my dreams come true.

I swallowed and clenched my fingers.

Do it, my brain said.

What was the worst that would happen? I’d have to find another job if my customer base dried up? How horrifying. I wouldn’t know what would happen until I tried.

Life was a risk. This was what I’d always wanted.

So I took a breath, carefully watched the man who had been my boss for two years, and I said it. “Aiden, I have something I need to talk to you about.”

Because really, what was he going to do? Tell me I couldn’t quit?

Excerpt from THE WALL OF WINNIPEG AND ME by Mariana Zapata. © 2023 by Mariana Zapata. Used with permission by Avon Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

‘The Wall of Winnipeg and Me’ publishes on June 4, 2023

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