The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

by Mariana Zapata

Chapter One

I was going to murder his ass.

One day.

One day long after I quit, so no one would suspect me.

“Aiden,” I grumbled, even though I knew better. Grumbling only got me the look—that infamous, condescending expression that had gotten Aiden into more than one fight in the past. Or so I’d been told. When the edges of his mouth turned down, got tight, and his brown eyes went heavy lidded, all it made me want to do was stick my finger up his nose. It’s what my mom used to do to us when we were little and would pout.

The man in question, who was on the verge of either a bloody, imaginary death or a carefully crafted one that involved dish soap, his food, and a long period of time, made a noise from behind the bowl of quinoa salad in front of him, which was big enough to feed a family of four. “You heard me. Cancel it,” he repeated as if I’d gone deaf the first time he’d said it.

Oh, I’d heard him. Loud and clear. That was why I wanted to kill him.

Which basically showed how amazing the human mind was; how you could care about someone but want to slit his or her throat at the same time. Like having a sister who you wanted to punch right in the ovaries. You still loved her, you just wanted to sock her right in the baby-maker to teach her a lesson—not that I knew from experience or anything.

The fact that I didn’t immediately respond probably made him add, with that same facial expression aimed right at me, “I don’t care what you have to tell them. Get it done.”

Pushing my glasses up the bridge of my nose with my left index finger, I lowered my right hand so that the cabinet could hide the middle finger I aimed right at Aiden. If his facial expression wasn’t bad enough, the tone he was using annoyed me even more. It was the voice he used to warn me it was pointless to argue with him; he wasn’t going to change his mind right then, or ever, and I needed to deal with it.

I always needed to deal with it.

When I’d first started working for the three-time National Football Organization’s Defensive Player of the Year, there had only been a few things I wasn’t a fan of doing; haggling with people, telling them no, and sticking my hand into the garbage disposal because I was both the cook and the cleaning lady of the house.

But if there was something I hated doing—and I mean really, really hated doing—it was cancelling on people last minute. It got on my nerves and went against my moral code. I mean, a promise was a promise, wasn’t it? Then again, this wasn’t me letting his fans down, technically. It was Aiden.

Freaking Aiden, who was busy inhaling his second lunch of the day without a care in the world, was oblivious to the frustrations he was going to make me face when I called his agent. After all the trouble we’d gone to schedule it, I was going to have to break the news that Aiden wasn’t going to be signing anything at the sporting goods store in San Antonio. Yippee.

I sighed, guilt niggling my belly and conscience, and reached down to rub my stiff knee with the hand that wasn’t busy expressing my frustrations. “You already promised them—”

“I don’t care, Vanessa.” He shot me that look again. My middle finger twitched. “Have Rob cancel it,” he insisted, as his giant forearm went up so he could shovel what looked like eight ounces of food into his mouth at once. The fork he was holding hovered in the air a moment as he flicked that dark, stubborn gaze to meet mine. “Is that a problem?”

Vanessa-this. Vanessa-that.

Cancel it. Have Rob cancel it.

Boo.

As if I loved calling his asshole agent to begin with, much less so he could cancel an appearance two days before it was supposed to take place. He was going to lose his mind, and then direct his frustrations at me as if I had some kind of pull over Aiden “The Wall of Winnipeg” Graves. The truth was, the closest I’d ever come to helping him make any kind of decision had been when I recommended a camera for him to buy, and that was only because he “had better things to do than camera research” and because “that’s what I pay you for.”