Sneak Peeks

Falling in love is the ultimate payback. Read a Sneak Peek from Love At First Spite by Anna E. Collins


Falling in love is the ultimate payback. Read a Sneak Peek from Love At First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Falling in love is the ultimate payback in this delightful, breezy romcom about an interior designer who teams up with an enigmatic architect at her firm to get revenge on her ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door.

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their Realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on — and off — site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…

Cover image - Love at First Spite

MY WHITE DRESS trails me as we make our way across the small clearing to where the others are waiting. The heavy fabric rustles against the ground, a few leaves catching in the hem, but I ignore them, concentrating instead on what’s ahead. All eyes are on me.

“Are you sure?” my cousin Mia asks at my elbow. My partner in crime.

I glance her way. I’m nervous, but I don’t want to be, and the simmering excitement in her expression reassures me. This is the right choice.

“Hundred percent,” I say.

She smiles and squeezes my hand. “You’ll rock this, I know it.” She lets go and steps away to assume her position with a wink. “See you on the other side.”

Then it begins.

I take off at a sprint. The paintball arena is at least a football field in size and strewn with steel drums, crates, and sandbags. A few larger structures in the middle resemble a small-scale Old West town complete with porches and a saloon sign. The guys Mia and I’ve been teamed up with run that way, while she and I head for the trees along the sides. The large pines tower stoically above the fray, and I choose one of the largest trunks for my first cover.

“Did everyone else go the other way?” I call out to Mia but get no response. Wasn’t she behind me?

I peer around the trunk only to catch the whisp of her braid beneath her helmet as she dives for shelter by a tree trunk twenty yards in front of me.

“Don’t be a baby, Porter,” I chastise myself, before following her. It’s a thirty-minute game of most-hits-win, so she’s got the right idea: it’s go time.

As fast as my skirts allow, I jog in the direction of the rapid pops and ka-splats of active battle, paintball gun at the ready. The staff told me I’d be at a disadvantage playing in my wedding dress, and they had a good point. But then again, I didn’t come here expecting to leave in virginal white.

I barely get my finger on the trigger before two shots in succession hit me squarely in the chest, and a green stain blooms before me. It hurts less than I anticipated, but I still freeze too long and another round easily finds my shoulder. Blue paint drips off the white lace of my sleeve.

Oh yeah? That’s how it’s going to be?

Something akin to glee bubbles up my chest and I let out a loud cackle. All righty, then. Shouldering my gun, I aim at the culprit—some kid a full foot shorter than me—and one, two, three splotches of paint hit his belly.

“Yeah!” I shout, as he hightails off. Adrenaline pumps through my arms.

“Dani, over here!” Mia runs sideways behind me from the cover of a fake building to a stack of boxes. “I’ll shield you.”

Yeah, right. She already looks like she’s wrestled with a rainbow.

I consider darting the opposite way, to a smattering of hay bales, but Mia sounds increasingly desperate. I hike up my skirts and do my best to make myself small before jumping to safety next to her.

Back up against the boxes, I peek around the corner. “Two of them,” I say, still breathing hard. “On my mark.” I count down with my fingers and, on three, we spring out, guns leveled at opponents who don’t see us coming. I’m a vengeful angel, gliding through the sky—at least that’s what I picture until my toe catches the hem of my dress and I stumble forward into a mouthful of dirty straw.

“Take that!” Mia shouts from a distance, accompanied by a fresh round of shots volleying through the air.

“What the fuck?” a deep voice yells out.

Another voice: “We’re on the same fucking team.”

I lift my face off the ground. Mia is backing up toward me, pursued by our imagined foe who’s indeed wearing the same beat-up Timberlands I spotted on our teammates earlier. It’s fair to say they’re about as excited to be paired with us as my taste buds are about the straw. I spit out the horse fodder and push myself up.

“We should have never teamed up with them,” the first guy complains. “That one wants to get hit, and this one…” He gestures at Mia.

She exhales as if he’s punched her.

“What?” I say, moving to stand between him and my cousin. “This one, what?”

“Dude, come on,” the second guy says. “Let’s just play.”

“Well, she’s not exactly agile, is she?” guy number one sneers.

“Ha, that’s funny.” I bob my head a few times and train my gun on him. “What do you think, Mia?”

She appears at my side. “I think someone’s about to get pummeled.”

His eyebrows jerk behind his protective goggles, but that’s all he manages before we shoot. And shoot again.

Who needs a team? The sight of them running away is totally worth losing for.

Before we know it, the game is over, and Mia and I hobble back to the arena gate. The kids ambushed us in the last few minutes, and I’m still on a high from the attack, from fighting that flight response and accepting my colorful defeat. In the end, I threw my hands up in the air and twirled as the paint splattered, each hit another glorious nail in the “Dani and Sam” coffin.

“Probably not the best idea to shoot our own team. Did you see them watching?” Mia asks, referring to our teammates laughing as the kids got in round after round on us.

“Watching? Pretty sure they partook. But whatever. Winning was never the point.”

Mia rips open the velcro holding her armor together and lets out a breath. “Agile, my ass. Hardly my fault places like these never carry gear that fits those of us with more natural padding. I’d like to see him join my yoga class. He wouldn’t last a minute.”

“That would be a sight,” I agree.

Once inside, I assess the state of my dress, admire the streaks of color weeping down the fabric. “I think it’s a definite improvement.”

Mia nods, but now that the deed is done, she’s not quick enough to hide the pity in her eyes.

“Let’s get some drinks,” I hurry to add before she can put words to her feelings, and drag her along by the elbow.

The bar in the middle of the rec center is busy even though the afternoon hasn’t fully turned into Saturday evening yet. Fortunately for us, I’m still in my wrecked wedding dress, and people make way at the sight of my ghoulish visage. I pretend I don’t notice the stares and whispers, and soon we have seats at the bar, as well as two margaritas with tequila shots on the side.

I pull the scrunchie down my ponytail and shake out my wavy tresses, blue-and-yellow streaks now adorning the long, chestnut strands. “To not getting married,” I say, raising my shot glass.

Mia hesitates. “Dani…”

“Nope.” I shove her shot into her hand. “A toast.”

“Fine.” She smiles. “To wrecking dresses. It was pretty fun.”

“Hell yeah, it was.” I tip the tequila back and relish the burning in my throat before holding up my margarita glass, too. “To no more guys. Ever!”

Mia squints. “Ever?”

“Yeah, who needs them?”

“Well, I mean…me…a little. For certain things.”

“Come on.” I set my glass down. “You’re still not doing this right. We hate men right now.”

“Okay.” She lifts her glass and pauses. “To schlongs, the only good guy parts.”

I almost spit out my drink, but I have to say—it’s as fine a toast as any.

After our loaded nachos arrive, I snap a picture of us. “Think I should send it to Sam?”

“Sure.” Buzzed Mia is a lot more game than the sober version. “Rub it in if you can. Always thought he was a douche.” She slurps up the remnants of her margarita with a straw, then leans forward to flag down the bartender.

A wave of tenderness washes over me. When I moved to the Seattle area from Idaho a year ago, Mia was the only person aside from Sam I knew here. I’ll admit I had little intention of becoming friendly with her again after a decade—my memory was of a younger cousin (by two years, but still) who was as straightlaced as they come and whose one claim to fame in our hometown was having given up candy for Lent one spring and then sticking with it for the next ten years. Not my idea of a good time. I’d agreed to get in touch mostly because it felt like something you do as family, but I hadn’t expected her to have grown up into a truly cool person I now consider my best friend.

“What?” She’s staring at me. Scrutinizing.


“Are you crying?” She reaches out but stops short of my cheek.

“What? No.” I turn away. Damn tequila. It always gets me.

“Fine. We need more drinks. Did you send it?”

“Send what?”

“The photo, dummy.”

“I was joking.” Not that Sam doesn’t deserve a picture of me in this dress, especially since he hasn’t bothered to have his buddy delete the Instagram photo that broke us. The one with her in it.

“Another round of the same?” The bartender smiles at Mia and steals a glance at me. Or, not at me, at my ruined getup. He looks younger than us, cute, with fashionably unruly hair in a mop that flops across his forehead.

I know he’s dying to ask.

“I was supposed to get married today,” I say with a shrug. “Shit happened.”

His smile stiffens, and Mia places the order.

The din around us ebbs and flows as people come and go, and slowly, the air fizzles out of me. I’ve been fueled by stubbornness and adrenaline since this morning, but now the bodice of this dress is too tight, the paint-stained sleeves too heavy. Plus, if I don’t get to pee soon, bad things will happen.

“I’m gonna go to the…” I hike my thumb toward the restrooms.

“Are you okay?” Mia grabs my arm as I get up.

No, I’m not okay. I’m not supposed to be here, drunk in a bar, cinched into this splattered gown. Right now, this gown should be a dream of white rocking it on the dance floor of my wedding reception. We took classes, for God’s sake. Sam was going to spin and dip me in front of our families.

I pout. “Men are stupid.”

“So you keep saying.” She pats my arm. “You go do your business. I’m going to get you a surprise drink that will cure all. No more tequila.”

“Okay.” I have no idea what I’d do without her, and not only because I’ve been crashing on the couch in her one-bedroom apartment for the past three and a half weeks since ending my engagement. “Be right back.”

It requires effort, but I manage to navigate my multilayered garment both in and out of a bathroom stall without any major issues. Considering my blood alcohol level, this is truly an accomplishment, and perhaps it’s making me a bit cocky as I amble back to the table. If you can pee without assistance in a poufy wedding dress, you’re pretty much invincible. I can do anything. I can party all night. I can dodge bar patrons at full speed like a beleaguered quarterback, jump obstacles like a graceful gazelle, and—


I trip on the skirt again, but this time, instead of getting a mouthful of straw, a pair of steady hands grab my shoulders, yanking me upright so fast I go flying into their owner’s solid chest.

“Sorry, sorry,” I mumble, trying to regain balance and untangle my legs from too much tulle. “This stupid dress…”

“Yes, it’s an interesting choice,” comes a low, familiar voice.

My head jerks up, and the confidence of mere moments ago is replaced by the gravest sense of misfortune.

Cover image - Love at First Spite

On Sale: 02/02/2022

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