Darin hasn’t actively been looking for his mate, even though he wants nothing more than to meet him. He’s lonely and he works too much, so he’s been hoping for a miracle—for his mate to walk into his bakery. It hasn’t worked yet, but then a man walks into the mansion’s kitchen and declares he’s Darin’s mate, and Darin gets the miracle he’s been waiting for.

Ira has known Darin was his mate for a few months, but he’s been burned by people who should’ve loved him before, so he took his time before deciding to talk to him. Now that he knows Darin won’t hurt him, he takes advantage of a trip to Whitedell to finally properly meet his mate.

Darin and Ira don’t wait to mate, even though they know their families might not be happy about it. But what their families think isn’t their only problem, and when the hunters attack again, Ira will need to fight for his mate and his friends.

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Cover Art by Latrisha Waters

Someone grabbed Darin from behind just as he was pouring the flour into the bowl. He squeaked, and the flour packet slipped from his hands. He watched as it hit the kitchen floor and flour exploded from it, covering the floor, the cabinets, and parts of Darin.

“Well, shit.”

Taylor put Darin down and Darin twirled around. He hit Taylor’s chest, but Taylor didn’t even wince. “What did you do that for?”

Taylor shrugged. “Just wanted to play around.”

“Why don’t you go play with your mate?”

Taylor pouted. “He’s studying.”

“And you thought you could come and bug me instead?”

Taylor made puppy eyes and batted his lashes. “Yes?”

Darin huffed and crossed his arms on his chest. “You need to go get the vacuum cleaner and clean the mess you made.”

“Technically, you were the one who made it. You dropped the flour.”

Darin arched a brow and stared Taylor down. He knew his friend, and he knew Taylor would give in and clean it up, because Darin wouldn’t spend time with him if he didn’t. And he wouldn’t be allowed even one of the cupcakes Darin was experimenting with. Taylor just stared back, so Darin said, “Drunken cupcakes.”

“Drunken on what?”

“Piña Colada.” Darin pointedly looked at the flour, then at his bowl, then at Taylor again. Taylor shuffled, and Darin saw the exact moment when he gave up. His shoulders slumped and he pushed his hands in his pockets, like a pouting kid. “Fine, but I get the first one.”

“Deal. Now go get the vacuum cleaner and get to work. I want to finish them sooner rather than later.”

Taylor scurried out of the kitchen and Darin took the bag of flour. It was still half-full, but it had been a new one. He shook his head at the waste and grabbed the bowl. He sidestepped the mess, shaking his legs to get most of the white powder off, and measured the flour again. He put it in the bowl, added the baking soda and the salt, and by the time he set the bowl aside, Taylor was back, vacuum cleaner in hand.

Darin let him get to work and started on the next step. He beat sugar and butter together as Taylor worked, pointing out spots Taylor had missed twice. He got a scowl in return both times, but he didn’t care. He already had enough stuff to clean up when he baked, so he wasn’t about to clean up someone else’s mess.

Taylor turned the vacuum cleaner off and put his hands on his hips. “There, done. Is that good enough for you?”

Darin inspected the kitchen and nodded. “Good.”

“Aww, don’t compliment me too much, I might get a big head.”

“You already have it!” Darin yelled after Taylor as Taylor went to put the vacuum cleaner back where it belonged.

Darin added the eggs to the mixture of butter and sugar and carefully mixed them. Taylor came back in, Nysys trailing behind him, and Darin groaned. “Don’t touch anything,” he warned the Nix.

Nysys gave him his most innocent face. “Me?”

“Yes, you. Stop playing innocent, you know your hands are itching to do it. I’ll kick you out of my kitchen if you misbehave.”

Nysys slumped in one of the stools by the counter. “What am I, a kid?”

Taylor and Darin looked at each other and answered together, “Yes.”

“You remember how many times you made something explode in here, right?” Darin asked as he added part of the flour mixture to the eggs, butter, and sugar.

“I’m better now!” Nysys declared. “I’m taking lessons, and I haven’t made anything explode in at least a month.”

Darin added part of the rum mixture he’d kept on the side and mixed. “A month? Wow. I feel like I should give you a medal or something.”

Nysys started to swat Darin’s arm over the counter, but Taylor caught his wrist before he could. “Don’t hit him. We wouldn’t want him to screw up the cupcakes.”

Nysys’ eyes went shiny. “Oooh, what’s he baking?”

“Piña Colada cupcakes.”

“Mmm, do you think they’ll be enough to make us drunk?”

“I highly doubt it,” Darin answered. “There isn’t that much rum in them.”

Nysys pouted. “Spoilsport.”

“You can take the rest of the rum bottle if you want. Just make sure to replace it if you finish it.”

“I think you’d better stay away from the alcohol,” Taylor told Nysys. “Remember how it went the last time?”

“Hey, we didn’t actually paint Dominic’s office pink!” Nysys protested.

“That’s only because Jonah stopped you. Keenan had already managed to find the paint and everything.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask why pink,” Darin said as he filled the cupcake liners.

“Because Dominic could do with a bit of calm, and everyone needs a feminine touch in their lives,” Nysys told him.

“Did you know that pink was a boy color until the 1940’s?”

Nysys cocked his head. “How do you know that?”

“Jayden.” That said it all. They all knew how Jayden was with his books, and how he tended to talk a lot and about things that didn’t actually have anything to do with each other.

“Ah. But see, pink was a good idea. It’s a manly color.”

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