Unicorns and Honey Cakes – Shifters and Sweets Book 1 by Zoe Chant

Unicorns and Honey Cakes
Shifters and Sweets Book 1
By
Zoe Chant

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Everything is coming up roses.
Way too many roses.

Gale has a problem. A really thorny problem.

He can’t touch anything made of wood without it bursting into bloom… which is inconvenient, to say the least. Clearly, his unicorn is cranky about something – Gale just wishes he knew what.

In the meantime, being cursed with the world’s most annoying green thumb is making it pretty much impossible to continue working as a sous chef. Maybe a relaxing trip into the mountains will be enough to soothe his sullen unicorn.

After years of hard work, Sylvie’s dream has finally come true: she’s opened her own bakery in her sleepy little hometown, and her signature dishes are selling like… well, hotcakes. That is, until the flashy new bakery down the road opens up – and they’re not only stealing her customers, but her recipes as well.

When the hottest guy she’s ever seen walks through her door, Sylvie knows there’s something special about him… but a gorgeous guy coming in to buy her cakes is hardly going help her save her business. Right?

Gale MacEwan’s unicorn has become extremely ornery. If Gale touches anything natural flowers grow, lots of flowers.

He’s decided to go to the mountains to spend some time with nature all around. Hoping this would calm his unicorn. Right now, he’s hungry and looking for a place to eat that won’t out his out-of-control gift of growth.

The one he finds, serves him the best chili dog and fries he’s had in a long time and for some reason the woman who served him seems to know he’s a chef. Not questioning it, he also makes note of her recommendation to check out Sylvie’s Sweets and Bakery and not the ‘other’ bakery.

Sylvie Taylor has a problem. The new bakery in town Johnson’s Pies and Bakery seems to get her newly created recipes before she can launch them. No one seems to know anything about the owner and all the workers are out of towners, easy to spot in a small town like Girdwood Springs.

Sylvie needs to figure out how they are getting the jump on her ideas. She’s sure it isn’t Emily, her apprentice, she’s been here from the start.

Gale does stop at Sylvie’s bakery and is pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

This is a favorite scene.

“Well, it looks and smells delicious,” Gale said honestly. He wondered why Sylvie was so nervous – and why, with goods like these, her bakery was empty of customers besides him. This place should be bustling! Maybe it was busier in the mornings? The display case seemed to be a little too full for that, though – he’d had his pick of cakes and tarts. But perhaps it had just been restocked, in the expectation of more customers looking for something sweet after lunch?

Either way, it was clear Sylvie was giving him her full attention. She hovered at the table a moment, before she flapped her hands a little, shaking her head.

“Sorry! I don’t mean to stare at you while you eat! I’ll – I’ll just leave you to it and go heat up the apple rose.”

Gale watched her go as she made her way back behind the counter, picking out an apple rose before taking it out the back to heat up. She was hard not to look at.

Sighing, Gale turned his attention back to his tart – which was also tempting, though in a very different way. He was so eager to taste it that he didn’t notice that the handle of the little fork Sylvie had given him to eat with was made of carved wood until he’d almost touched it, and he jerked his hand back as if he’d touched a burning hot pan.

He wondered if he should just ask Sylvie for another one, but she still hadn’t reappeared from out the back of the bakery yet.

Oh, well, he thought, picking up the tart with his fingers. It was pretty small, and he’d been told he had big hands. He shouldn’t make too much of a mess eating it like this.

He closed his eyes as he lifted the tart to his mouth, taking a bite.

Oh. Oh my God. I think I might have died and gone to Heaven.

The baked tart was just that good.

Gale chewed, letting the flavors roll through his mouth. The pine nuts gave the tart a soft, mellow taste that was balanced by the sweetness of the honey and richness of the butter. Gale had tasted a lot of desserts in his time, but this had to be one of the most delicious. It wasn’t just the combination of the butter, pine nuts and honey that made this so good, though – there was something else there too, something he couldn’t quite put his finger on –

“Is it good?”

His eyes sprang open at the sound of Sylvie’s voice. She was standing behind the counter again, blinking, her teeth worrying at her lower lip.

Gale nodded, still chewing, the tart soft and gooey in his mouth.

“It’s amazing,” he said once he’d swallowed. “You said you’d added your own twist – what is it? There’s something in there I can’t quite pin down.”

A pink flush suffused Sylvie’s face as she broke out into a grin. Gale was utterly charmed as he watched it spreading across her cheeks and down her throat. Clearly, Sylvie was someone who wore her heart on her sleeve, every emotion she felt plain to see on her face.

“Well, some recipes have lemon zest in them, just for an extra bit of zing,” she said, her words coming out in a rush. “But I use lemon and orange zest, so it has a little bit of a different feel to it. Plus I use orange blossom honey, so it gives it that kind of floral taste. I think it works well, don’t you? I mean, not that I’d tell you what to think or anything like that…”

Sylvie trailed off, blinking, looking as if she’d said something she thought she shouldn’t have, though Gale couldn’t see anything wrong with it.

“Well, whatever you do, it’s clearly working,” he said, looking appreciatively down at the tart in his hand. “Because I could eat one – or ten – of these every day for the rest of my life.”

He took another bite, savoring the taste all over again. It was really amazing, and now that Sylvie had pointed it out, he could taste the orange and lemon zest beneath the sweetness of the honey.

The tart was small enough that it was gone in another two bites – it was rich enough in taste that its petite size was just right. Gale shook his head, still slightly amazed by just how good it had been.

Order another one, his unicorn suggested, with a flick of its tail. You should make sure she knows how much you enjoyed it.

Gale thought he might do just that – though, now that he thought about it, maybe he’d just come back tomorrow. His cabin was only a short drive farther up the mountain, after all, and it’d be a good excuse to come back and see Sylvie again –

“Your apple rose,” Sylvie said, placing it in front of him. The smell that rose up from it was heavenly. Sylvie glanced down at the unused fork by his hand. “Um. Is it dirty? I can get you a new one if there’s something wrong –”

“No, there’s nothing wrong,” Gale said quickly. “I just… like to get in touch with my food. You know. Really get a feel for it.”

What the hell am I saying?! he berated himself, as Sylvie simply blinked at him.

“Oh – well, I’ll get you a spoon anyway. For the ice cream,” she said, reaching behind her for the cutlery tray on the counter. “Here you go.”

The spoon, thankfully, was metal-handled, so Gale had nothing to worry about as he tucked into his apple rose.

It was just as delicious as the pine nut and honey tart had been – the apple was tender and sweet, and again, there was a little something extra beneath the expected nutmeg and cinnamon spice…

“Is that cardamom I taste in there?” Gale asked, looking up at Sylvie.

Sylvie looked surprised. “Yes, it is. Not many people pick it, though.”

“It definitely adds an extra something,” Gale said – and it did. “But then, I love cardamom. I used to put it in my coffee, before I quit drinking it.”

Because it made my unicorn hyperactive, he did not add.

“Oh, well done you for managing to quit,” Sylvie said, laughing. “I can’t get through a morning without it – but then, that’s what four thirty a.m. starts will do for you. The joys of being a baker.”

“Believe me, I get you. Though it was the opposite for me – you work a lot of late nights as a chef.”

“Oh – you’re a chef?” Sylvie blinked, a look of confusion crossing her face. “I thought – ” She shook her head. “But then, that makes total sense. I did think you must have been a chef, before – well, before.”

Gale frowned a little, not sure he understood what she meant. But how had she known he was a chef? Surely not just because he knew what cardamom was. It wasn’t the most common of spices, but it wasn’t exactly unknown, either.

But then, Eula back at the diner somehow knew as well. Maybe somehow it’s just obvious?

“You’re the second person today to guess that,” Gale said, shaking his head. “Did someone stick a sign to my back or something?”

Sylvie’s eyebrows drew together. “Well, Eula from the diner did call me,” she said slowly. “But… I didn’t really think she was… I mean, not until I saw you and I realized…” She trailed off, biting her lip. “I mean, we are talking about the same thing, aren’t we?”

“That… I’m a chef?” Gale said, feeling mystified.

“Oh – yes,” Sylvie said. “But… your other job…”

Gale shook his head. “I’m sorry – I don’t have another job. Not right now, anyway, though in the past I’ve worked at a few different things – handyman, a bit of time on some building sites, and – don’t laugh – I was a night watchman at a cemetery for a little while, but that’s all in the past.”

To his surprise, Sylvie looked a little crestfallen. Maybe it was the cemetery part – mention of cemeteries usually didn’t make people smile.

“Oh,” she said after a moment. “No, I – sorry, I wasn’t really talking about you being a chef. I’m sorry – Eula at the diner said some things to me and I didn’t believe her, but then I saw you, and I guess I let my imagination run away with me…” Sylvie trailed off, shaking her head. “Sorry! Now I’m running my mouth and not making any sense! I’ll just leave you in peace to eat your apple rose. Please just let me know if there’s anything else I can get for you – we do tea and coffee here, too.”

Gale swallowed, his heart pounding. He wasn’t sure why, except that Sylvie was clearly disappointed about something. Plus, he didn’t understand what she meant – what had Eula at the diner said that could have upset her?

Comfort her, his unicorn ordered him imperiously. A lady is perturbed – will you allow her to go without offering her aid?

Of course not, Gale told it, glad Sylvie had turned away and wouldn’t see the scowl that crossed his face. As if he wouldn’t try to find out what had upset her, and help her if he could!

“Sylvie?” he said, standing and reaching out to her, his hand brushing against her shoulder. “Is there something wrong? Did I say something?”

“No, no,” Sylvie said, shaking her head as she turned back to him. “Like I said – I just let my imagination run wild for a second, and got my hopes up.” She hesitated, then laughed lightly. “Well, I may as well tell you, so you can have a little giggle with me. There’s been a rumor going around that a famous food critic is going to pass through town. Have you ever heard of Aubrey Z.?”

“Of course,” Gale said instantly. Everyone in the restaurant business had heard of Aubrey Z. Their reviews were legendary.

“Of course,” Sylvie echoed, nodding. “Well… Eula got it into her head – and, I swear, you’ll laugh – she decided that you must be Aubrey Z., and so when you came in here and seemed to like my stuff so much, I thought, well, maybe a little luck had finally come my way…”

Sylvie sounded so dispirited that there was no way Gale could have laughed at her story. Instead, his heart went out to her.

“I’m sorry, but no, I’m not Aubrey Z.,” he said, as gently as he could. “Though if I could, I’d definitely start a website just to sing the praises of these tarts – they’re seriously the best I’ve ever tasted, and I mean it.”

“Thank you,” Sylvie said softly. “That does actually mean a lot to me. And, uh, thank you for not laughing at me.”

“I would never,” Gale said seriously. Obviously, he’d never laugh at someone who’d just been disappointed, even if the idea of him being Aubrey Z. was kind of weird. He swallowed. He wished there was something he could do to make Sylvie smile again – and he wanted to ask her what bad luck she’d had recently that had made her so hopeful things might be turning around for her.

He wasn’t usually the type to want to pry into someone’s personal business, but there was just something about Sylvie that wasn’t making him act like his usual self, in any respect. He didn’t usually stare at women in helpless awe of their beauty either, but that’s what he’d been doing with Sylvie from the moment he’d arrived!

“Sylvie,” Gale said, not really sure what he was going to say, only that it was something, “I know we only just met, but if there’s anything I can do to help you –”

As he spoke, Gale reached out without really meaning to – and his hand came down on hers where it rested on the table next to the vase of flowers.

Immediately, Gale felt a ripple of electricity flowing right through him – through his fingers, up his arm, and settling in his chest.

As his eyes widened in shock, his unicorn reared up within him, plowing the air with its hooves, its mane shimmering as it flowed out behind it, mouth opening in a forceful cry.

Mine! Mine! Mine! My mate!
Chant, Zoe . Unicorns and Honey Cakes Kindle Locations (350-411). Kindle Edition.

With his unicorn’s declaration that Sylvie is his mate, Gale touches the wooden fork, and it starts to bloom. Fortunately, under the menu where it wouldn’t be seen.

He gets it together as they discuss her treats and the use of unusual spices to create them. When she acknowledges she has a ‘black’ thumb, he confesses to be a gardener of sorts, having much luck creating gardens where nothing would previously thrive.

Now he has an in, but he still has to court her and tell her not only about his unicorn but also that she’s his mate.

Let’s not forget the mystery of the new bakery getting her recipes needs to be solved as well.

This is a fun read, with laughter and a unique solution.

5 Contented Purrs for Zoe!

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Zoe Chant loves writing paranormal romance. Over a cup of tea (or something stronger) she whips up sexy tales of hunky heroes and adventurous heroines to tantalize and satisfy her readers. Sizzling hot romance, no cliffhangers!

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