Nothing says “trip to the in-laws” like a rogue vampire hunt instead of dessert. Which was a shame, because I’d really been looking forward to froyo. Granted, we hadn’t decided on froyo, but I bet I could have talked the others into it. Especially Gabrel.

That Friday as a whole had been the result of Cendric’s stubbornness. As part of couples bonding, my mate had been determined that I should meet the rest of his family in a civil atmosphere. His adopted vampire family, to be clear, since Cid had been a raven shifter before being turned, and still had a raven’s soul. Along with an iron will for how things should be—Melrose Durante might be the dad, but Cendric clearly kept the family together. I’d never seen his shadowy magic flare up on a phone call before.

But somehow, he’d gotten everyone to agree to meet at a 1920s speakeasy-style restaurant in downtown Binghampton. It was a fun place, with a legit “secret” entrance behind a towering bookshelf, and beyond that, a cozy, dimly lit dining area. Dark wood chairs around square tables with candles and flowers as centerpieces, neutral walls, and random cozy nooks of overstuffed couches, leather chairs, and bookcases.

Cid had fun taste in restaurants, and despite his worries, I was ready for a good time. At least the inherent family drama meant it wouldn’t be boring. And since my meeting with Melrose in-person a few weeks ago had won his trust, at least partially, that was half the battle.

            As long as my freaking headache would stay away. Even in the soothingly dark atmosphere, my temples throbbed faintly, enough to throw me off balance. I popped another one of the pills my brother Gideon had created. Basically a magical version of ibuprofen that was strong enough to even work on Jinn—or mostly-Jinn, which I was.

            “Another one?” My husband’s cultured voice was laced with concern.

“Yeah. Just to be safe.” I glanced over at Cendric, who sat at the end of the two tables that had been pushed together to accommodate a seating of five. I sat catty-corner to him. A thin line creased his temples. Concern, yes, but also…I knew that look. I’d seen it over the past years in our scatterings of dates. “You need another, too?”

 He sighed, rubbing a starkly pale hand across his black brow. “I shouldn’t…”

            “Hey, there are no side effects. We would have felt them after a week, Gideon said. And he would’ve too.” I grabbed his hand and squeezed. “You’re the one who brought them together. Can’t have you be at less than a hundred percent, Shiny.”

            “Indeed.” His lips twitched at the nickname, and he took the bottle I proffered with my other hand. An actual ibuprofen bottle, just so no one would suspect anything. But the pills inside glinted greenish-purple. I released my grip, letting him tip two into his mouth and down them with a swallow of water. Neither of us was drinking anything stronger, not at this point. Just to be safe.

            Still had no idea where the headaches were coming from, only that they’d been plaguing me, Cendric, and Gideon for over a week. Pinching, nerve-plucking pains, as if something was stretching our minds like it was playing with elastic bands.

Elastic bands? Hmmm. Then the thought fizzled out. Even my rebellious Jinn brain was out of sorts, all bent out of shape, enough that Casimir had given me an injection of a potion to keep my craziness in check so I could handle time away from his training.

            Gideon had no idea what it was, and neither did Casimir—and considering Casimir was meant to be a super-wise light elf, that meant we were kinda screwed. If a seven-thousand-year old plus healer couldn’t figure things out, who could?