"It is very close to sunrise, Jackson. I was about to worry."
"I'm sorry, Sire. I didn't mean to worry you."
"How did it go?"
"Everything was fine. But there was another there."
"Did she know you were there?"
"No, sir. She didn't sense me. I took precautions, and she was only there a short time. She watched them for a few minutes, then she took something from Mick St. John's car."
"Do you know what it was?"
"No, sir. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize. You did exactly as you were supposed to. It would have been disastorous if she'd know you were there. You are no match for her in a fair fight."
"St. John was perilously unguarded, Sire. He sensed nothing amiss, though there were two vampire's watching him and his human. Does he not know of the danger?"
"He has been made aware of a possible danger, but he does not know the nature of it. It has been a little while, also, and he has become complacent. He has come to believe that maybe there is no danger."
"But does his sire not teach him to be careful? Josef Kostan is very security-conscious. Why does he not train Mick in the same practice?"
"It is not your place to judge the teachings of a sire to his childe."
Jackson grimaced at the light scolding. "I'm sorry, sir."
"I know you are just concerned. I'm aware that you have taken a liking to St. John. I hope you will not let that get in the way of your job."
"No, Sire. Of course not."
"Good. You are tired. Why don't you get some sleep." Malcolm stood from his seat and moved forward to where Jackson was still standing before him. He put one hand on the back of Jackson's head and drew him forward a couple inches, then leaned forward to place a fond kiss in the middle of Jackson's forehead. "You may go."
"Sleep well," Jackson said as he left the room.
Malcolm frowned in thought once he was alone. It seemed things were closing in.
"Josef?" Mick knocked twice on the doorjamb as he entered Josef's study, where he was seated at his desk. "Hey."
"Hey, Mick. I wasn't expecting you tonight. I figured you'd do something with Beth."
"I am. We're gonna do something later. I just wanted to stop by for a little bit, if you're not too busy."
"Of course not. You know you're always welcome."
Mick smiled and flopped down into one of the chairs across from Josef's desk. "I know."
"So? You gonna tell me how it went with Beth? Don't keep me in suspense."
"It was good. Great, actually. We had a lot of fun and we talked about things, cleared things up. Things are much better now between us."
"That's it? No juicy details?" Josef joked.
"There are no juicy details, Josef. Besides, you know I don't kiss and tell."
"Ah, so there are. You just don't want to say."
Mick just shook his head and laughed at Josef's antics.
"Seriously, Mick. I'm glad things are good between you two again."
"Well, thanks for pushing me into it. Why is it these days you seem to know what I need more than I do?"
"That's not it. It's just that you're too stubborn to let go of an idea once you have it."
"You call me stubborn? You're the most stubborn person I've ever met, Josef."
"Wait till you get another century or two on ya. You'll find that stubborness is what gets you that far."
"Beth's going to stop by soon. Is that okay? She wants to thank you for last night, so she decided she'd just meet me here. She should be here anytime."
"Of course it's okay. I told you it was. Tell me you didn't actually tell her last night was my idea." Before Mick answered, Josef pressed a button on his intercom instructing an employee to escort one Beth Turner upstairs to the study on her arrival. No sense making her go through the whole security thing if he already knows she's coming.
Mick sighed and answered Josef's previous question, continuing their conversation. "I had to. I didn't feel right about misleading her. I told her you were paying for it, too."
"Have I taught you nothing? How'd she take it?"
"Very well, actually. I had to talk her out of maxing out your card," he teased.
"Did you enjoy the Rose Room?"
"Very much. Beth was a little nervous at first, being around other vampires."
"What else did you do?"
"We went to the beach."
"Yeah. Don't look at me like that. I told her she could do anything she wanted and that's what she decided."
Josef just shook his head.
"We went swimming."
"Swimming? Please tell me you didn't swim in those clothes. Do you have no respect for fine tailoring?"
"Down boy. We didn't. And Beth loved the dress, by the way. So did I. I can't thank you enough for that dress."
"Didn't I tell you? So back to the swimming, which you so cleverly changed the subject from. If you didn't swim in your clothes, did you take something to change into?"
Mick shook his head at Josef's wicked grin, and resigned himself to the teasing. "Nope."
"Skinnydipping? I didn't think you had it in you, Mick. Hell, I didn't think she had it in her."
"Well, she does. It was actually her idea. But it wasn't quite skinnydipping. We kept our....underclothes....on."
"Didn't anyone ever explain the birds and the bees to you? I guess I have more to teach you than I thought."
"So what do the two of you have planned for tonight?"
"Don't know yet. We might just hang out. Maybe she'll want to go to the movies or something."
"Movies? The movies? Are you seventeen? You gonna give her your letter jacket and go steady?"
"You're just full of jokes tonight, aren't you? Not all adult relationships require one to abandon all morals, you know."
"Just the best ones."
"Are you gonna behave when she comes by, or are you going to do what you can to embarrass me?"
"Whatever mood strikes me."
"Should I be worried?"
"Possibly. You hungry? How about dinner?"
"I had dinner before I left the house, but I've been meaning to talk to you about that."
"About feeding from your freshies."
"You ready to take the next step? Great! I knew you'd get there, Mick. I have some great contacts. You let me handle everything and I'll have you a couple of good freshies of your own by next weekend."
Mick almost changed his mind about telling Josef after seeing how excited he was, but if he didn't do it now, he knew he never would. "Actually, Josef, that's not quite was I was going to say. I think I'd like to go back to not feeding fresh so often. Do you mind?"
Josef sat back in his chair and sighed. Mick winced at his friend's downtrodden expression. "I should've known it was too good to last long," Josef lamented. "If that's what you want, okay, I guess. But I still expect you to stick to the twice a week deal we has before."
"Of course," Mick agreed. He almost reminded Josef that it hadn't been a deal so much as an order, but he decided there was no reason to push his luck.
"What does this mean, Mick? You're not falling into your old pattern, are you?" Josef asked worriedly.
"No, don't worry, Josef, everything's good. It's just that....well, after we talked I had a lot to think about. Still do, really. But we both know that some of the things I was doing was because of the flawed way I was thinking. We settled that when we talked, but I decided that if I was going to get rid of that way of thinking, I had to get rid of all of it. And we both know how I feel about drinking from live donors. I was making myself do it because I thought that's what you wanted."
"Well, at least you're back to normal."
"Does that bother you? I hope you don't think this means I have any less respect for you, or for what you want for me,Josef."
"Of course not. It doesn't bother me and I know how you feel about me. I can feel it, remember? Yes, I am just a little disappointed, you knew I would be, but I'm not disappointed in you. It would take much more than something like this. I'm just glad to see you being you again."
"So, no plans to trade me in for a better model?" Mick joked, but lost his smile when he realized that Josef didn't find the joke funny. "Sorry," he muttered, knowing by the look on his friend's face that the guilty apology wouldn't forestall a lecture. "It was just a joke, Josef."
"Not a funny one. I don't like jokes like that, Mick. Not after the problems you had about all that stuff."
"I said I was sorry," Mick repeated, but though his words could convey posssible irritation, he kept his tone mild and neutral. Josef's eyes had taken on an intense directness and his face and tone were stern. He had morphed, in seconds, from Mick's best friend into his sire and Mick could feel the difference along thier bond. As Josef had promised Mick before, Mick's intincts were reacting to it. It was a combination of fledgleling instinct and common sense. He could try to fight it if he chose, though it wouldn't be easy, but he had no desire to do so. He'd finally learned to accept the changes between them and all it might mean.
"I didn't know it bothered you so much, Josef. I'll remember not to do it again," Mick promised contritely.
Though Josef was just displeased about a minor issue rather than outright angry, Mick wanted to avoid any cause Josef might feel to let loose with dominant energy rather than just slightly asserting dominance as he was now. Mick didn't like the feelings he experienced when Josef let loose the energy as he had the night Mick had submitted. There was something comforting and right about it, but at the same time it made him feel....small.....with the knowledge that Josef was unhappy with him enough to resort to such methods. It gave him a sense of failure, of inadequacy. Mick knew this was actually common, and much more normal than the identity crisis type senses of guilt and failure he'd finally beat, but he still didn't like it. Or the way Josef just stared at him rather than speaking, when he wanted to get his point across without making a major issue of something small.
Like the way he was staring at him now, with eyes that could bore a hole through him. Mick kept his head slightly lowered and his eyes on the floor, but he could feel the older vampire's stare and he couldn't help squirming uncomfortably under the gaze.
They both sensed Beth's approach seconds before they heard her, Mick could feel Josef's awareness of her through the link, though niether moved. Mick noted Beth's hesitation before entering the room, but then she took a couple steps through the doorway before coming to a perplexed halt. Mick began to turn to greet her, but he felt something along their link from Josef. It wasn't anything Mick could put into words, but he knew what it meant. Josef had sent his intensity up just a bare notch and Mick instantly realized his almost- mistake. Josef hadn't yet released him, and Mick felt that this was a test. He'd felt like that quite often lately, actually. Mick had gotten the sense that Josef had been giving him small tests, then guaging his actions and reactions, no doubt to determine what he might need to incorporate into later teachings.
So Mick held still under Josef's eyes until he felt Josef pull back a little, and he wondered if he'd passed or failed this particular test. Mick could have easily ignored the small nudge he'd felt from Josef if he'd wished, it hadn't been any stronger an influence than spoken words would have been, but instead he'd acknowledged it and reacted correctly. But on the other hand, it had taken that nudge for Mick to realize he'd almost made a mistake by turning from Josef prematurely.
When he felt Josef pull back, Mick raised his eyes to Josef in a silent question, recieving one nod of approval in return. Mick's muscles lost their stiffness and he smiled, returning to his usual casual and relaxed posture. He turned to face Beth.
"Hey, Beth," he greeted her in welcome and reached out for one of her hands. "I was just telling Josef you'd be here anytime."
When Beth found the room the security-man had pointed out after he'd escorted her upstairs, she had been alarmed when she'd first glanced through the doorway. She'd hesitated to enter, then stepped forward through the door before coming to a stop. At first glance it had seemed that there was a problem between Josef and Mick, and she wondered if they'd been fighting, then quieted down because she was there. She had noticed that they'd both been aware of her presence, though she couldn't say how she knew, seeing as niether of them had made a move or sent so much as a glance her way when she'd first appeared.
But then she realized that if they'd been fighting she would have heard them from down the hallway, long before she'd arrived at Josef's study. And anyway, they didn't seem angry, either of them. There was a tenseness in the air, but it didn't really have a negative feel, despite the way Josef was staring so intently at Mick, and the way Mick stood, just looking at the floor. Mick's body was stiff, but not tense. Seconds after Beth had entered the room, Mick had turned his head to look at her with the beginning of a smile, and began to turn her way, but he'd quickly stiffened again and returned back to his original position. Josef just kept staring.
Beth realized she'd intruded into something, and she wondered if it was some mysterious vampire ritual or something. If it was, she wondered how many humans had ever been allowed to observe such a thing, and decided to take her chance while she could. She was no longer worried about Mick's safety. There was no animosity in the air.
After a few moments, scant seconds really, through some obviously hidden signal that she couldn't discern, both vampires relaxed minutely. She saw Mick glance up at Josef and Josef nod once- it curiosly seemed as if he was bestowing permission for something, though she couldn't be sure- then the strange moments she'd observed were gone. Both men relaxed, instantly restoring themselves to their usual postures as Mick turned to her with a smile and greeted her as he grabbed her hand.
Beth now realized that she'd observed an example of some of the things Mick had told her about at dinner last night. It had been very hard for Mick to find the words to explain some of these things to her, much of it is beyond mortal understanding without the ability to experience it. But he had described to her that with these changes between Mick and Josef, it was as if each vampire had two personalities. They each had their 'Best Friend' personalities, and then they had their Sire/fledgeling personalities, and that they were learning to combine the two without letting them clash.
It was fascinating, really. Mick had described it accurately. When she'd walked in, there had obviously been some kind of power-play going on, though she'd sensed that it was more posturing than anything. Mick had taken on the air of a subordinate to her eyes, though it was in contrast to his usually self-confindent, outspoken ways. And Josef....well, she didn't really know him well enough to make assumptions, but the few times she'd been around him, he'd always carried himself with over-confidence. An almost arrogant, aristocratic demeanor, yet with the underlying sense of danger that his nature provides. But just now, there had been something else, something hard to describe, but he'd been...commanding. Even though he'd uttered not one word, he had seemed to be completely in charge of the mood, of the atmosphere in the room. She sensed with certainty that Josef could have easily turned that moment of command into one of intimidation with barely more than a change in expression or posture. That idea scared her just a little, and she had the feeling that being a little scared of Josef was probably the smartest thing.
She was simply amazed that two men- and male tetosterone-charged vampires, at that- could experience such a tense moment between each other, and yet feel no anger, animosity or or competition toward each other. She decided that Mick had been telling the truth when he'd told her that there was more to vampire relationships than a mortal could understand, or that could be verbally explained. Because she had gotten the sense that this interaction she'd witnessed had not been emotion-free.
She didn't know how she could tell. Maybe it was just the charged atmosphere or something. But she'd been able to almost feel acceptance from both vampires, and she'd somehow been aware of how strongly each cared for the other.
Last night, when Mick had tried to explain some of these things to her, she'd actually felt concern for his well-being. Just the idea that someone seemed to have such seeemingly control over him- and Josef Kostan, at that- had scared her. She couldn't even imagine such a thing for herself and could understand the problems Mick had had getting used to it. What she hadn't been able to understand was his final acceptance of it, even as he'd tried to convince her of it. But now, after what she'd witnessed and the sense of calm and fondness she'd somehow felt from them, she no longer worried about Josef's influence over Mick or possible intentions to try and use that influence for anything negative.
It had only taken Beth a few seconds for all this to rocket through her mind and process in her thoughts, but the tiny hesitation had nonetheless been noticed by both vampires. Mick just looked down at her questionlingly, but from Josef she recieved a small smile- in her mind, a knowing smile, and she wondered if he'd somehow known what she'd been thinking.
She smiled up at Mick and curled her fingers around his in response to his greeting. "Hey," she said softly. "Not late, am I?"
"Of course not."
"Miss Turner," Josef greeted, stepping forward and giving her a small nod. "Nice to see you again."
She actually believed he meant it. "Josef. Mick tells me last night was on you. Thank you, I had a great time. It was very generous."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. Between the two of us, maybe we can keep Mick from stagnating in his apartment all by his lonesome."
"Well, it's a big job, but maybe we can manage it if we work together."
"Funny. Very funny," Mick shook his head at thier teasing. "Have you decided what you want to do yet?"
"I was thinking a movie, if we can agree on one-" she saw Mick shoot Josef what seemed like a warning glare and Josef smirked back. She wondered what that was about, but dismissed it as a guy thing. "We're kind of in between movie times, but I was thinking we could go back to your place for an hour or so until we're ready to leave. It's closer to downtown than my apartment. Plus, you never did tell me if you found anything new on this investigation of yours." Beth had been very worried when Mick had told her as much as he could about all this mysterious business with this vampire council or whatever they're called. He'd been reluctant to mention it, but had explained that since they were re-establishing thier 'friendship' and would be spending more time around each other again, he wanted her to be aware of all possible dangers and such. He didn't think she had anything to worry about, but he wanted her to be careful. It made her feel a little better that he was doing what he could to find out as much about them as he could, and she'd made him promise to be careful.
"I've been waiting on pins and needles to hear if you'v found anything on this guy Mal-"
She jumped violently at Mick's loud and sudden outburst of her name, looking at him half quizzically and have annoyed. He looked alarmed, shooting quick glances between her and Josef. His hand squeezed hers, not painfully, but uncomfortable enough.
"What-?" She started to question, but he quickly headed for the door, still holding her hand but also propelling her forward with his other hand on her lower back.
"C'mon, Beth. If we don't leave now, we'll be late. See ya later, Josef!"
"What?" Beth asked in confusion at Mick's seemingly leave of senses. "Late for what? I told you the movies don't start for-"
"C'mon, Beth," Mick urged, interrupting her into silence. She quieted, but glanced back into the room at Josef just before she turned into the doorway, wondering if he knew what sudden strange urgency had hit Mick. She wasn't quite sure what had just taken place, but Josef didn't look too happy. He was watching their retreat with narrowed eyes, angry and suspicios looking. Mick pointedly did not look back at Josef and she just let him lead her quickly downstairs.
As they left, Josef walked back around his desk and sat in his wheeled chair. He opened a drawer on the right hand side and withdrew a folded piece of paper. He unfolded it and reread it once again. He'd recieved the message a little over a week ago with no name or return address.
Your childe increases his danger.
He pries into business that is not his.
Do not let him continue with the investigation of the Council members.
The next warning will be his. There will not be a third.
Josef had given Mick ample time and opportunity to come clean. He had suspected even before recieving the anonymous message that Mick wasn't quite keeping up his end of the deal, but the short letter had confirmed it. He'd wanted to give his friend the benefit of a doubt, not wanting to believe that he'd simply disregard Josef's wishes. Even earlier tonight, Josef had made a pointed comment about not being disappointed with Mick without a serious cause, hoping Mick would initiate a confession. He believed Mick when he said that he respects him more than that, Josef can sense it in him, but just because Mick didn't always use his common sense didn't mean he didn't need to learn when a behavior was unacceptable. Josef had been prepared to go somewhat easy on Mick if he'd come clean on his own, though there would still have been consequences.
But Josef decided he'd waited long enough, judging by Mick's sudden reaction after Beth's little slip earlier. Josef hadn't been aware that the blonde had known anything about it, but he should have figured. But it was obvious that Mick had no intention of saying anything to Josef about the continuing investigation, despite having agreed to Josef's ultimatums, and Josef wasn't willing to take the chance of Mick getting hurt if the Elders lost patience with his prying. He was positive their relationship was now strong enough to handle issues like this when Josef had to forego being Mick's friend in favor of acting as his sire, but that didn't mean he had to like it. But it was his job, his duty. His responsibility. And he was a little hurt and yes, disappointed, that Mick hadn't followed through on his promises. Besides, Josef doesn't tolerate being lied to by anyone. He half thought he'd chase Mick down now, before he could leave, and confront him about it, but he decided to wait. For one thing, he didn't want an audience; meaning Beth, of course. Besides, he decided it would be more effective if he made Mick come to him rather than the other way around.
"Mick!" Beth exclaimed at him as he hustled her out to the car. "What is wrong with you?!"
She had fussed, sputtered and questioned him all the way down the hall, down the stairs and through the expansive home, but he'd declined answering until he had her ensconsed in the car. As he opened the driver door to get in, he slid into his seat and glanced at her irritated face from the passenger seat where he'd already deposited her. He sighed, knowing he'd have to explain. He started the car, shifted into drive, and drove down the driveway and into the street. He looked back over at her, and she lifted her eyebrows in question. "Well?" she asked in impatience. "What was that all about?"
"Sorry," he apologized. "I forgot to tell you last night not to mention this investigation stuff to Josef."
"He doesn't know about it?"
"Well, he did, at the beginning, but he thinks I've given it up. He didn't like the idea from the start, and it took some doing to convince him to let me do it in the first place. He was totally against it, and I had to make some promises or he would've done what he could to keep me from doing it."
"What kind of promises?"
"Mostly he was just worried for my safety. I had to promise that I'd be careful, and he wanted to know what was going on every step of the way."
"I guess that sounds reasonable, but why does he think you've given up on the investigation, and why haven't you told him you're still working on it?"
"I started out doing exactly as he'd wanted, and it was my intention to keep it up. But I actually did give up the investigation. I hit a dead end for about the fifth time and finally told Josef I was finished. But then, a contact came through with some info I'd given him to check out for me several days beforehand. I finally had something to work with two weeks into the investigation, but Josef had gone out of town for two days. I knew he wouldn't be gone longer than that, because I hadn't gone with him and he knew I'd need him after a couple days. But I also knew he'd be busy with meetings and clients and stuff. So I decided that instead of calling him and bothering him, I'd wait till he got back. But by then, I'd found out a couple other things. Vampires are known for their secrecy, Beth, especially those on the Council. I have no idea how me or my contact managed to get the little bit we did, but I knew it could be dangerous if they knew I was prying. But by then I was so intrigued, I was determined to find out more. But I knew Josef wouldn't like it and I thought he might try to stop me, so I didn't say anything to him."
"He didn't look happy when we left, Mick."
"Yeah," Mick sighed. "I know. I think the jig is up. I should've come clean before we left, but I panicked. I was just thinking about getting out of there," he laughed. He knew it wasn't really funny, but he could just imagine how he'd looked to the two of them. It had to have been a funny picture. He decided that tomorrow night he would get with Josef and confess. Josef was no fool, and Mick knew he had to have realized what was going on, with Beth's slip and Mick hustling out of there. He figured it would be best to 'fess up. Mick was grateful that Josef hadn't made an issue of it with Beth there, but it was possible that his friend was giving him a chance to come clean before he had to call him on it. If he was lucky, maybe he could talk Josef down before he had to face him. He wasn't looking forward to that.
Beth laughed with him. "You should have seen your face, Mick. And you scared the crap outta me when you yelled my name. I think I jumped a mile!"
"Yeah, sorry about that," Mick said, still chuckling. "Don't know what I was thinking, by then it was already too late, but I guess I just had to follow it through."
Beth's laughter slowed and she looked over at him more seriously. "Sorry I opened my big mouth. I don't want to cause trouble between you and Josef."
"It's not your fault, Beth. Don't worry about it. And there's not a problem between me and Josef. We'll do our thing, it'll be handled, then it'll be done with."
"If you say so, but what do you mean when you say you'll 'do your thing'?"
"It's vampire stuff," he said in a teasing tone as he looked at her from the corner of his eye. He knew she hated that phrase, and she confirmed it with a punch on his arm. He laughed. "Don't worry. It'll be okay." He was trying to make himself believe it. He was trying to hold off his own misgivings about it with his joking and laughing with Beth but it was mostly false bravado. He could already feel the little flutters of anxiety in his stomach, wondering what Josef would have to say to him.
"Okay," she said, but she didn't sound convinced. Mick looked over at her when she bent forward in her seat and began feeling around on the floor of the car.
"What are you doing?" he asked, half-amused and half-bewildered.
"I'm looking for my phone. Did you find it, by any chance? I left my purse right here on the seat when we were at the beach last night, but when I got home I realized my cell phone was missing out of it."
"No, I didn't find it, but I didn't look for it. Maybe it fell out?"
"That's what I was thinking, that's why I'm looking down here." She straightened up and sat back against the seat. "I'll look a little better when we get to your place and I can get out. Maybe it slid under the seat or something."
"Here. Use my phone to call yours. If it's in the car, we'll hear it ringing."
"Good idea," she said, taking his offered cell phone. He waited while she dialed her number and put the phone to her ear. After a few seconds she frowned and shook her head, clicked the phone off and handed it back to him. "Wherever it is, it must've gone dead. It went straight to voicemail. Damn it! I had all my contacts in that phone. One of these days I'll learn to keep an address and phone book for all my numbers. Instead, I just keep them in my phone, and I don't really know most of the numbers by memory."
They drove in silence the last few minutes, with Beth silently fuming in the passenger seat over the loss of her cell phone. After Mick parked in his parking space, and after an additional and more thorough search didn't turn up the missing phone, they headed for the building and the elevator that would take them up to Mick's penthouse.
When they got to within a few feet of his door, he felt the presences of vampires. It felt like two, and they were in his apartment. He stopped Beth with a hand on her arm. "Hold on," he said when she looked up at him questioningly. He pulled her back down the hallway and pushed her into a corner. It wouldn't fool any hunting vampire, but if those in his apartment were unfriendlies, they were there for him, not her. Most likely, she would be ignored if she stayed still and quiet. Besides, he had no idea how they'd gotten in, but it was most likely from another entrance than the front door and they'd probably go out the same way. He thought about letting her take his car to safety since she'd left hers at Josef's so they could ride together, but he wasn't sure if the two in his apartment were the only two around.
"Stay here," he ordered. "I mean it this time, Beth. Don't come out unless I call you." He hoped she would listen. He'd never had much luck with that before.
"Mick, what's going on?" she asked in a whisper.
"Just stay here." He left her in the dark corner, behind a large potted plant, and stealthily headed back up the hallway, approaching his door quietly. He listened for a moment, but heard nothing, and neither could he catch a good scent. He'd been correct in his assumption that they hadn't entered from this door. He was really going to have to reassess his securtiy. Maybe Josef would have some tips.
There was really no quiet way to do this. His door was a heavy steel alloy, bust-in proof-even for vampiric strength-and anyway, they'd likely already sensed him by now and were waiting. There was really nothing for him to do but punch in his security code to open his door. He did, however, stand to the side when he pushed his door open just in case anyone was waiting with a stake or a silver-bulleted gun.
He stepped inside, and was suprised to see that he'd been mistaken when he'd thought there were two vampires waiting. He'd been wrong. There were three. He realized that he'd probably missed Jackson because of the power of age radiating from the other two, he had been focused on that.
"Good evening, Mick. So sorry to intrude, but I think we have something to discuss," Malcolm said smoothly. "Don't you?"