Exhilaration was still pumping the blood wildly through his veins as Damien guided the trap into the hatch of Dr. Miles Mortensen's laboratory. As soon as the door had sealed, he moved around to the entrance and pressed the buzzer for admittance. The door slid open after only a brief wait, but Damien was still impatient as he moved inside and waited for the inner lock to open.
"You're back!" Miles said unnecessarily.
Damien couldn't help it. He grinned at the hopeful look on Miles' face. "I caught one."
The expressions that flitted swiftly across Miles' face increased Damien's amusement. "A terra-biped?"
Damien feigned a nonchalant shrug. "That's what you paid me to trap."
Miles still looked torn between excitement and disbelief. "I didn't expect you back for months. You're sure?"
Irritation flickered through Damien. "It looks like the pictures."
"From mythology? They really look like that?" He almost looked surprised. "Is it alive?"
Damien had expected some shock. Hell, he'd been shocked himself when he discovered Miles was right and the things really did exist--he'd suspected he'd been hired and sent on a fool's errand--but he was starting to get a little irritated. "As far as I know. I had to put it out. It's a little one--I think a juvenile maybe, certainly not full grown. It wasn't very strong, but it still put up a hell of a fight--nearly got away two or three times before I could get the net off and shove it in the trap."
Anger spawned of disappointment, tautened Miles' face. "I wanted a live one. I need a live one to study."
Damien's lips tightened. "Well, why don't have a look at it?"
Miles looked startled. "It's here?"
"Of course it's here! Where the hell else would I take it?"
Miles whirled and dashed toward his lab before he could say anything else. Damien followed more slowly. He hoped to hell it was still alive. He didn't relish having to go after another one. Although he wouldn't have admitted it under torture, the place he'd had to go to capture one gave him the creeps. Of all the areas he had hunted, it was hands down the worst--more like something out of a nightmare than a real place.
Beyond that, he felt an unaccustomed twinge at the thought that he might've killed it. He was a hunter. Hell, he wasn't used to bringing in living creatures--certainly not anything like this that wasn't even supposed to exist.
The image of his first sight of it flickered through his mind and his gut twisted. It was a beautiful, delicate creature. It's huge, blue eyes had looked so frightened he felt a little ill at the thought of seeing them dim with death.
Miles was plastered to the viewing window, staring at it when he entered the lab. He couldn't detect anything about the doctor's posture to tell him one way or another whether it was still alive and his belly cinched a little tighter. After a brief debate with himself, he moved close enough to peer at it through the glass. Narrowing his eyes, he studied the chest and saw with a mixture of relief and dismay that it was still moving--barely--the creature was still completely unconscious, though, and that made him uneasy. He hadn't thought he'd hit it with enough current to knock it out this long.
But what the hell did he know about it? He'd never seen one before. It wasn't like the things he usually hunted.
Miles glanced at him. "It's still alive--for now anyway. Let's just see if we can keep it that way long enough for me to gather a little data."
Damien nodded, feeling a vague sense of nausea that annoyed him, wondering if he was starting to get too squeamish to do his job. "It's so delicate," he murmured. "I was too busy trying to subdue it to really notice. I hadn't expected them to be colorful. They aren't in the books. The scarlet capelette is what really caught my eye."
Miles nodded. "I can see why it would. Beautiful. It's so beautiful," he murmured, a touch of awe in his voice. "It never occurred to me...."
Discomfort stirred in Damien. He'd felt the same way--stunned. "Do you think it's a male or a female?"
Miles scanned it slowly. "Hard to say. I might have to dissect it to find out."
Damien's belly clenched. Anger surged through him and an odd sense of possessiveness. He'd caught it. If the bastard was just going to take it apart, he could keep his damned pay. He'd take the little thing with him--not that he had a clue of how he was going to take care of it. "What the hell did you want me to catch it alive for if you were just going to dissect it?"
Miles turned to glare at him. "I wanted it alive so I could study it. I don't plan to dissect it unless it dies--but if it does, that's probably all I'll get out of it."
Damien's face hardened, but he kept his opinion to himself. It was still breathing and it had taken a while to get back to the lab. If it had survived this long, he thought it was probably going to live--if the doctor didn't do anything to change that.