What was your favorite scene to write for To Love a Wolf and why?
This is a seriously tough question since every scene in the book tells a critical part of the story, and without any of them the book would fall apart. But all that being said, if pressed, I’d have to say that it’s the opening scene of the book—the entire prologue really—which has a special place in my heart.
To understand why, you need to know two things.
One, my hubby and I write together. When you read those intense action sequences—or the parts where the SWAT team is bonding over a moment that most women would consider pure insanity—you need to understand that those scenes are his influence into the joint work.
Two, you need to know that my husband spent twenty-one years in Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD), better known as the bomb squad. Before I even go one step further, he wants me to point out that he’d never been asked to do anything even close to what occurs in the beginning of To Love a Wolf—thank God! But he did know many men and woman who were asked to take The Long Walk—manually approaching a suspect package known as an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). And some of them never came back from that Walk.
Because of this and his connection to these people that he knew so well, he refused to even consider putting an EOD guy in any of the books we wrote for nearly ten years. It just never seemed right to him, and he couldn’t bring himself to even start the story.
But with Cooper’s story I think he finally got to a place where he felt it was okay to go back and think about people whose names are now listed on a memorial wall at the Joint Service EOD School.
He wrote the outline for the prologue in one sitting. When I took his draft and rolled it into the story, it was hard to read, not to mention brought tears to my eyes, because I couldn’t help thinking about my husband being asked to do something like what the prologue describes, and thanking God again that he never had to. It was heartwrenching and terrifying for me to read, so I’m pretty sure it will be pretty tough on my readers too.
It’s amazing scene, and defines the character of werewolf/SWAT officer Landry Cooper that fans have been loving since he showed up in Book One of the series.
Without further ado…here’s an excerpt of the scene:
Staff Sergeant Landry Cooper moved carefully through the rubble covering the floor of the partially demolished building, inching his way closer to the target. The maze of shattered brick and broken pieces of wood weren’t the biggest reason he was moving slowly, though. That had more to do with the hundred- degree temperature and the seventy-five-pound Kevlar bomb suit he was wearing. He despised the army’s suit with a passion that few people outside the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community could understand. It wasn’t simply that it was hot and heavy. No, what he hated most about the suit was the nearly complete sensory deprivation that came with wearing it. Inside the claustrophobic helmet surrounded by a neck gusset designed to keep your head from getting ripped off your body during an explosion, you couldn’t hear much of anything, your line of sight was distorted by the thick, curved face piece, and your peripheral vision was nonexistent. Having to make a manual approach— better known in EOD circles as the long walk— on a suspected improvised explosive device, or IED, was bad enough. Doing it when you had an armor- plated pillow wrapped around your head? That sucked.
But he didn’t have a choice. Local construction workers had come in this morning and found a suspected IED half buried in the dirt between two buildings. Cooper and his team had been able to use a robot to drop a small demolition charge near the device, but his disposal charge, combined with a bang from the IED, had caused part of the surrounding buildings to collapse, pissing off the locals and making it impossible to get the robot back in to clear the area.
If there was one cardinal rule in EOD, it was that you never released an incident location back to the good guys without being one hundred percent sure all hazards had been cleared. That meant doing a manual approach in the bomb suit to make sure there weren’t any explosive materials or secondary devices around.
Cooper wasn’t too worried about walking up to the package he’d just blown in place. While the relationship between the city’s Sunni population and ruling Shiite government forces would never be described as anything other than tense, lately things had been better. IED responses were way down, and they hadn’t seen a secondary explosive device, typically planted to target police and other first responders, in months.
Still, he played everything by the book, keeping the protected front of his suit facing the spot where the IED had been, and using the building’s structure for protection as much as possible. At the same time, he kept his head on a swivel, looking for anything that seemed out of place.
“I’m about twenty feet from where we blew the IED,” he murmured over his suit’s radio to his team members waiting in the safe area three hundred yards away, and then remembered he was wasting his breath. The damn radio had stopped working about a month ago, and a replacement wasn’t due for weeks. He was on his own.
Sweat trickled down his nose as he stepped over a low wall and moved toward the crater where the IED had been. He automatically lifted a hand to wipe the sweat from his face and thumped against the plastic face piece.
“Crap, I hate this suit,” he muttered, forced to make due with wiggling his nose.
He reached the edge of the shallow crater and looked down. Two feet deep and six across, it looked like a big soup bowl. There were some rusty nails the bomb maker had added for fun, but the IED itself was long gone. Even better, his demo shot hadn’t exposed another one buried underneath.
Cooper pulled a sharpened fiberglass rod out of his pocket, then jumped into the crater. If there was anything here, the blast from the disposal shot would have uncovered it, but it didn’t hurt to check. Unfortunately, the heavy spine protector in the suit that helped keep an EOD tech’s back from being crushed if blown backward against something hard meant he had to squat down like a sumo wrestler to stick the probe into the dirt. He ignored the sweat and aggravation and made it work.
He’d moved almost all the way around the shot hole and was about to climb out to walk around the rest of the area when his probe hit something hard. He tensed, but then relaxed. He was still here, so it couldn’t be that bad. Dropping to one knee, he used his hand to slowly uncover what he’d found. When a horizontal, cylindrical pipe took shape, he assumed it was a water or sewer line. They weren’t exactly common in structures as old as this one, but it could have been placed here to supply another building nearby. As he uncovered it, the pipe began to get smaller on one end. His gut clenched as realization dawned on him. He brushed off more dirt, revealing the nose of the 155-millimeter artillery round, as well as the metal electrical conduit extending out of it and running underground.
Cursing, Cooper pushed himself to his feet and backpedaled toward the edge of the crater as fast as he could. An artillery round didn’t usually have a conduit sticking out the end. This one had been booby-t rapped so the bomber could set it off manually whenever he wanted. The conduit was there so the IED wouldn’t cut the line if an EOD tech like him destroyed it. And with the conduit there, Cooper couldn’t cut the line either.
This device was an EOD killer put there because somebody knew a bomb tech would come down and look around before turning the site over to the local police.
His mind raced. A projectile this size carried fifteen pounds of high explosive. When it went off, even a bomb suit as good as the one he had on was unlikely to stop all the frag that came off it.
He reached the top of the crater and backed away as fast as he could. He would have been able to run faster if he turned around, but the weakest part of a bomb suit was the rear. If this thing went off when his back was to it, he’d have no chance.
Time slowed as a thousand thoughts zipped through his head. How he seriously didn’t want to die. How maybe the bomber on the other end of that firing line might have needed to go take a piss, and the 155 wouldn’t go off. How his parents and brothers were going to be crushed when they found out. How he should have gone to the prom with that cute girl in his math class back in high school. How one of the junior members on his team was going to be forced to step up and take over his job. How the new unit lieutenant was going to have to write a condolence letter on his first fucking day on the job.
Cooper pushed those thoughts away, yanking his hands inside the arms of the suit to keep them from getting ripped off in the blast as he focused his attention on moving backward as fast as he could. Just get twenty feet away. Then you might have a chance. He didn’t make it ten.
The blast threw him backward before his head even registered the flash of the projectile exploding.
Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. Paige writes books about hunky alpha males and the kick-butt heroines they fall in love with. She lives with her very own military hero (a.k.a. her husband) and their adorable dog on the beautiful Florida coast.
Paige can be found at PaigeTylerTheAuthor.com.