Read Pushed Too Far: A Thriller Online

Authors: Ann Voss Peterson,Blake Crouch

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Crime Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense

Pushed Too Far: A Thriller (20 page)

BOOK: Pushed Too Far: A Thriller
7.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

He was only starting to get to know Val on a personal level, but he could still imagine how well that went over. “Did you tell her you have a policy against accepting too much help?”

“Something like that.”

“Anything else?”

She stared up at the ceiling.

“You don’t want to tell me.”

“Don’t take it personally. I’m not much of a sharer.”

“Hmm. Mysterious.”

She shook her head. “Not really. Everyone has certain tender subjects. Things no one else knows.”

“Not if you’ve been investigated for murder.”

She tilted her head to look at him. “I hope you understand about that. It’s my job.”

“I understand.” Funny thing was, he no longer cared that she knew his secrets. He’d probably spill all of it willingly now, if she asked. A feeling she obviously didn’t share. “If you want to talk sometime, though, I’m here.”

She watched him for a long time. Finally she offered a little smile. “I appreciate that.”

“But you won’t take me up on it? You won’t tell me what you need?”

“Not now, no.”


“We’ll see.”

He let quiet settle over the room. Val Ryker intrigued him, he couldn’t lie. She was sexy and smart and a force to be reckoned with. But he got the sense she also needed something—help, support—whether she would fess up to it or not.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that getting to know her carried a risk, a challenge. And God knew, he was a sucker for that particular adrenaline rush.

“I’ll let you get some sleep.” He turned to leave.

“I’ll tell you one thing I need, Lund.”

He stopped and turned back, pleased she hadn’t let him walk out the door. “What’s that?”

“I need to go to Baraboo.”

“To talk to the coroner?”

“I have to know what’s going on. I’ve known Harlan for a long time. I have to give him a chance to explain.”

“Right now? Dressed like that?” He raised his brows at her backless gown.

“The doctor said I can leave, but I’m having some tests done tomorrow morning. I don’t want Grace to stay at the hospital all night. She needs sleep. It’s been a rough few days.”

“And not just for Grace.” The first time he’d been in her room, he’d wanted to touch her, but he’d stopped short. This time he crossed to her bed and clasped her right hand in his. “What do you need, Val? Just you?”

He squeezed her fingers.

She didn’t squeeze back.

Seconds ticked by before she finally spoke. “I would absolutely kill for a hot shower.”

Not exactly what he was hoping for, but he was a patient man … at least about some things. “How about Grace and I go buy you some clothing that’s not soaked with river water, and then you check out of the hospital and into a hotel in town for the night? Then you can have your shower, and Grace can have her sleep, and you can be back first thing in the morning.”

“And what will you have?”

“An adjoining room … and the knowledge that I was allowed to help the woman who doesn’t believe in accepting any.”

“You think I’ll go along with it?”

“I hope so. After your tests, we’ll drive to Baraboo.”

“You have it all figured out, don’t you?”

He just smiled. “Not even close. But I’m willing to try.”


Checked into a hotel near the hospital, Val didn’t get her hot shower. Instead she settled for a warmish spray, afraid the heat might make her symptoms worse. But the experience was rejuvenating all the same. River water odor replaced by shampoo and conditioner that smelled like spring flowers, she wrapped her head in one towel and her body in another.

When she emerged from the bathroom, Grace was asleep. Val pulled the blankets over her niece and soaked in the peaceful expression on her face. If there was anything on earth more precious than the face of a slumbering child, Val had never witnessed it. Even though Grace was now a teenager, when her eyes were closed and her breathing steady, Val could still see that little girl with a missing front tooth who believed the world was good and that everything would turn out all right.

What Val wouldn’t give for both Grace and her to feel that way again.

She glanced at the door that led into Lund’s room. He’d explained to Grace that he’d arranged for adjoining rooms so he could make sure she and Val were safe. Val was sure that was part of it, but she also recognized the rest.

The invitation.

When he’d finally held her hand in the hospital, she hadn’t been able to feel it. She wanted to feel his touch now. She wanted to fill herself with his warmth.

She wanted him to make her believe everything would be okay, if only for a little while.

There were many reasons to stay in their room, to curl up under her own covers and sleep, but she didn’t want to think about any of those now. The past days had been hell. Just in the past few hours, she’d died and come back to life, she’d had to confess her biggest secret to the one it would hurt most, and she’d had to face, once again, her sister’s sad life and her own role in the way it had played out.

She didn’t know if she was ready for whatever seemed to be growing between her and Lund, she wasn’t even sure she wanted it to grow, but whatever happened, she couldn’t live with not knowing.

She couldn’t live with never feeling his touch.

She’d read that the adrenaline of life-and-death encounters could stoke the libido, and she supposed that was what she was feeling now. But even knowing where this desire came from wasn’t enough to make her do the sensible thing. She’d almost died. Technically, she had. And now more than anything, she needed to feel alive.

She stepped to the door, slid the dead bolt free, and pulled it wide.

Lund’s side of the double doors was open, just as he’d said it would be. He was sitting on the bed watching TV. He looked up at her and reached for the remote. “Hi.”

“Hi.” When she’d first thought about going to him, while standing in the shower’s spray, she’d envisioned dramatically dropping her towel and climbing onto the bed, sexy and bold. Instead she just stood there, uncertain what to do next.

He slung his long legs off the side of the bed, pulled her into the room, and closed the door. He unwrapped her hair first, wet waves falling to her shoulders. Then he slipped the towel off her body.

Her throat felt dry.

His gaze skimmed over her breasts, her belly, her legs. A smile played at the corners of his lips, and he reached for her and buried his face in her hair. “You’re beautiful.”

His whisper tickled her ear, and warmth spread over her skin.

He skimmed his hand up her body, over her breast, as if touching something priceless. He kissed along her cheekbone, then took her lips.

His kiss was tender at first, then grew in intensity. He cupped a hand behind her head, holding her to him as if he couldn’t quite get close enough.

It had been so long since she’d lost herself in a kiss, so long since she’d felt herself opening like this.

She’d kissed him too long, she was sure. His hands moved over her, caressing her breast, kneading her buttocks, slipping between her legs. And she just let him. Selfish. Never wanting him to stop.

He steered her to the bed, never taking his lips from hers, his tongue exploring, finding, delighting.

Arms around her, he lowered her to the mattress and started moving down her body, kissing, licking, nipping, until he centered himself between her legs.

He was still fully clothed, but she just lay there, letting him taste her, letting the sensations build and crash, build and crash. Chills rose over her skin, only to be chased away by heat. Spirals of light exploded behind her eyes. Her body clenched in ecstasy and relaxed in pleasure.

She wasn’t sure how long they’d been together like this when she finally found the strength to reach for him. “I’m sorry.”

He rose, his lips glistening with her, then moved up her body. “Sorry? Why sorry?”

“Your clothes.” She started at his buttons with her left hand. “I didn’t even undress you.”

“That’s what you’re worried about?” He pushed up from the bed and shucked his shirt, jeans and underwear. “Better?”

She let herself look at him, the muscle of his chest and belly, the light sprinkle of hair trailing to his erection.

“See? It’s not as if I haven’t been enjoying myself, Val.”

She nodded at the sight of him. “I’m glad.”

He knelt on the bed beside her. “You never have to be sorry, not with me. You just have to promise to enjoy yourself, too. And know that you deserve it. You think you can handle that?”

It was a good question, one she wasn’t sure she could answer, but she was damn well going to try.

She curled her fingers around him. “Yeah, I think I can.”


Irena liked her job. Most days. Unfortunately today was not one of them.

It started with the drunk who had thrown up next to the elevators after gorging on the breakfast buffet. Things had grown worse when she found herself stuck cleaning the honeymoon suite all on her own and no one had told her that instead of a honeymoon, it had been used for a bachelor party. And to end her shift, there was a terrible smell coming from room 811.

Tips had been down lately, too. And while she never relied much on them, most weeks she could make grocery money. If this kept up, she’d be lucky if she could buy a pack of gum in the hotel’s overly expensive gift shop.

She restocked the stack of plastic cups and packets of coffee, then giving the room a once over, she headed out the door and pushed her cart to the last room on her list.


She picked up that strange stink when she was still two rooms away.

Why did staying at a hotel make some people act like animals? She swore to God it smelled like someone had taken the nastiest shit ever and not in the toilet.

Dreading what she might have to clean up next, she stopped the cart close enough to the wall for people to walk around and started counting out how many towels and toilet paper rolls she had left.

Should be enough.

Next she moved to coffee and sugar packets. When she had nothing left to count, she grabbed an armload of towels, took one last deep breath, and knocked on the door. “Maid service. Clean your room?”

She listened for a beat.

No answer.

“Maid Service.”

When silence answered again, she grabbed the passkey hanging from the lanyard around her neck, swiped it in the lock and pushed the door open.

The smell was overwhelming inside. Not just shit, but something else, something that turned her stomach. The bathroom and kitchenette area just inside the door looked respectable. Messy, coffee and cups needing restocking, but not dirty in the least. The mini fridge was working and empty, nothing rotting inside that could explain the stomach-turning smell.

It wasn’t until she stepped further into the room that she found the answer, smack in the middle of the king-size bed.

Two naked and mutilated corpses lay on the blood-soaked duvet, staring at her, duct tape sealing their mouths.

BOOK: Pushed Too Far: A Thriller
7.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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