by Sarah Cass
The Dominion Falls Series Book 1
Newly Revised Edition
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Cole Mitchell runs the busiest saloon and brothel in Dominion Falls. He keeps his women at a distance, unwilling to relive a past he worked hard to forget.
Until the night Jane Doe falls into his saloon bleeding and near death. She wakes with no memory, only the firm belief someone tried to kill her. In the strange world of amnesia, she manages to find solace in Cole’s arms and he finds home in hers.
While they work together to solve the mystery of her appearance, their pasts – her lack of, and his buried – build a barrier between them.
To make matters worse, Jane’s past isn’t willing to let her go. A stranger proves he’ll kill to keep his secrets safe. With those she loves in danger, Jane’s errant memory is all that stands between them and death.
Cole can only do so much to protect her, will it be enough?
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Bright blue eyes locked with his again. “Was it your saloon then?”
“What gave me away?” Cole tugged at his worn down vest. “Don’t I look the part of a respectable man of business?”
Those tempting lips were twitching again. A peek of pink tongue appeared and her lips tensed as though she was trying to hide laughter. After a moment the tension released and she dared to wink at him. “Of course. It was the smell of alcohol that clued me in.”
“Sure it was.”
“If Cole hadn’t taken a look himself, you’d be in a pine box now,” Daisy interrupted the line of conversation. Her entire body was as tense as he’d ever seen it.
Cole rolled his eyes. “Graham may be an undertaker, but he’s clueless.”
“I was lost in reveries of death, and the idea of premature burial held continual possession of my brain.” The woman’s eyes closed again, a tear escaping down her cheek.
His brow furrowed, Cole shook his head. It all sounded dismal and morbid, but he had no clue what it meant.
“It sounds vaguely familiar,” Daisy muttered, scratching her head.
“Edgar Allan Poe.” Her eyes opened. “Like I said—thoughts that are not my own. So many. Victor Hugo, Goethe, Longfellow. How do I know their words and not my own? What has happened to me?”
Daisy set her hand on the woman’s shoulder. “We’ll find out. That means your brain is still strong—it’s good. Perhaps you’ll remember.”
Cole felt a strange sinking of his own heart at the woman’s scoff. When her eyes tightened and the strength in them faded into shimmering hints of her fears, his need to comfort her returned. He cleared his throat and clenched his fist at his side before he grabbed her hand again. He had to change the subject. “So we still don’t know what to call you.”
Her face relaxed and after a swipe at an errant tear, she shook her head. “I have no idea. From the moment I woke up, I’ve been trying to remember anything and I’ve come up blank. Only the words of others seem clear.”
“Well, with word traveling around town fast…we’ve been using Jane Doe. At least then you aren’t just that woman.” Daisy shrugged. “It’s not the most creative name, but maybe it will do until we figure out who you are.”
“Jane,” she repeated. Nodding, she closed her eyes again. “Jane Doe will suffice.”
Another tear escaped down her cheek. Cole got the strangest urge to wipe it away. “Sure we can’t come up with something more creative?”
“Like what?” Jane found a smile. “What sort of name could you come up with?”
“I gave Daisy her name.” Cole winked at Daisy’s snort.
“Shall we stay in the realm of flowers? How dainty. Perhaps Lily or Rose?”
“Azalea.” He chuckled.
Daisy frowned. “So we’re going with Jane?”
“I don’t know, Azalea is amusing.” Jane rested her head back, her body starting to relax. Her hand slipped from her stomach onto the bed. “But Jane…is fine.”
Unable to resist touching her hand, he let his fingers close over hers. The simple touch eased his concern. “I gotta get back to the saloon. Daisy’ll stay here until you’re doing better.”
“Soon as I find a way to garner some funds, I’ll repay you the shirt I owe you.”
“You’d better. Wouldn’t want a debt hanging over your head.”
“Of course not. Goodbye. Cole.” Her fingers gave his the smallest squeeze before going lax. The life faded from her features again. He loathed admitting the concern growing inside him.
“Jane. Welcome to Dominion Falls.”
“Dominion Falls.” She frowned deeper. “Good to know where I am, even if I don’t know who I am.”
“Seem to have a good idea who you are. Or at least what you think,” Cole objected. He stood. “Daisy. I expect you’ll be staying here a while longer. Martha kicks her out, tell me. I’m sure there’s somewhere else she can stay.”
Daisy flew to her feet, following him out onto the balcony. “Cole.”
“Get back to work.” Cole turned, finding her hands on his chest. He gripped her wrists. The touch that had once heated him up now turned his stomach. “You always tell me how much you miss doctoring.”
“Right now, that ain’t all I miss.”
Over her head, he could see Jane watching the exchange with interest. She was a curious one. Daisy’s huff drew his attention back.
“A few more days ain’t gonna kill you. Then it’s back to work—helping the rest of the men in town with their ailments.”
“And you? Or are you looking for a new favorite?” she asked.
“I ain’t looking for nothing.”
“You know, if you aren’t pleased anymore, Guy has been very persistent.”
“I know. I turned down his offer.” Cole stepped closer. He leaned down to mutter in her ear. “You came willingly. I own you. Don’t you dare forget that.”
“But, if you don’t want me…”
“Guy wants you for the same reason I do. To say he’s got a doctor in house, keeping his whores clean and adding income. You can still serve your purpose without me having to touch you.” The allure of the blond inside soured his desire to bed even his best whores.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pulled back, looking over her shoulder. “She’s nothing.”
“Then why are you here?”
“She owes me a shirt.”
The muffled din woke her. Shelves of liquor and glasses towered above her toward the ceiling. She took a deep breath and the loose stays of her corset shifted. With another deep breath, she turned her head, spotting Cole sitting a foot away. “Well…”
“You panicked. Daisy says you’re fine. Just needed air. Here.”
Sitting up to take the glass he handed her, she sighed. “Thank you. I’m sorry. I heard you tell me to move. I just couldn’t seem to.”
“I’ll remember that next time.”
“Once the damn Indians start attacking the town, they ain’t gonna stop.”
“Wonderful.” Lifting her hand to wipe at the moisture lingering on her brow, she saw his eyes fall to her chest. Warmth flooded her cheeks and she took a sip of water to try to quell it before it raced through her whole body.
“Martha’s preaching it’s ‘cause the army took prisoners that weren’t renegades.” The mundane talk meant nothing. He moved closer, ever closer.
“Of course she is.” Jane managed to breathe. She felt like she was losing oxygen again. The closer he came, the more the heat spread, tingling along her chest until her breasts ached from his stare. She set down the glass and reached for the corset. “I should probably—”
“No.” His hand closed over hers. “Don’t.”
“Cole…” Her breath hitched when his finger extended to brush along the edge of the chemise. Skin pebbled, a shiver running down her spine. “Why not?”
“Do you really want me to stop?”
God, no. Not for anything. In an instant she knew nothing she’d read could begin to describe the pleasure possible. She wanted this. She most definitely wanted him.
Her hand relaxed and fell aside, giving him free rein. The delicate fabric of her chemise crumbled under his touch, the calluses on his fingertips catching in the threads. His fingers ran along the curving swell of her breast, teasing.
Unbidden, her back arched to move her closer. Too far. He was too far away. She wanted him closer, though she still wasn’t sure why.
Like he’d read her mind, he slipped off the crate, kneeling in front of her. His lips hovered close to hers. Closer now, he moved his entire hand between fabric and flesh.
No longer teasing, his fingers kneaded along her skin. A shockwave of pleasure jolted through her when he pinched and she didn’t bother to try to stop the whimper that escaped. Her body trembled in anticipation. She wanted more.
She wanted to feel him again, but had to order her hands to move. When they did, they landed on his strong chest. Slipping up along the fabric to his shoulders, she felt him trembling as well. Could that simple movement have brought him pleasure?
Their breath started to mingle. A hint of whiskey, the lingering whisper of cigar smoke. She wanted nothing more than for him to show her what a good kiss was. The thought made her fingers clench in anticipation, her nails digging into his shoulders. The low moan he gave rumbled through her.
They were mere centimeters apart now, but he still hadn’t made that connection. She fought the urge to whimper.
“Cole.” The whisper of his name appeared to jolt through him and he moved again. Tingling in anticipation, she closed her eyes just before their lips met.
“Cole.” Daisy’s voice doused the passion back into a slow burn, both of them jumping apart.
Disappointment. Frustration. Damn her for interrupting. Jane’s body still tingled, wanting more of his touch. She flew to her feet when the door swung open, venting her frustration on the corset that now refused to close.
“What’s the problem?” Well at least he was as annoyed as her. Cole glared at Daisy. “There a fire?”
“No, the Army is here asking about you seeing Lewis in that lot.”
“What?” Jane gasped. “What do you mean you saw Starbird?”
“Starbird was with the renegades.” Cole ran his fingers through his hair and then rested them on his hips. “It was his war paint. The bastard defected to the other side.”
Jane stopped fighting with the corset. “That’s why he’s been missing?”
“Martha’s saying it wasn’t him.” Daisy shrugged. “But the Army wants to ask you. What you saw and all.”
“Yeah, yeah. Got it. Jane…”
Jane felt pleasant heat rushing to her cheeks again. “Should I thank you again?”
“Sure wouldn’t mind a proper apology.” His wicked smirk never wavered.
“Cole. The Army.” Daisy’s hands were on her hips, an annoyed huff escaping her lips.
His gaze darted to Daisy. “Yeah. I got that. Talk to ya later, Jane.”
“I’m sure you will.” Turning her attention back to her corset, Jane struggled for several more minutes before managing to get it closed. Daisy wasn’t leaving, much to her chagrin. She really didn’t want to deal with this now. “What?”
“I wasn’t lying.”
“My curiosity has increased. The interest seems mutual and I’m not discouraging it.” Jane shrugged. “I’d like to enjoy myself, no matter whose company I’m in.”
“He’s going to use you up, just like he does everyone.”
“And yet you still want him for yourself. Are you ‘used up’?” Jane frowned. “Daisy, I don’t care who Cole makes time with. Given the type of man he is, if and when I decide I want to take him in my bed, I won’t expect anything more.”
“He don’t just keep me around because I got medical training.” Daisy straightened up. “There’s a lot more to it.”
“Then why worry about me?”
“Because you’re gonna cause him trouble. He likes things simple.”
ABOUT SARAH CASS
Sarah Cass' world is regularly turned upside down by her three special needs kids and loving mate, so she breaks genre barriers; dabbling in horror, straight fiction and urban fantasy. She loves historicals and romance, and characters who are real and flawed, so she writes to understand what makes her fictional people tick. And she lives for a happy ending - eventually. And enough twists to make it look like she enjoys her title of Queen of Trauma Drama a little too much.
An ADD tendency leaves her with a variety of interests that include singing, dancing, crafting, cooking, and being a photographer. She fights through the struggles of the day, knowing the battles are her crucible; she may emerge scarred, but always stronger. The rhythms to her activities drive her words forward, pushing her through the labyrinths of the heart and the nightmares of the mind, driving her to find resolutions to her characters' problems.
While busy creating worlds and characters as real to her as her own family, she leads an active online life with her blog, Redefining Perfect, which gives a real and sometimes raw glimpse into her life and art. You can most often find her popping out her 140 characters in Twitter speak, and on Facebook.
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