In the Clear

By: Tamara Morgan

Fletcher Owens is full of secrets.

Few people know he spends his nights volunteering for a Search and Rescue team, saving lives while risking his own. Even fewer know he’s in love with his best friend’s sister. And since he’s not willing to give up their friendship for a chance at something more, that’s exactly how things will stay.

Lexie Sinclair has nothing to hide.

The zany daughter, the wacky sister, the quirky fundraiser for a children’s charity—Lexie couldn’t hide her true self even if she wanted to. So when her brother’s best friend is revealed to be a local hero, she’s determined to stand up and prove she’s ready to be more than just friends.

Special thanks to Rob and Lorna

Chapter One

For a full twenty seconds, Lexie thought the vibrator in her purse had somehow managed to turn itself on. Again.

She held a wineglass to her lips and feigned an interest in the oaken undertones or whatever it was people were always going on about. It was as good a cover as any as she wormed her stocking-clad foot across the restaurant carpet, searching for the traitorous purse. Her oversized rainbow handbag held lots of illicit things—at least three unpaid parking tickets, a tube of lipstick she’d accidentally stolen from the drugstore and meant to return, a tiny bottle of vodka for emergencies of a social nature.

Honestly, her silver bullet was the least offensive of the bunch. Or it would be, if she could get to the darn thing and stop it from shaking the whole table. Vibrators with faulty on-off switches had to be the worst manufacturing defect of all time. Anything sending unreliable electrical impulses should be banned from nearing a lady’s nether regions.

“Sorry, guys. That’s me.” Fletcher looked up from across the table, a sheepish grin quirking the corner of his mouth. “I need to take this.”

Lexie deflated on the spot, sinking into the chair and taking a healthy swallow of the Merlot. Oak, schmoak, whatever. It tasted like alcohol, and that was all that really mattered right now.

“Go and . . . do what it is you do.” She gave a magnanimous wave. “Pimp or illegally remove kidneys or whatever. Honestly—who even carries pagers anymore?” It was easy to joke now that it wasn’t her electronic device acting up.

“A doctor,” Sean provided. Her brother nodded as if that made perfect sense, even though they both knew Fletcher Owens was the last man on earth who would willingly wield a scalpel. The sight of blood made him queasy.

Lexie snickered. “More like someone is being reined in by his sugar mama.”

“It’s neither of those things,” Fletcher said.

And that was all he offered. As he always did when the Mysterious Pager of Mystery went off, he said nothing but enigmatically sauntered away to make a phone call in private.

Lexie got up to follow him, but was checked by her brother’s hand.

“What?” she asked with faux innocence. “I have to use the ladies’ room.”

“Then hold it. Let him attend to his business in peace. You know he doesn’t like us making a big deal out of his work.” Her brother’s pale blue eyes—so much like her own—narrowed, and he kicked her shin with his pointy dress shoe.

“Ouch.” She reached down and rubbed the offending body part. “You can’t tell me you aren’t the least bit curious what it is he does when the pager goes off. Superhero? Mob hit? It would be so cool if it was a mob hit.”

“There is something seriously wrong with you if you wish a life of crime on my best friend.”

There was no mistaking his tone or the annoyingly proprietary way the words came out. My best friend. As though Lexie hadn’t known Fletcher as long as he had. As if she had no place in the land of manliness they shared.

Well, she did have a place. Or, rather, she could have a place, if she finally carved a few inroads that direction. She was finding it surprisingly difficult to approach Fletcher with her request, and not just because Sean rarely allowed her a moment alone with him.

It was weird, asking a man out for a kind-of-but-not-really-a-date. Especially when that man was someone you’d known almost your whole life.

“I’m just saying it makes sense,” she said. “It’s always the quiet ones you have to be careful of. They say Jeffrey Dahmer was a perfectly normal guy to the outside world.”

“Lexie.” Sean’s voice was firm with the sound of the big brother coming out to play. Five extra minutes of freedom from the womb, and that somehow made him King of All the Wisdom. “Think about what you said.”

Heat flushed to her face. “I’m not saying he eats people. I’m saying there’s no way to know everything about someone. We all have secrets.”

“People only have secrets from you because you’re incapable of keeping them.” Sean pulled the wine bottle across the table, well out of her reach. “And lay off the sauce. There’s probably some emergency at work they need him for.”

“Really? An emergency? And they called Fletcher?” Now it was her turn to drip disdain all over the pristine white tablecloth.