They have been rivals who fought until the bitter end and lovers who know every sensual inch of each other’s bodies. Now sports agents Cassidy Whalen and Shaw Matthews are about to become the one thing they never expected to be: parents. But this new dynamic to their relationship threatens to fizzle the sizzling desire that once held them in thrall to each other. If salvation is only a forbidden fantasy away, then Shaw and the woman he loves must embark on the adventure of their lives.
Cassidy is aching to reignite their connection. In steamy assignations in strange places, she and Shaw live out their most intimate desires—and reveal their deepest secrets. But as Shaw works overtime to sign a superstar athlete, a corporate reshuffling could be a game-changer. Can Cassidy and Shaw save their relationship and have it all—a career, family, and passion that never quits?
Coming Clean is intended for mature audiences.
Praise for Coming Clean
“Parker’s witty, insightful, and inventive Monkey Business Trio finale (after Getting Rough) packs an emotional punch as a couple in present-day San Diego grapple with being true to themselves and demystifying family legacies. . . . Spunky and charismatic characters and riveting banter make this hard-fought-for romance irresistible.”—Publishers Weekly
“[In] the final installment of the Monkey Business trio . . . Parker puts obstacles in [the couple’s] way that propel the story into a compelling read.”—RT Book Reviews
“Coming Clean provides a realistic, sometimes heartbreaking glimpse at the simultaneous frailty and strength in a relationship.”—Heroes and Heartbreakers
“I cried, laughed, was hot and bothered, and I loved every bit of this installment. I couldn’t ask for a better ending to this trilogy.”—Under the Covers Book Blog
“The ending was perfect!”—Fiction Fan Girls
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Come on, we talked about this, little man. Mr. Binks needs to get under way so he can find the next little boy or girl who needs him. You can’t be selfish.” Shaw was doing his best to re-convince Abe to give up his pacifier, for the millionth time.
Abe crossed his arms over his chest, his chunky fist still holding tight to his best friend, and then he stomped his little foot in defiance. “I not a shellfish, Daddy. I da baby.”
“No, you’re not. You’re a big boy now.”
While it was true that Abe had been knocking down milestone after milestone—giving up the bottle, walking, and getting the potty training down with ease and in record time—like he’d been born to conquer, he was only three. And he was still a baby. He was my baby. My gorgeous baby.
Though Abe was only a toddler, it was clear to see he’d be a heartbreaker when he got older. The child was Shaw’s mini-me, with his father’s bone structure, crystal blue eyes, and long lashes that brushed his cherub cheeks. He had my pale skin and ginger hair, but those thick locks were a tousled mess atop his head . . . just like Shaw’s. Abe even dressed like Shaw in blue jeans and button-down shirts—sometimes with a tie, sometimes without.
And he was being so brave to give up Mr. Binks, even if he’d had to be bribed to do so. Shaw had managed it with a promise to take him to Dixon Lake, a beautiful park just outside San Diego that Abe had really grown to love. And in addition to that, Mr. Binks was captaining one of the many toy sailboats Casey and Mia—my best friend and his wife—had gotten him for his third birthday. Mr. Binks was to set out on a voyage to find his next grand adventure. But Abe was having second thoughts about that.
Right on cue, Shaw looked down at his wrist . . . and the watch my father had given to him as a gift when Abe was born. It had been a family heirloom, one passed down through the Whalen generations when each male had become a father. Since I’d been Duff Whalen’s only child, a daughter, Shaw was the lucky inheritor. Originally a pewter pocket watch that showcased its inner workings in the center of a Celtic knot in the twelve o’clock position, it had since been altered to be worn on the wrist and had seen a fair turnover of leather bands. Engraved on the back was a reminder to all the Whalen men, a note that read: Time makes men of men who make time.
I gave an annoyed sigh that I didn’t bother trying to hide. Knowing the glimpse at his favorite trinket meant the father of my son was about to cut things very short—again—agitated me to no end. Shaw noticed. He knew I hated that watch. Not so much the watch but his obsession with it. An obsession that might have been okay if it had centered on the sentimentality that should’ve been attached to it, but that wasn’t at all what it was about. No, Shaw’s obsession was with his schedule and how late he was running. Always.
Business was good for Shaw, though hectic. Since becoming a partner at Striker Sports Entertainment, the partnership we’d gone head-to-head to win, he’d been slammed with not only the corporate part of the business but also his own clients. Clients he’d refused to give up. Superstar clients who demanded a lot of attention.
I knew exactly what that was like. Or at least I used to.
Was I jealous? You bet your sweet ass I was. For several reasons. Several good reasons. For one, I’d technically won that partnership but had defaulted it to Shaw when a family emergency back home in Stonington, Maine, had left me with no choice. For two, though it would have been acceptable for a partner and an agent to date, I’d become pregnant and my duty was to stay at home to raise our child. Not because Shaw had insisted, but because I had.
Antifeminist as it might have seemed, I was the daughter of an Irishman from a small fishing village in Maine; it was in my blood to put family first, to be a mother first, to put my son’s care before my own career. No matter how hard I’d worked to become successful as a sports agent—and that had been pretty darn hard, considering it was a male-dominated industry—Abe was so much more important. And considering an agent’s grueling schedule—cue another glance from Shaw to his watch—would have me away from home more often than not, Abe would practically be raised by a total stranger. I wasn’t okay with that. Honestly, though he’d never voiced it, I knew Shaw wasn’t either. His very effed-up absentee parents had really done a number on him, and he was hellbent on making sure Abe would never have to suffer the same fate.
So Shaw got to live the glorious life of a sports agent, yukking it up with the rich and famous while furthering his career, and I was living the glorious life of a mother. An unwed mother. That’s right, Shaw had yet to marry me. He hadn’t even proposed and had zero intention of doing so. Which was another side effect of the number his effed-up absentee parents had done on him. Shaw didn’t believe in the institution of marriage, citing it was nothing more than a piece of paper, a legal document that had no bearing on how he felt about me. I was of the mind-set that if it was nothing more than a piece of paper, one that didn’t determine whether we would be together or not, what was the big deal about having it?
Of course, I’d never pushed the issue. Traditional as I might have been, my living together with Shaw as a family unit without having said the “I do’s” had become commonplace over the last decade or so. I was still a “wifey,” I just wasn’t wearing a ring to prove it.
I squatted down to Abe’s level, a feat made easy by the soccer mom outfit I’d donned this morning. I’d gone from pencil skirts, high heels, jackets, Wayfarer glasses, and my hair in a no-nonsense bun to khaki shorts, deck shoes, contacts, polo shirts, and a ponytail. And I even had the hybrid SUV with smashed Cheerios in the seats, tiny arms and legs from broken superhero dolls in the floorboards, and the Kidz Bop station queued up on the satellite radio. Hey, it was better than listening to a grown man dressed in a giant purple dinosaur costume singing a love song to my three-year-old . . . because that was just plain creepy.
“Abey Baby,” I started, using my pet name for him, “Daddy doesn’t have a very long lunch break, so the sooner we bid a bon voyage to Mr. Binks, the sooner you can play with Daddy. Yeah?”
Abe tilted his head to the side, the breeze blowing a wavy lock over an eye. He was past due for a haircut, but that was Daddy’s duty. One he’d kept putting off because of his many meetings. “What’s a bon voy-osh, Mommy?”
“It’s something people say to someone going on a trip. It means goodbye and safe travels.”
Looking down at the silicone and plastic pacifier in his hand, Abe ran a thumb over the smooth grooves etched into the blue shell. “Mr. Binks is going bye-bye? When will he be back?”
My heart broke for him. The sting of tears prickled the tip of my nose and made my eyes water. Much the same way as Abe’s did now. Not until Abe had I ever known how much a child’s pain hurt a mother. I was so close to calling off the whole thing and telling him he could keep Mr. Binks forever.
Shaw must have sensed my wavering because he chose that moment to step in, also squatting down to our baby boy’s level. “He’s not coming back, little man.”
Abe sniffled. “Never?” he pressed, hoping for a different answer.
Shaw and I both shook our heads.
Taking his hand, I changed the tone of my voice, hoping like crazy that the cheerfulness might help my son over the hump of letting go of something that had become a source of security for him. “Hey, do you remember what you packed in your bag?”
Abe’s eyebrows furrowed in contemplation and then shot up to his hairline the moment he remembered. His eyes were wide with excitement, a smile finally lighting up his face. God, he was such a little heartbreaker.
“Let’s put Mr. Binks at the helm, and then you can show Daddy. Okay?”
The vigorous nod of his head and the slight bounce of his toes said so much more than words ever could. Without hesitation, he handed off Mr. Binks to Shaw, and then watched studiously as his father secured the pacifier in place behind the helm. Taking Abe’s other hand, Shaw stood and we walked Abe and the boat over to the water’s edge.
“Is there anything you’d like to say, little man?”
The breeze off the lake ruffled Abe’s wayward hair and he was still bouncing up and down with excitement. “Put him in, Daddy! Put him in! I gots some’sing in my bag!”
Shaw chuckled when the ants in Abe’s pants seemed to be getting the better of him before we’d even finished. His smile still devastated me to this day. Though stress had added years to his features, they’d been distinguished years. His dark brown hair had started to gray a bit at the temples and the laugh lines at the corners of his crystal blue eyes had become more pronounced. He’d also been wearing a stubble on his strong jaw that made me weak in the knees. I’d never get tired of looking at him, though I sure wished I could touch him more.
With a ceremonious salute, Shaw steadied the toy boat atop the water and then said, “Fare thee well, Mr. Binks. May you have calm waters and smooth sailing. Because trust me, drowning sucks.”
And Shaw knew that all too well, having fallen overboard while helping my da during hurricane weather. He’d nearly died. Would have, if it hadn’t been for Casey diving into the churning, dark ocean to pull him out. The near-death experience had changed Shaw somehow, making him a more caring, less selfish man. For a split second, I entertained the thought of pushing him into the lake to see if it might jog his memory a bit, but that would be cruel. And illegal. And damaging to Abe’s mental well-being.
“Bye-bye, Mr. Binks!” Abe gave a quick wave to his friend and then took off.
Shaw gave me a shrug. “Well, guess he’s not much for long goodbyes.”
Abe ran over to his bag, unzipping it to pull out his most prized possession. When he came back, he was wearing his Superman cape around his neck. Stopping to stand in that classic superhero pose with his fists at his hips and the cape flapping in the wind, he looked up at Shaw and said, “I ready, Daddy!” Then he raised his hands into the air, waiting for his father to pick him up.
Again, Shaw looked at his watch, rubbing his chin with his other hand. “Uh, I don’t have time to play Superman right now, son. I have to get to a meeting.”
“Another meeting?” I asked, exasperated with him. “Shaw, you promised Abe you’d take him to the park if he agreed to give up Mr. Binks. He kept up his end of the deal.”
“So did I.” He threw out his arms, turning to gesture toward our surroundings. “We’re at the park, aren’t we?”