Excerpt of Silent Partner (The Sweet Version)

Unbelievable
For the first time in his life, he found himself flirting with the idea of keeping a woman around. He was an only child, and having someone else in the picture to complicate his self-indulgent lifestyle—or hamper it, as he often saw it—was not something he cared to consider. All too often, women wanted him for two things: his money and bragging rights for being Grayson Anders’s love interest. Neither of which he was willing to offer. Sure, some were worth bedding a time or two, but aside from that, most lingered far too long for his taste. So much so that he’d quit pursuing the opposite sex as readily as he had in his younger years.
But as he considered the woman from last night, he found himself longing to be with her. He had to admit, she was too good to be true. She could dance like no other woman he’d ever seen, and she had the power to charm him into a relationship. The thought of one, anyway.
What puzzled him most was that she hadn’t waited around to find out if a relationship was in the works. Hell, she hadn’t even stayed long enough to say good-bye. Had it not been for the broken glass in his garbage, he would’ve sworn he’d dreamed her. That he’d concocted the perfect woman in his wild imagination.
A knock at the door broke into his reverie. For a split second, his heart leapt.
Had she come back? Was she not able to stay away from him any longer than he could from her?
Elated to find out, he ran to the foyer, his bare feet almost slipping out from underneath him as he turned the corner. Grabbing the handle, he threw open the door with a huge smile.
“Oh,” Grayson mumbled upon seeing his friend Richard, dressed in the usual suit and tie. “It’s just you. Come on in.”
“Nice to see you too, Gray.”
Grayson turned on his heel to hide his rolling eyes as he wandered into his living room. He plopped on his couch, running his hands down his face. “Is this going to take long? I’ve got some place to be.”
“Dressed like that?” Richard asked. “Doubt you’ll get very far unless you’ve taken up exotic dancing now.”
Grayson glanced down at his bare chest and half-opened fly. Grimacing, he zipped his jeans. “What do you want?”
Richard strolled into the room, paused at the other sofa across from Grayson, and sat down just as purposefully. There was a certain air of cautiousness in the way Richard unbuttoned his Italian suit coat before sitting, almost as if he were about to address a panel of uptight board members from his downtown artist cooperative, R. Fitzgerald Gallery.
“What’s up, Richard?”                                     
His friend took a deep breath and smoothed his tie. “We have to move forward.”
Grayson drew back. “All right. But don’t I at least deserve dinner and a movie first?”
Richard sighed. “I’m serious, Gray. I agreed to take on this dance club and studio as your friend, but I’m speaking to you as a co-owner. We’ve been open now for more than five months, and the studio has lagged behind. I know you’re searching for that perfect female partner but—”
“Richard, I’ve—”
“Dammit, Gray, let me finish.”
Grayson threw up his hands, giving his friend the floor. “Have at it.”
“Thank you. As I was saying, I know you don’t want to open the studio until you find your dance partner, but we need someone by the end of next month. I have contractors coming in this afternoon to renovate, and that’s that. I don’t like pushing you or stepping on your toes, you know that. But this is a business arrangement, and banks don’t give a shit about your perfect partner. They want payments at regular intervals, and we don’t have the budget for putting this off any longer. We barely have enough for the labor. There. I said my piece.”
Grayson laughed at Richard’s tirade and headed toward the kitchen. “You want a drink?” he asked.
“No, I do not.” Richard followed him into the kitchen as Grayson pulled an Evian out of the fridge. He leaned across the marble countertop. “I want an answer from you. I want an ‘Okay, Richard, let’s do this thing.’”
Grayson twisted the top of the water bottle and drank heavily, his eyes fixed on his friend. After gulping down half the water, he smiled and said, “Okay, Richard. Let’s do this thing.”
“Gray, could you at least take me seriously for once?”
“I am taking you seriously. And I said okay.”
It was Richard’s turn to draw back. “Really? You’re fine with this?”
Grayson took one more drink and replaced the cap. “Yeah. Give the keys to the contractor and let’s get this baby up. Why are you so surprised?”
 “Because…you’re never this agreeable. Normally, you’re adamant about taking things on yourself and not letting others take charge. I half expected you to refuse the idea of the contractor coming in, and I planned on getting an earful of why we shouldn’t open next month. So, why the change of heart?”
Grayson continued to smile. How could he not? The idea of dancing with the woman from last night, day after day, was worth smiling about. He waited for Richard to figure it out.
Richard’s eyes widened. “You found a dance partner?”