“Leandro Silva is here for his appointment,” Sadie says down the line.
I try to ignore the actual level of relief I feel, which is more than I usually do in these cases. “Send him in.”
Ten seconds later, the door opens, and a disheveled-looking Leandro walks in my office before closing the door behind him. His clothes are rumpled, like he slept in them. His overgrown black hair is messy, like he just fell out of bed and ran his hands through it.
But even still, he looks handsome.
As my eyes move down from his face, I see something red on his shirt, near the top button.
I immediately think blood. But when I narrow my vision on it, I see it’s not blood at all.
It’s lipstick. Red lipstick.
I curl my fingers into my palms, nails biting my skin. “Are you okay?” I ask. My voice sounds tight.
What the hell is wrong with me?
I will myself to relax.
He rolls up his shirtsleeves, revealing strong tanned forearms dusted with black hairs. “I’m fine.”
He’s hovering by the door he just closed, seemingly unsure of what to do, so I get up from my desk and move to the seating area.
There’s no apology for his lateness, and I don’t prompt it, no matter how much I want to.
“Can I get you anything?” I ask before sitting.
He still hasn’t sat down.
“Are you going to sit down?”
He glances at the chair like he didn’t even know it was there.
With a nod, he walks over and sits down.
Leaning forward, forearms on his thighs, he clasps his hands together.
That’s when I smell it—alcohol. The smell is strong on him. And I can smell perfume. Cheap perfume.
They bother me equally in measure.
But I ignore the perfume issue before I start questioning my own issues with it, and I focus on the alcohol.
“Leandro, I’m going to ask you a question, and I want an honest answer.”
His eyes flicker up to mine.
“Are you drunk right now?” I should have worded that differently. I don’t know why I seem to keep losing my footing with him.
But I will not treat someone while they’re under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances.
Annoyance flashes through his eyes, and then they narrow on me. “No.” His jaw is tight.
“I can smell it on you—the alcohol. I will not treat you while you’re drunk or high.” I scoot forward in my seat, my back straight, and I’m sitting on the edge, my hands curling around it.
“I’m not drunk or high,” he grinds out the words. His hands are clasped so tightly together that his knuckles are white. “If you smell alcohol on me, it’s because I was drinking last night. Clearly, it was way too much because I woke up in a hotel room and realized I was late for my appointment with you. So, I pulled on last night’s clothes because they were all I had to wear, and I came straight here. I haven’t even showered.”
Yes, I can tell.
I bite my tongue so hard that I’m pretty sure I draw blood.
I exhale a calming breath. “You could have called and rescheduled your appointment. It wouldn’t have been a problem.”
My statement seems to throw him. His face blanks, like the thought didn’t even occur to him.
Then, his expression hardens. “I didn’t want to miss my appointment today.”
“But it’s okay to be late for it?” I shouldn’t have said that. I don’t know why I did.
I clear my throat. I go for a change of tactic. “Why didn’t you want to miss your appointment?”
His eyes move to the wall behind me. He’s silent for a moment. Then, he looks back to me. “Because I want to get past this. I want to be the man I used to be.”
“You know that there’s nothing wrong with the man you are now. Barring your coping mechanisms, the vices, you’re still the same man you were.”
“No, I’m not.” His voice is a low growl. He looks away.
“Well, Leandro, if you want to change, get back to the man you used to be, then you need to make the effort here. And this”—I gesture a hand to him—“isn’t making the effort.”
His dark eyes flash back to mine. His jaw is tight, looking like it might shatter. “I came, didn’t I?”
“Yes.” I nod. “But forty minutes late.”
His gaze narrows. Then, he moves his eyes to my empty hands. “Don’t you need to make notes or something?” He juts his chin in my direction.
“No, I don’t need to make notes. The appointment will be short, as you have only twenty minutes left. I’ll remember all we talk about in that time. Don’t worry.”
His brows pull together, a furrow appearing between them. “You’re not going to see me for the full hour?”
“No, I can’t. I have other patients who have scheduled appointments, who need my help, too.”
“For fuck’s sake!” he growls. Leaning forward, he rests his elbows on his thighs and drives his fingers into his black hair.
I let the silence settle between us, leaving him to talk when he’s ready.
“I had a…bad day yesterday.” His voice is low, nearing a whisper.
“Bad in what way?”
He lifts those black eyes to mine, and I see a world of pain in them.
“Bad, as in…I tried to drive my car.”
“And how did that go?”