Prologue

Leo never expected to catch a falling star. Although he had no say in the matter, the alley behind the restaurant where he worked was not the location he would have picked to catch one. If there was anything that could kill a magical moment it was an overflowing dumpster reeking of three day old chicken pitas. Leo was taking his usual smoke break, trying to savor a few minutes outside the hot and noisy kitchen. He wasn’t aware of any flaming objects falling from the sky until the strange glow was beaming down like a spotlight in the dark alley.

His eyes narrowed to a squint as he rolled his cigarette from one corner of his mouth to the other. Curiosity kept Leo’s gaze fixed above but caution had one hand gripping the back door. By the time he recognized that the fireball was actually a human, and a female one at that, it was too late for second thoughts.

She fell like a dying sunset crashing into midnight. A brush stroke of burning heaven streaking across a plane of black glass. Just before she could plummet into the unforgiving pavement, her rapid descent was cushioned by a swirling eruption of flames. Caught off guard, Leo quickly backpedaled further down the alley to avoid being burned alive.

Slowly, the smoke and flames began to dissipate the instant the woman collapsed forward onto the concrete. She laid there, naked and motionless, smoldering like a dying campfire. Glancing down both ends of the alley but seeing no one, Leo approached her warily, not relishing the thought of having his face singed off for the sake of curiosity.

Mindful of the scalding hot pavement, he removed his apron and crouched down beside the unconscious woman. He gently draped the apron over her body, smoke still rising from her unburnt skin. Remaining crouched, Leo took the cigarette out of his mouth and scratched the side of his face, studying the mystery at his feet.

She was small in size but she had an athlete’s physique, lean muscles hidden beneath a petite frame. The bronze undertone of her brown skin seemed to glow in the dimly lit alley and her hair was closely cropped into perfectly spiraled black coils. Leo had only just noticed the trail of blood beginning to pool around the tip of his shoes when he heard sirens in the distance.

He knew he shouldn’t get involved. His mind pleaded with him to listen to reason as he slipped the cigarette back between his lips, completely oblivious that it was frozen solid and encased in a slick layer of ice. Exhaling long and deep, Leo stood, stretched, and made an impulsive decision.

Even though his brain was throwing a parade of red flags and calling him every kind of idiot in existence, he dismissed logic and reason the moment he held the woman in his arms. It wasn’t every day a beautiful falling star landed right at his feet and, despite having a healthy amount of reasonable reservations, only a fool would ignore a gift from the heavens.

And while Leo admitted that he was an idiot -a stupid, stupid meddling idiot- he was no fool.

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