She was incandescently beautiful
and beauty was the least of her.

"Are you going to eye fuck her all night or do something about it?"

John coughed, nearly choking on his beer.

Marcos laughed, patting his friend on the shoulder. "Give a guy a warning, babe."

Lorna smirked, taking a swig from her own bottle and leaning back against the bar. She shrugged as John rolled his eyes with fond exasperation, grin widening when he finished off his drink and ordered another, "Oh come on Marcos, it's not like he's being subtle."

John turned his gaze to his friend, eyebrow raised.

Marcos held up his hands in a halfhearted pleading gesture, "She's right man."

He shook his head, smiling despite the teasing. The two meant well and he couldn't exactly blame them for their pushing. It had been enough of a struggle for them to get him out of his empty apartment on top of the fact that he'd just finished a five-year tour in Afghanistan. His mind was pulled from thoughts of war as vibrant purple hair flashed in the corner of his vision and once again drew his attention away from the knowing looks his friends were no doubt shooting his way…

She wore a little black sundress and denim jacket with her face tilted back and eyes closed. Her hands were above her head, hips swaying hypnotically in the flashing lights and pounding bass. She was simply the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen.

Her spirit was unconfined to her body, her smile almost childlike as she ran her fingers through her hair and spun. The magenta strands glowed in the smoky light, ethereal and falling around her face…

His grip on the bottle tightened with the urge to wrap his hands around her waist and pull her in, to see if he could soak that joy, that light into his bones. John clenched his jaw and tore his gaze away before she noticed him staring, the dog tags burning where they rested on his chest…

John lifted his head as Lorna slid off her bar stool, "Lorna, what are you…"

"I'm helping you."

He sighed, "Helping me with what?"

She grinned, "Getting laid."

By the time John had registered the words, she was already too far ahead for him to catch hold of her. He leaned back and took a deep, centering breath as Lorna approached the woman and finished off another beer, wondering if he should get something a little harder…

"I'm sorry, man you know how she gets…"

He looked down at the empty bottle with a small smile, tapping the glass in time with the music. He chuckled, resigning himself to whatever happened next, "Well…when Lorna's right, she can be pretty hard to dissuade."

Marcos just shook his head.

Lorna came back, her grin wide and mischievous as she dragged the violet-haired woman behind her. "This is the friend I was telling you about: John. John, this is…"

She held out a hand, "Clarice."

He took it, ignoring the shock that went up his arm at the contact. John couldn't help but smile when he caught the faint widening of her eyes, holding onto her hand a little longer than was probably (definitely) necessary. "Nice to meet you, Clarice."

Clarice smirked, emerald eyes blatantly running down his body, "I could say the same."

Marcos snorted and Lorna outright laughed.

John thanked his ancestors that his tanned skin hid the blush blooming in his cheeks.

"Lorna here said you wanted a dance?"

He cleared his throat, reluctantly dropping her hand, "I'm not really a dancer."

Clarice grinned, a Cheshire cat smile that reminded John all too eerily of Lorna before she pulled something similar to this whole encounter. She took his hand and tugged, "All you need is a good teacher."

Setting the bottle on the bar, he followed her lead.

She pulled him onto the dance floor and guided his hands to her waist while her arms wound around his neck. Clarice laughed at the slightly pained look on his face, glancing at the tattoos peeking from underneath the sleeves of his black t-shirt, "Come on soldier…loosen up a bit!"

He cracked a smile.

Her hands left the nape of his neck, trailing slowly down his chest. She smiled as John let out of shaky breath, stepping away and dancing like he watched her do only minutes ago, her hands above her head and hips swaying.

John was drawn in, like moth the flame, his hands finding the curve of her waist. That small, selfish part of him felt her warmth, craved it, and as he pulled her into him, his entire body felt lighter...freer...than it had been for years.

Clarice didn't falter, one hand reaching back to anchor itself in his dark hair. The action had her arching against him, rolling back with each throb of the base and baring the slim column of her throat.

John barely bit back a groan, his hold on her tightening.

Clarice laughed, "You're holding back, John…let go."

The last two words were breathed into the underside of his jaw, heat exploding in his chest and sending all the blood rushing south. He knew his fingers were probably leaving marks on her skin, but it was the only thing stopping him from completely dropping the reins on his self-control and pressing her into the nearest wall.

His tenuous hold slipped and he spun her around, hands settling on the base of her spine and pressing his forehead to hers. Years of discipline went out the window, his steady pulse thrumming under his skin and breathing harsh as he closed his eyes.

She felt so small wrapped in his arms, almost as though the pounding bass could lift her up and blow her away like smoke. There was a strength there too, a steel just underneath those soft curves pressed flush against him that told John she could take what life threw at her.

Clarice linked her hands behind his neck, slowly sliding herself up and stopping with her lips just short of his. Hers curled into a smile, hunger-darkened green burning with heat when she finally spoke, "Can I kiss you?"

His eyes snapped open at the question, the breath leaving him as he took in every detail on her face. From the sweat glistening along her hairline to the small scar over her right eye that he hadn't noticed until then to the swell of her cheeks and the angle of her jaw, finally landing on parted lips that looked so soft and inviting…

In an uncharacteristic moment of "fuck it" (no doubt from his time around Lorna), he leaned down and sealed his mouth over hers in a bruising kiss that had them both groaning and pressing their bodies even closer together.

Nails dug sharply into the back of his neck, his hands sliding up her spine and under the jacket to find the exposed skin of her shoulders as soft and warm as the fingers now traveling across the width of his shoulders and down his arms, leaving fire in their wake.

He finally pulled back just enough to breathe, the burning in his lungs easing. John smiled down at Clarice, in amazement of the woman in front of him and just how quickly she tore through his walls…He reached up, brushing a thumb over the small scar that cut through her right eyebrow, completely speechless.

"Lorna didn't mention you were such an amazing kisser."

John groaned, turning to glare at his friends only to find them gone. He huffed out a breath. That woman was like the annoying little sister he'd never wanted… "Anything else she cared to mention?"

"She may have implied that it had been some time since your last…"

He put up a hand, "I got it."

She laughed at his discomfort, "She meant well, you know."

John sighed, "She always means well…"

Clarice smirked, fingers playing with the strands of hair at the nape of his neck while her other hand splayed over his heart where his dog tags rested, "She isn't the reason I came over…" she smiled and leaned forward to kiss him again, a soft, lingering kiss that promised so much… "I noticed you watching me long before that."

"Really?" his voice wavered as her hand made its way down his abdomen.

She grinned, stopping at the waistband of his faded jeans, "So I wouldn't be too adverse to find someplace a little more…secluded. If you want to, that is."

He didn't hesitate in responding, "My apartment building is around the corner."

"What are you waiting for, then?"

Her grin sent his blood boiling once more, little being said on the way back to his place. It took a bit longer given the fact that neither seemed able to keep their hands off each other for long enough, but when they finally stumbled into the apartment it took no time for them to rid themselves of every piece of clothing.

John would definitely be thanking Lorna in the morning.