The energy shifted in the room, harder, more intense. The woman's voice rose, her voice passionate, and everybody leaned forward in their seats, drawn to her. It wouldn't be long until a cloud, that peculiar blend of excitement, and anticipation, and lust, and love, and hunger, and everything that made their blood so delicious, began to permeate the small space. He could already taste it on the back of his tongue.
He was poised to wait there until he felt that cusp when something this Mary Straughn said distracted him from savoring the anticipation any longer.
"Wait a minute." He said it loud enough so that his voice carried easily up the center aisle, cutting her off in mid-sentence. "Preaching to the choir is one thing. But you don't honestly believe any of this actually makes any kind of difference in the long run, do you?"
"It will make a difference." She didn't miss a beat, her dark eyes narrowing on him. "Every person in this room has already made a difference."
"Because you ... what? Pat each other on the back and commiserate on what a mean, awful world this is?" With a derisive snort, he pushed off the jamb and sauntered toward her, long strides slow and confident. "Nothing changes. And when it does, it doesn't happen because of words. It happens because someone, somewhere, spilled a little too much blood, and somebody else got scared and made a change. That's all."
"Somehow I'm not surprised that it's a white man coming into my church, uninvited, and telling us everything we're doing wrong. So what do you suggest? We declare war?"
"Oh, I wouldn't go that far. Well, I would if I got a front row seat."
"If bloodshed is what you're after, then you've come to the wrong place. That's not what we're about here."
Gideon reached the front of the church but didn't stop, climbing the two short steps onto the pulpit. Mary didn't flinch, even when he circled her once, deliberately looking her over. Distance had not done her justice.
"That's why you'll lose, then. Because the people you're trying to convince aren't in here to hear you."
"Then we'll go out to them." Her voice didn't waver as he moved closer, invading her personal space. Nobody in the church made a sound, not even the annoying and over-eager assistant pastor. "And we'll find them and we'll make them listen to us until they can't ignore us anymore. Our brothers and sisters in Alabama and Georgia have already proven you wrong."
Gideon halted in front of her, his back to the congregation, and tilted his head as his gaze raked over her. She was nearly as tall as he was, her scent overpowering that of all the others in the room. This one, he was going to leave for last. She was going to be absolutely delicious.
"I'm not wrong. But I'd be willing to let you try and convince me in private, if you want."
Mary took a step toward him, erasing more of the space between them. She dropped her voice to an intimate level. "Don't let my preference for passive resistance fool you, mister. If you don't leave now, you'll get a taste of that bloodshed you're so keen on."
"You know what?" He leaned toward her until their noses were almost touching. "That's kind of what I'm counting on."
Without otherwise moving, his hand shot out and grasped the throat of the young man who'd tried approaching him from behind. Gideon smirked at Mary before turning toward the congregation, letting his fangs descend at the same time. A collective gasp of horror rippled through the group.
"You're all idiots." Ignoring the hands clawing at his, he dangled the man in front of them, shaking him for good measure. "You think a few pretty words mean anything? The world doesn't care. The world's laughing at you, because while you're sitting in here singing your songs and trying to coax God out of retirement, it's moving along, and it's going to leave you behind."
"You're right." Mary's voice drifted from behind him, still calm despite the rich wave of fear coming from her followers. "Talk is cheap. And you've already done too much."
Gideon heard her take a step, felt the heat from her skin as she moved closer to him. The man he was holding kicked out, the toe of his boot connecting hard enough to sting a little. Gideon shifted his weight to his other foot, just as a burning pain radiated through his back. Startled, he looked down to see the tip of a crucifix sticking out of his chest.