The Silken Web

By: Sandra Brown

Chapter One

The children began shouting and shrieking as one discordant voice when the kite dipped and spun crazily before it started to nose dive.

“Look out!”

“Kathy, don’t!”

“Pull up!”

“No, Kathy, no!”

Kathleen, her eyes never leaving the erratic kite, clamped her teeth over her bottom lip and pulled the string taut. She took several running steps backward, raising the kite string high over her head and dodging the sneakered feet of a dozen excited children.

“Let out on it a little, sweetheart.”

The voice was deep, masculine and totally unexpected. Kathleen didn’t have time to fully register it before she barreled into the man who’d materialized behind her.

Startled, she dropped her arm, and the kite went into a steep nose dive.

It smashed into an oak tree and was hopelessly impaled on a limb, its tail enmeshed in the leafy branches. The children scrambled through the branches of the tree, issuing orders to each other and suggesting possible solutions that were met with guffaws and aspersions.

The man directed his gaze to the scene, then turned his head and fixed his blue eyes upon Kathleen. “I apologize,” he said humbly, placing his hand over his heart. The gleam in his eyes made Kathleen doubt his sincerity. “I thought I was helping.”

“I could have handled it.”

“I’m sure you could have, but I mistook you for one of the kids and it looked to me as though you needed some help.”

“You thought I was one of the children!” With her hair tied back into pigtails, her heart-shaped face bereft of makeup and her navy shorts and white T-shirt with the summer camp’s logo on the front, she could see where he might make that mistake.

“I’m Kathleen Haley, one of the camp directors.” He gave her a once-over that said she wasn’t dressed for the part. “I double as a counselor,” she added, extending her right hand.

The blond giant with the thick mustache shook hands with her.

“My name is Erik Gudjonsen, spelled G-u-d-j-o-n-s-e-n, but pronounced Good-johnson.”

“Am I supposed to recognize your name, Mr. Gudjonsen?”

“I’m the videographer who’ll be shooting the documentary for UBC. Didn’t the Harrisons tell you that I’d be coming?”

If they had it had slipped her mind. “They didn’t say it would be today.”

The Mountain View Summer Encampment for Orphans was to be featured on the nationally televised magazine show People. In an attempt to generate public awareness of the camp, and thereby contributions, Kathleen had approached a network producer with her story idea. After several letters and lengthy telephone calls to New York, she had sold the producer on it. She’d been told that a photographer would be assigned to videotape the activities of the children sometime during one of the summer sessions.

She hadn’t given any thought to the videographer, nor what he would be like. Weren’t all photographers a bit myopic? Didn’t most wear baggy trousers and have light meters like identification badges dangling from cords around their necks? Her ideas on the profession in general had certainly never conjured up a picture that in any way resembled Erik Gudjonsen.

His appearance was as Nordic as his name. He had inherited a body from his fiercest ancestors. Viking blood must surely course through that tall, muscular body that radiated strength and vitality. Even standing still in a deceptively casual pose, he seemed capable of great power.

Erik Gudjonsen’s hair shone like a golden helmet in the sun. It was thick, luxurious, falling around his aristocratic head in casual disarray. His darker mustache added to the sensuality of his wide mouth. Strong white teeth glistened from beneath the brush of the thick mustache and contrasted handsomely with the tan, weather-roughened face.

His jeans were well worn and tight. They rode low on his slender hips and hugged the muscles of his thighs like a glove. The chambray shirt fit almost as snugly. The sleeves had been rolled back to reveal sinewy arms. The blue fabric was stretched tightly over a broad chest that was matted with tawny hair. It was difficult not to stare at the deep V that his unbuttoned shirt revealed. His hands were long, with tapering fingers that denoted strength and yet the sensitivity required to operate a complex videotape camera.