She was just an average 20 year old until the father she barely knew left her something she never expected...the power to change the world!
Unfortunately, her father didn’t leave instructions on how to use her new superpowers. As she learns more about her superhuman abilities, she uncovers the dangerous secret that comes with them.
She is the product of a government experiment gone wrong…and she’s not the only one!
The revelation puts her in the cross-hairs of a terrorist group known as the Sin Squad, enhanced with powers of their own. Joining an elite strike force, she invents the alter-ego Karma to combat the dangerous threat.
Will she learn to control her powers as Karma? Or is being a superhero more than she can handle?
Karma is a twist on the superhero origin story packed with powers and character drama. Start reading today with just one-click!
Book 1 in Silke's Strike Force.
The strange headaches returned at the worst time. They started as a simple twinge of pain at the base of Silke’s skull and developed into a full-blown migraine within the hour. In the midst of the hustle and bustle during the runway show, this migraine grew exacerbated from the stress and the strobe lights.
Camera bulbs flashed, laser lights flashed, even her lipstick flashed. Specks of crystal dust inside, wasn’t that the new angle they were pushing?
Just wear it and smile.
That mantra became necessary as Silke Butters carved out her career in the modeling industry. Having judgmental assholes dissect your physical appearance took a strong stomach, but Silke always kept her cool under pressure. Even now as the strange and severe headache intensified, creeping up her neck and over her temples, Silke kept smiling.
This was Candy Girl Cosmetics’ one-year anniversary, and she had just become the face of their new spring shades. She couldn’t let anything disrupt the show. But as she made it to the end of the catwalk, her vision blurred and it threw her off balance. Here she was in a room full of celebrity designers, actors, athletes, and entertainment professionals with all eyes on her and Silke teetered on the brink. She thought for sure she would plummet off the edge into the front row, landing right in the lap of J-Lo.
Being a seasoned pro, Silke used her misstep to her advantage, pivoting on her heel in a spin that showed off her trademark silky hair. It dazzled the crowd, and Silke took a moment to soak in their reaction. Standing there under the harsh lights, she felt a warmth spread out from her chest and down her arms. As it reached her fingertips, the feeling intensified until it burst from her in a fit of sparks. A collective gasp came from the crowd, followed by a round of applause. To them, it was all part of a pyrotechnic display to close out the show.
Her hands burned like road flares had been set off in them. Silke balled them into tight fists and turned back towards the opposite end of the catwalk. With a rushed stagger step, she hurried back through the curtain where she was greeted with another round of applause, this time from her peers.
“Well, I don’t remember giving the green light on pyro, but you looked beautiful as always, Silke,” Ruby Dhar told her as she took her hand to help Silke down the narrow steps leading from the runway.
“Thank you,” Silke told her, bouncing a quick kiss off her dear friend’s cheek.
Silke had known Ruby Dhar for many years. She was the reason Silke had signed with Candy Girl Cosmetics in the first place.
The Dhar family ran an extensive enterprise under the banner of Dhar Designs, and now they owned Candy Girl Cosmetics as well. Being the face of that brand was a prestigious position to be in for anyone in the fashion industry. Silke knew going into the show that her life would never be the same, but she never expected the physical changes taking place.
“All right, everyone, that’s a wrap!”
As Ruby closed the show, giving extra props to Silke for her work, Silke tried to quietly slip away and have a moment for herself. Her head was pounding, causing nausea to roll over her stomach like a turbulent sea.
Leaning against the vanity in her dressing room, Silke tried to steady herself. Her hands shook and the pain in her head continued to throb. The headaches had been coming to her in waves over the last few weeks. Now tonight, on this very important occasion, the pain had grown unbearable.
Sparks emitting from her hands told her a migraine was setting in. She was already in the Aura phase that caused flashing bright lights. Silke pinched her eyes shut, trying to will the pain to go away, and as she did, she saw images flash over the back of her eyelids. They were scattered and blurry, random faces in a crowd. As she tried to catch hold of one of them, a knock sounded on the door, pulling her from the visions.
“Silke, it’s Gail. You ready, doll? We got that party to get to.”
Silke knew better than to keep Gail waiting. Her longtime manager and friend kept a military-like strictness to her schedule. Growing up with a father in the Airforce, that endeared Gail to Silke immediately. So Silke washed back a few aspirins with a flat Diet Coke and then forced her million-dollar smile back over her lips.
Just wear it and smile.
* * *
As much as Silke enjoyed meeting people and mingling, industry parties didn’t present the same level of joy that other parties brought her. Throughout the night, Gail shuttled Silke around the room to press the flesh with all the top names in the industry. Each one of them told her they were great admirers of her work, how stunning she was in person, and how inspirational it was to see more ethnicity in the world of high fashion.
“So, Silke, what’s it like being a woman of color in this industry?” one reporter asked.
This was the go-to question penned by the media’s most sentient of reporters now trickling down into the mecca of the top players. Silke heard such worn-out praise from every news outlet, agency, and designer since she’d landed the Candy Girl campaign. They all adored her… now.
To stay grounded, Silke reminded herself that only a handful of years ago, nobody even wanted to look twice at the young half-Indian newcomer. Now, her bronze skin and long dark hair were international staples of beauty. She even became a trending hashtag on social media.
So Silke responded the way she always did, with a smile and a laugh and a PC answer Gail penned for her.
“I’m just me.”
As the night wore on, Silke did more interviews and greeted more fans, all the while her head continued to throb.
“So, tell me, Silke, which came first, the name or the hair?”
The pop star, whose name escaped Silke with the rush of another sharp pain behind the temples, fondled her long dark hair while the rest of her posse huddled around with fake plastic smiles attached to their lips.
“Are you insinuating that one or the other is fake?” Silke adjusted her bosom as she spoke. “Because everything on me is real.”
The group of girls gave a combined contrived laugh and continued fawning over Silke. One member of the posse made an aggressive attempt to step out from her role in the pack with an off-handed question.
“Have you ever considered dying your hair blonde so you don’t look so… ethnic?”
Some girls giggled while their apparent leader tried to intervene and hush her friend. Silke would’ve just excused herself, but she thought she’d let the girl stew in her ignorance instead.
“Well, I think my features would give me away, but Candy Girl Cosmetics doesn’t seem to mind. They just named me as the face of their new spring line.”
They gave a collective squeal and began fawning over Silke with forced congratulations. She took their pawing in stride. Silke never minded being personable, even when people got too hands on. Her good karma had led her to a life that little girls dreamed about. Complaining about achieving that dream just didn’t seem right. So, she played along with party games to make people laugh or smile. That is, after all, why she became a model.
Silke wanted to inspire just like her own heroes inspired her growing up. The artists, philanthropists, medical pioneers, and equal rights activists. Like her father, whose career in the Air Force had been highly decorated. Or her mother, who had inspired many with her beautiful paintings. Those were the people Silke aspired to be like. She wanted to make a mark on the world, to leave it better than she came into it.
Before the brat pack could poke and prod her even more, Gail came to her rescue and interrupted.
“Sorry, girls, I’m going to have to steal Silke away,” she said, looping her arm through Silke’s own and lightly pulling her. “She has a big shoot tomorrow morning, and she needs her beauty rest.”
Silke gave a courtesy wave and then hurried off with Gail into her dressing room. She took a seat at the vanity and slipped off her stilettos in exchange for a pair of Jimmy Choo wedge-cut sandals. Relief came quickly, but only to her feet. Away from the blaring DJ and incessant chatter, Silke still felt the strange throbbing at the base of her skull. Pain flared up deep within the knots throughout her shoulders and up along her neck. What she wouldn’t give for the skilled hands of her masseuse at that moment.
“Thank you, Gail,” she said, rubbing her temples. “I don’t know how much more of that I could take.”
“You’re tired, aren’t you?” Gail asked.
“No, not really,” Silke answered, slipping a straw into a bottle of ginger ale and sipping ever so lightly so as not to disturb the shine of her lipstick. “I’ve just got a nasty headache tonight.”
Silke loved the lifestyle and the frenetic pace of being one of the most in-demand supermodels of the time. She prided herself on being upbeat no matter the occasion, but lately her rhythm had been off. Only a few days before the anniversary event, she had got migraines, vertigo, and even nosebleeds sometimes.
It was nothing she wanted to bring up now. Gail would panic, send her to the doctor for a battery of tests, and pull her from the shoot tomorrow. She was the antithesis of what Silke remembered of her own mother. Where Shauna Butters was a free spirit with a calming nature, Gail was the overprotective mother type, though she looked more like her father with her short-cropped hair and trademark pant suits.
Silke had known Gail since she was a teenager just breaking into the business. Six years later, they’d become like family. Gail was one of the best model managers in the game. She’d taken Silke’s career to unparalleled heights, all while doing double duty as guardian to a fresh-faced fourteen-year-old scared shitless of the Big Apple that was New York City.
Still, Silke knew her body, and she chalked up her recent batch of poor health to poor eating habits and lack of sleep. Nothing a little B12 injection and some proper shut eye wouldn’t cure.
“Well, let’s get you home,” Gail said, gathering Silke’s bags for her. “I wasn’t kidding about the shoot tomorrow. Damien needs your butt in the chair by six.”
“Six in the morning?” Silke asked, looking at the digital display on her iPhone, which read a menacing one a.m. “So much for my beauty rest.”
* * *
On the rare occasions that Silke spent at home, she soaked up every minute. She’d decorated her penthouse apartment in warm hues of yellow and off-white mixed with the calming influence of blues and grays. Meditation used to be at the forefront of Silke’s life whenever she felt she needed to get balance. Now she found her peace on the fifty-foot terrace and the view that swept from the Empire State Building to the shimmering new One World Trade Tower.
Tonight, she cracked open a bottle of Merlot and looked down over Greenwich Village, feeling the energy of the people rise to meet her. For a moment, she smiled as she allowed a breath to take it all in. But just as she found her center again, the buzzing in her brain picked back up. She took a long sip on the wine, hoping it would ease the aching, but it only seemed to intensify it.
“Whoever is trying to call on me, can you please use the phone instead?”
Silke said it in jest, speaking to no one except herself, so when she received an answer, it startled her. A whisper on the night air seemed to call out her name, Silke.
She looked up and down the terrace and went back inside the apartment but found no one there. With her headache intensifying, she tucked the bottle of Merlot away and fished a bottle of aspirin out of the cupboard instead.
Popping a few pills into her mouth, she washed it down with the remaining wine in her glass and waited, foolishly hoping for instant relief. The kitchen clock read two fifteen a.m. Silke groaned and made her way towards bed. If she were lucky, the pills would kick in and she would get at least a few hours of sleep before she had to get up for the shoot.
But, before she even made it across the foyer, she heard the call of her name again, followed by a sharp pain at the back of her head. It felt like someone had struck her with a bat. Silke stumbled over her feet from the pain. She clutched at the edge of the fireplace, struggling to maintain her balance. But the throbbing in her head pulled her to the ground where she wound up nose first in the carpet.
My God, I’m having a stroke!
It was the only explanation she could come up with smothered in panic. Blinding lights at the back of her eyes, a pain inside her head that felt as though it were splitting open, and now she couldn’t move. Slipping in and out of consciousness, Silke saw a shadowy figure hovering over her. She tried hard to focus on the image and make out some details. It looked to be a man, late sixties, wearing Air Force dress blues. Had this man struck her? How had he gotten in past her alarm system? Silke couldn’t understand what this stranger was doing in her apartment until he squatted down in front of her and she realized it wasn’t a stranger at all.
“Daddy?” she whispered.
She hadn’t seen her father since she left California almost six years before. Work and differences of opinion had kept them from communicating in any manner other than sporadic phone calls and an occasional email. Now here he was in her apartment, in his full Air Force dress blues, smoothing her hair back and smiling at her the same way he’d always done when she was a little girl.
“What’re you doing here, Dad?” she asked, trying in vain to get up off the floor.
“My dear Silke,” her father responded. His voice sounded a million miles away, even though he stood right in front of her. “I’ve crossed over, princess.”
“I’m afraid I cannot protect you any longer.”
“Daddy, what’re you talking about?”
“I hope you can forgive me, Silke, for what I’ve done and for what I’m asking you to do now.”
He touched a finger to Silke’s forehead and in an instant; she felt one load lift only to be replaced by another just as frightening.
“Their names stay with you, my daughter,” her father told her. “Keep them safe.”
With that, Duke Butters saluted, gave an about face, and faded away. Silke tried to reach out for him. She tried to call his name and beg him to come back. But in the end, her body, full of wine and pain pills, decided it was a much better idea if she took a rest right there on the floor.
Silke’s Strike Force Book 1
Copyright © 2017 Cynthia Vespia