Trouble's Brewing (Stirring Up Trouble)

BOOK: Trouble's Brewing (Stirring Up Trouble)
2.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Trouble’s Brewing




Juli Alexander





Kindle Edition

Copyright © 2012 Juli Alexander


All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


All rights reserved.


No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in encouraging piracy of copyrighted materials in violation with the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.



Chapter One



“I just don’t get why you need a chemistry tutor,” Jake said for the millionth time.

I’d finally admitted to my boyfriend that the tutor was going to be a college guy. Jake didn’t know my tutor was a potions master, and he didn’t know I was a witch. “More popcorn?” I asked, shoving the bowl toward him in hopes of avoiding the discussion.

“You’re great in science, Zoe.” Instead of relaxing on the couch with his arm around me, Jake leaned forward, his elbows on his knees.

“That’s why my parents want me to do some advanced work.” He wouldn’t let it rest, and I was getting defensive because I was lying. I was hiding a lot from him.

“You already study all the time,” he said in a loud voice to compete with the blare of the Johnny Depp movie.

I didn’t. I spent a lot of time working on mastering my potions, but Jake didn’t know about my magic. He didn’t know I’d already made a breakthrough discovery by finding a substitution for toad slime. He didn’t know I was responsible for the recent Frog Fiasco, when millions of frogs and toads appeared suddenly all over the world on Halloween night, a week and a half ago.

“How many sessions a week did you say?”

“Three,” I said.

“I want equal time,” he said, turning to face me.

“What?” I should be flattered by his jealousy.

His blue eyes darkened and he held my gaze. “If he gets to spend three hours a week with you, then I get at least that much time.”

Three hours would be a serious underestimate. Two week nights and on Saturdays. I’d be working with Dr. Finnegan. He wasn’t young. Unfortunately, he’d messed with his appearance and now looked like a college student. I couldn’t explain any of that to Jake. But there was no way I, at age fifteen, was going to swoon over an old grandpa. Even if he was in the body of a hot guy. Jake didn’t need to be jealous. The potions master had brewed a potion in order to make himself younger. Working with me was part of his punishment, and I was over the moon about having Dr. Finnegan as my tutor.

“What are you two up to?” my dad asked, coming into the den. He didn’t need to bother spying on us tonight, but he hadn’t let go of the shock of seeing us kissing on the front porch last month.

Jake moved a few inches away from me even though we weren’t doing anything but talking.

“Watching a movie,” I said, but I hadn’t seen much in the last few minutes.

Dad turned to Jake. “Your mother asked me to see if you wanted some ice cream.”

No, Jake and I weren’t brother and sister. His mother was dating my father. As if that weren’t weird enough.

“No thanks,” Jake said, turning back to the television. “We still have popcorn.”

“Thanks though, Dad,” I said.

“Everything okay?” he asked, nodding his head in Jake’s direction.

“Yeah,” I said. Jake was going to have to get over it. Then he was going to have to get over it again once he saw Dr. Finnegan. First thing in the morning, I was going to start working with the potions genius. No one was going to ruin that for me. Mom and I hadn’t thought Finn would move to town so quickly, but I guess he didn’t have anything better to do. The Council had given him two weeks to start my lessons, and he’d only made me wait a week.

As excited as I was to be dating Jake after years of crushing on him, I would have gladly skipped the next few hours and fast-forwarded time to tomorrow morning. Unfortunately, I did not have that power.

“You kids behave,” Dad said on his way out of the room.

Was he trying reverse psychology on us?

“Come here,” Jake said, putting his arm around me and pulling me closer into his warmth.

Finally able to relax, I leaned against him as we turned our focus to the giant TV.


Mom shook me awake at nine the next morning over my groans of protest. I hadn’t been able to go to sleep with all the excitement. I’d run through my first meeting with Dr. Finnegan a thousand times, anticipating what he’d say and do.

The last time I’d looked at the clock with bleary eyes, it had been 5:45.

“You’ve got time,” she assured me. “Get dressed and I’ll fix some cereal. You want to be fresh and alert on your first day.”

Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. What I would be was terrified. I couldn’t begin to impress someone with Dr. Finnegan’s reputation. He’d probably treat me like the high school kids treated the sixth graders. Like I was bottom-feeding slime unworthy of his notice.

After the trouble on Halloween, the Council had insisted on monitoring me more closely. They could have taken my powers. The Council was the ruling body of the witch world. I had never expected them to send me a tutor, especially the renowned potions master.

I slipped on my newest pair of jeans and a navy blue shirt I thought gave me a subdued, serious look. Maybe I should wear a skirt. I was regretting not having glasses to make me appear more studious, and I’d started messing with my hair to put it into a bun when my cell rang. How did people make a bun anyway?

Anya’s picture flashed on my screen. Great. Just what I needed when I was trying to be mature and somber.

“Hey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Zoe, you have to come to Camille’s house tonight. Tell your dad it’s an emergency.”

“Actually, I’m with Mom this weekend. Something came up.” My friend since forever, Anya, had been tough to take lately. I sat on the bed and pulled on my socks and then went to the closet and shoved my feet into a pair of black leather slides.

“Thank God, Zoe, because you have to come. If there are three of us, Camille’s mother won’t notice if I disappear for a while.”

“What? You’re sneaking out?” I was kind of surprised she was going to Camille’s anyway. I didn’t think she and Camille had ever hung out without me.

“Yeah. I’ll explain everything tonight. You’ll come, right?”

“I don’t know, Anya. I have stuff to do. Camille and I are doing the coat drive tomorrow at the ice skating rink.” I had a busy day today with Dr. Finnegan. Tomorrow would be even crazier. Between the volunteer work and the slim chance I’d have to get on the ice, I’d need my sleep.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Zoe. You weren’t going to do anything at your dad’s anyway.” I could picture the snarky look on her face as she said it. “Your mother will let you come. I’ll call Camille and tell her you’re in.”

She hung up before I could protest. Just like always, Anya expected me to do whatever she wanted. I didn’t want to. If I stayed here, I could brew potions all day. Then again if I didn’t go… The thought of Camille, sitting in her room alone, stressed out with covering for Anya almost changed my mind.

What was Anya up to now? Her picture should be under “boy crazy” in the dictionary. I don’t think she’s had a single thought that wasn’t related to boys since first grade.

Mom yelled from downstairs that I needed to come eat.

“Just a minute,” I yelled back.

I went into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth.

“Zoe,” Mom yelled again.

With a last look at my reflection, I tramped down the stairs.

Mom was as nervous as I was, I realized, as she jumped up to get the milk and nearly knocked over all the sodas in the fridge. She set the half gallon of milk on the counter and hurried to straighten the other bottles.

“It’s going to be fine, Mom,” I said, hoping to convince myself too. “He’s just a man. A criminal actually.” His fountain of youth potion was on the list of forbidden magic, along with raising the dead and manipulating time.

Mom poured the milk over my corn flakes. “I know.”

My stomach was too full of butterflies to try to eat, so I sipped some orange juice. Mom had scrubbed every surface in the kitchen. I could tell she’d been at it for hours, and the kitchen had been clean to begin with. “It looks great in here,” I told her.

“They say he’s a real stickler about contamination.” She went over to the sink, grabbed a cloth, and started swiping at a spot on the window.

Luckily, I was already anal about that. I didn’t want to think I’d discovered a potion substitute only to find out later that something had accidentally dropped into the cauldron. Having a substitute that worked and not knowing what all the ingredients were… It would drive me nuts. “The kitchen’s clean, Mom. It always is. Nobody’s kitchen is as clean as yours.”

When the doorbell finally rang, I froze and looked at Mom.

“He’s here,” she whispered. She grabbed my bowl and glass, glanced around desperately, and stuck them in the cabinet out of sight. Then she smoothed at her hair and headed out of the kitchen. “C’mon, Zoe.”

The moment was so huge, such a turning point in my life, that terror seized me. I almost ran straight out the back door. But this was what I wanted. Potions, substitutions, helping humanity. I got my nerves under control and followed Mom into the living room.

She pulled open the front door and I braced myself for my first look at the distinguished potions master. Doctorate in chemistry from MIT.
Witch Magazine’s
Man of the Year for his contributions to potion science. A legend.

I’d seen the picture of a guy who looked more like a young, hot movie star playing a college student than a real college guy. He certainly didn’t look anything like the ninety-five-year-old man he truly was.

Live and in person, the man was even more intimidating. He was probably the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen in real life, like a younger Ian Somerhalder. His brilliant blue eyes stood out against the near black of his hair. He’d styled his hair in a way that looked mussed but somehow each hair appeared to be very carefully placed. Pulling my gaze from his face, I stared at the surfer T-shirt, lightweight jacket, and cargo shorts. The clothes were casual, but the teen’s posture was rigid.

Mom stammered, “Doc… Doctor Finnegan?”

He took my mother’s hand and bent to kiss the air above it, his manner completely at odds with his appearance. “A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Miller.” He stood and nodded in my direction. “You haven’t fainted away which indicates to me that the Council apprised you of my situation. Seems I overshot a bit. My target age was thirty.” He chuckled and shook his head with stiff movements I’d never seen in a teenager.

“Well, Dr. Finnegan!” Mom closed the front door, never taking her eyes off my tutor. “We are so honored to have you working with Zoe. I cannot tell you how much we appreciate it.”

“As you know,” Dr. Finnegan said, “the Council gave me little choice in the matter.”

He hated me. Just as I’d feared.

“However,” he continued, “I do believe I’d have volunteered my services in any case.” His blue eyes met mine. They weren’t the eyes of an eighteen-year-old. They were wise and I could practically see Dr. Finnegan’s intelligence in their depths. “You, Zoe Miller, are quite the legacy. And I’ve seen your file, young lady. A toad slime substitution at your age! If I chose one young person with whom to share my knowledge, it would be you.”

I felt heat rising to my cheeks. “Thank you, Dr. Finnegan.” He didn’t hate being here. He wanted to help me!

“That’s very kind of you, Dr. Finnegan,” my mother said. “If you’ll follow me to the kitchen, I’ll show you where you’ll be working.”

“That would be lovely,” Dr. Finnegan said, and smoothing his surfer tee with his palm, he trailed after my mother.

Dr. Finnegan was exactly what I’d expect to see if someone transplanted an old man’s brain into a teenager’s body. I shuddered. Thank goodness nobody did that sort of thing. One prim, elderly man in the body of a teen was enough.

“My potion books are all in the library,” I told him as I scurried along behind.

“We won’t be needing those today.”

We won’t? Once we stepped into the kitchen, Dr. Finnegan bowed slightly and smiled. “Mrs. Miller, I appreciate your assistance. However, I believe Zoe and I can take it from here.”

“Oh,” Mom said, her face falling. “Certainly. I’ll be in the living room if you need me.”

Dr. Finnegan eyed the room, then crossed to the island. He lifted his battered brown briefcase onto the counter. I pulled up a stool and sat across from him.

Not quite ready to look him in the eye, I focused instead on his T-shirt. A skeleton on a surfboard rode a giant wave across the front. For a moment, I wondered if the shirt were some kind of commentary on taking back his youth. But I was sure I’d seen some like it at the mall last week.

BOOK: Trouble's Brewing (Stirring Up Trouble)
2.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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