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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

I grab another glass of champagne, down it. This one hits home, finally; I feel myself float a little higher. I move into the big group of Old Trevellyans. I want to tell them all about the whisky business. Just for the next half an hour or so. Just so they might finally realise I’m as good as any of them. But the conversation has moved on and I can’t think of a way to get it back.

Someone taps me on the shoulder, hard. I turn round and I’m face to face with him: Mr Slater. Will’s dad – but first and foremost, always, headmaster of Trevellyan’s.

‘Jonathan Briggs,’ he says. ‘You haven’t changed one bit.’ He doesn’t mean this as a compliment.

Shit, I’d been hoping to give him a wide berth. The sight of him has the same effect on me it always did. Would have thought now, my being an adult, it might be different. But I’m as shit-scared of him as ever. Funny, considering he was the one that once saved my bacon, really.

‘Hello, sir,’ I say. My tongue feels like it’s stuck in my throat. ‘I mean, Mr Slater.’ I think he’d prefer it if I called him ‘sir’. I glance over my shoulder. The group I was in before has closed up, so we’re stuck on the outside of it now: just him and I. No escape.

He’s looking me up and down. ‘I see you’re dressed in the same unusual way. That blazer you had at Trevellyan’s: too large at the beginning and far too small at the end.’

Yeah, because my folks could only afford the one.

‘And I see you’re still hanging around my son,’ he says. He never liked me. But then I can’t imagine him liking anyone much, not even his own child.

‘Yeah,’ I say. ‘We’re best mates.’

‘Oh is that what you are? I was always rather under the impression you simply did his dirty work for him. Like when you broke into my office to steal those GCSE papers.’

For a moment everything around me goes still and quiet. I’m so surprised I can’t even get a word out.

‘Oh yes,’ Mr Slater continues, unfazed by my silence. ‘I know. You think that simply because it wasn’t reported you’d got away with it? It would have been a disgrace on the school, on my name, if it had got out.’

‘No,’ I say, ‘I dunno what you’re talking about.’ But what I think is: you don’t know the half of it. Or maybe you do and you’ve got an even better poker face than I realised.

I manage to get away after this. I go and search for more drink. Something stronger. There’s a bar they’ve set up, near the marquee. They can’t pour the stuff fast enough. People are asking for two, three drinks, pretending they’re for friends and plus-ones when really I can see them necking them as they walk away. It’s going to get loose, this evening, especially with the gear Peter Ramsay’s brought. When I pick up my whisky – the stuff I brought – I notice that my hand is trembling.