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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

Now he does an appreciative once-over as I emerge from the bathroom. ‘You look—’ he raises his eyebrows. ‘Hot.’

‘Thank you,’ I say, doing a little shimmy. I feel hot; I suppose it’s been a while since I’ve gone all out. And I know I shouldn’t mind that I can’t remember the last time he said that.

We join the others in the drawing room, where we’re having drinks. It’s as well put together as our room: an ancient brick floor, a candelabra bristling with candles, glass boxes on the walls holding vast glistening fish, which I think may be real. How on earth do you taxidermy a fish, I wonder. Small windows show rectangles of blue twilight and everything outside now has a misty, slightly otherworldly quality.

Standing surrounded by a cluster of guests, Jules and Will are lit by candlelight. Will seems to be telling some anecdote: the others all listening to whatever he’s saying, hanging off his every word. I notice that he and Jules are holding hands, as though they can’t bear not to be touching. They look so good together, impossibly tall and elegant, she in a tailored cream jumpsuit and he in dark trousers and a white shirt that makes his tan appear several shades darker. I’d been feeling good about myself but now my own outfit feels inadequate by comparison: while for me & Other Stories is a wild extravagance, I’m sure Jules hardly ventures into high street chains.

I end up standing quite near to Will, which isn’t a total accident – I seem to be drawn to him. It’s a heady experience, being so close to someone you’ve seen on your TV screen. This feeling of familiarity and strangeness at the same time. I can feel my skin tingling, being in such close proximity. I was aware when I walked over of his gaze raking my face, quickly up and down my person, before he went back to finishing his anecdote. So I am looking good. A guilty thrill goes through me. In the years since I’ve had kids – probably because I’m always with the kids – I’ve apparently become invisible to men. It only dawned on me, when I stopped feeling them on me, that I had taken men’s glances for granted. That I enjoyed them.

‘Hannah,’ Will says, turning to me with that famous, generous smile of his. ‘You look stunning.’

‘Thanks.’ I take a big gulp of my champagne, feeling sexy, a little bit reckless.

‘I meant to ask, on the jetty – did we meet at the engagement drinks?’

‘No,’ I say, apologetically. ‘We couldn’t make it up from Brighton, sadly.’

‘Maybe I’ve seen you in one of Jules’s photos then.  You seem familiar.’

‘Maybe,’ I say. I don’t think so. I can’t imagine Jules displaying a photo that includes me; she’s got plenty of just her and Charlie. But I know what Will’s doing: helping me feel welcome, one of the gang. I appreciate the kindness. ‘You know,’ I say, ‘I think I’m getting the same feeling about you. Might I have seen you somewhere before? You know … like on my TV set?’