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The Guest List by Lucy Foley Read Online (FREE)

Séverine, Dad’s latest wife – French, not far off my age, one part décolletage and three parts liquid eyeliner – slinks in behind him, tossing her long mane of red hair.

‘Well,’ I say to Dad, ignoring Séverine (I can’t be bothered to spend much time on her until she passes the five-year mark, Dad’s record to date). ‘You’ve made it … at last.’ I’d known they were scheduled to arrive about now – I had to ask Aoife to arrange the boat. But even then I’d wondered if there might be some excuse, some delay that meant they couldn’t make tonight. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I notice Will and Dad sizing each other up surreptitiously. In Dad’s company, oddly, Will seems a little diminished, a little less himself. Looking at him, in his pressed shirt and chinos, I’m worried that to Dad he might seem privileged and glib, very much the ex-public schoolboy.

‘I can’t believe this is the first time you’ve met,’ I say. Not for want of bloody trying. Will and I flew to New York specially a few months ago. At the last minute, we learned, Dad had been called away on business in Europe. I imagined our planes crossing somewhere over the Atlantic. Dad is a Very Busy Man. Too busy, even, to meet his daughter’s fiancé until the eve of her wedding. Story of my bloody life.

‘It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ronan,’ Will says, holding out a hand.

Dad ignores the gesture and cuffs him on the shoulder instead. ‘The famous Will,’ he says. ‘We meet at last.’

‘Not particularly famous yet,’ Will says, giving Dad a winning grin. I wince. It’s a rare misstep. It sounded like a humblebrag and I’m fairly sure Dad didn’t mean ‘famous’ as a reference to the TV stuff. Dad’s not a fan of celebrities, of anyone making their fortune by anything other than proper hard graft. He’s a proudly self-made man.

‘And this must be Séverine,’ Will says, reaching across to give her a kiss on both cheeks. ‘Jules has told me so much about you – and about the twins.’

No, I haven’t. The twins, Dad’s latest progeny, were not invited.

Séverine simpers, melting beneath Will’s charm. This does not seem likely to endear Will further to Dad. I wish it didn’t matter to me what my father thinks. And yet I stand, transfixed, watching as the two of them circle each other in the small space. It is excruciating. It’s some relief when Aoife comes through and tells us that dinner is about to be served.

Aoife is a woman after my own heart: organised, capable, discreet. There’s a coolness to her, a detachment, which I suppose some might not like. I prefer it. I don’t want someone pretending to be my best friend when I’m paying her to do something. I liked Aoife the moment we first spoke on the phone and I’m half tempted to ask if she’d consider leaving all of this and coming to work at The Download. She might look quite homely, but she has a steelier side.