How to refer to people you recently met (names have been introduced and a short discussion made). We can't possibly call them friends, can we?
He raises his eyes to look at his (friends?)
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If the setting is purely social, then David Garner's new acquaintances is just fine. There are other settings, however, where simply being introduced is all that is required to establish membership in a group, and (at least to an outsider) being new to the group is probably unimportant. Teammates, coworkers, colleagues, and co-conspirators would all seem to fit this usage.