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“So what do we do?” Lidia asked. Leave it to her to want to break this down in to a simple process.
Paul shrugged. “The truth is, the thing to do is spend less time with me.”
They both looked at him like one of those puppies in the window after they realized they weren’t getting bought.
“I’m not saying we never hang out,” Paul said, a piece of the resentment coming back. Thankfully, his PID activated, telling him his food was ready. That let him take a breath and walk over to collect his sandwich.
They followed him. Paul tried to tamp down the petty bit of joy it gave him. It was like it was suddenly their turn to follow him around hope he notices them. He didn’t want that. What he wanted was for it to go back to the way it was.
He glanced at Lidia, and she gave one of those wonderful smiles. Well, what he really wanted to do was go back and take her to a movie and leave Jordan at the cafeteria. At least a part of him wanted that. He wanted to be the one she scurried toward to hold and kiss. He wanted to be the one at the center of her world.
That truth only emphasized what Paul had already said was needed. He collected his thoughts and found a place to sit. Jordan and Lidia sat across from him, staring at him silently. Paul smirked at Jordan. That would have been his suggestion. He knew Paul would want them to wait for him to think. Maybe what Paul wanted was to go back to that cafeteria and just help Lidia study. Then neither of them would have her, but she wouldn’t be there to complicate their friendship.
That thought cost him his appetite. She was a member of the team now. Jordan and Paul had argued about telling her the real inspiration behind their experiment, but that was the only secret he kept from her. Neither of them could bear to lose her, but Paul couldn’t shake the feeling that they couldn’t both have her. Not in some sick, perverted way. She could be with one of them, but that meant she couldn’t be both of their friends.
“You guys are dating, and I guess at least talking about marriage,” Paul muttered. He couldn’t bring his eyes to them. His own thoughts alone were enough to fill his heart with shame. “So you need to date. You can’t do that with me.”
“So we just stop being friends?!”
Paul cocked an eyebrow at Jordan and his shout. “That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m saying you two need to date and cuddle and all that crap.” Paul certainly didn’t want to get into the specifics of what “all that crap” meant. “That way, when the three of us hang out, it can actually be about the three of us. So far, you two seem to be able to set aside your annoyingly adorable romance when we’re in the lab, and I think we all know how important that work is. So when the three of us hang out, it’s not you two trying to force me into your life. It’s just the three of us spending a bit of time together.”
“But you get left out,” Jordan said.
“I am left out!” It was less of a shout than it was a bitter comment, but it was true.