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Professor Platonic
Author: Lucy Lennox








I stared at my email while the blood drained from my face to my toes.

To: Jack Wilde

We regret to inform you your application for participation on the Raintree Arctic Ecology and Evolution research expedition was not successful.



There was more to it than that. Probably. Bullshit explanations about how many qualified candidates had applied and how tough the competition had been. How hard it was selecting only one recipient for the honor.

And I understood it all. Of course I did. Graduate students from around the world had applied to go on the groundbreaking expedition. They couldn’t take everyone.

But I was devastated. Not getting the research fellowship meant having to go home to Dallas and listen to my mother complain about my “denial of real-life responsibilities” and my father ask me yet again when I was going to “stop fussing with that environmental nonsense and get a real job.”

“You look like you’re gonna hurl, dude,” my cousin Hallie said before popping a potato chip in her mouth. She was visiting Houston for the weekend to see a friend’s art show and had stopped by my apartment to drop off a suit my mom had bought me. An interview suit. “What’s up?”

“I didn’t get a spot on the research expedition this summer,” I said, feeling numb. “Everyone I talked to said they thought I was already considered part of the team. My application was supposed to be a formality.”

She settled into the hand-me-down sofa my roommate had left behind when he’d moved out. If I didn’t find another roommate soon, I was going to have to give up the lease and find a cheaper room to rent next semester. It was either that or ask my parents for help, which would occur precisely when hell froze over.

“What do you think happened?” Hallie asked. “I thought you were already working with the people leading the expedition?”

“I was. I am.” Not only had I helped craft the grant proposal that was funding the expedition, but I’d also helped originate some of the research planned for the expedition. I was one of Dr. Raintree’s favorite grad students.

It didn’t make any sense.

The only person who hadn’t seemed all that convinced had been my evolutionary biology professor.

My stomach dropped. Professor Henry. The only person in my academic community who still treated me with cold indifference had been responsible for one of the two most important recommendations on my application.

If I hadn’t been chosen for the expedition, it had to have been something Professor Henry wrote.

My fingernails bit into my palms. “That fucking bastard,” I hissed under my breath.

Hallie’s eyes widened. “Who?”

“My evolutionary biology professor. He was supposed to write me a recommendation for the program, but the man hates me. He won’t even make eye contact with me and acts like every time I ask him a question, I’m wasting his time. I’m sure this is on him.”

“Why would he hate you? You’re smart as hell and the hardest worker in the whole family.”

I loved my cousin’s loyalty. She was a fierce defender of the people she loved. I shot her a smile. “Thanks, Hallie. But it doesn’t matter. It’s done. I can’t argue with their decision without doing further damage to my reputation. And these are the researchers and professors who can hopefully help me get a job after I finish my degree, not to mention some of them will be on my thesis committee. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I just…” I sighed.

I was so fucking tired. I’d worked my ass off lately, holding down a full-time job as a lab technician while also pursuing a graduate degree. Because Barrington University wasn’t cheap, I’d worked hard to try and get my degree completed as quickly as I could so I would rack up the least amount of debt possible.

In case my parents were right and I couldn’t make a go of this as a career.

I shrugged. “I was already feeling sorry for myself after taking my evolutionary biology final this morning. Even though I thought I did well, the professor’s probably going to screw me on the grade.”

“Okay,” Hallie said, rolling the chip bag closed with a loud crinkle and sitting up. “You know what you need? Hug therapy.”

My family was a little strange.

“You sound like your hippie sister-in-law,” I muttered. One of my Wilde cousins had married a woman named Nectarine who did yoga and believed in all kinds of woo-woo shit.

“I read an article about this last week, and I’m dying for someone to try it. Remember when you and I were at Doc and Grandpa’s anniversary trip and everyone was all, ‘Oh, gee, look at my soul mate who wants to sex me up and then spoon me adorably all night,’ and you and I were like, ‘Ew, how about just the spoon part?’”

I stared at her, trying to figure out what the hell she was trying to say. I did recall having said that, but I’d been lying through my teeth. I’d wanted the sex too; I’d just wanted the comfort more.

She sighed. “So the article I read mentioned there’s an app that’s like a dating app but also has other things like a classified section for getting help doing stuff around the house and whatever. Shit like that.”

“You mean Heart2Heart?”

She pointed at me. “Yes, that’s it. Well, they have this platonic section where you can seriously just say you want someone to hold hands or spoon with. This article talked about… wait. Dude. I sent you the article! You didn’t read it?”

She didn’t wait for me to answer before waving her hand in the air like it didn’t matter. “Anyway, I sent it to you because it was about the evolutionary need for human touch and how it’s become a biologic imperative for… I don’t know. Some brainiac bullshit about neural circuitry. The point is. You need some.”

I blinked at her. “I need some.”

I needed some all right, but I needed the kind of human touch with a dick involved. And hard fucking. I needed angry sex to work out my frustration over this expedition rejection. That was what I wanted, at least. But I wasn’t going to pursue it.

I was taking a break from sex with strangers after a particularly bad experience with a guy who was too annoying and rough. The experience hadn’t turned dangerous, but it had been just close enough to remind me it could have. And I didn’t need that kind of stress right now on top of everything else.

“It would be nice to have someone to snuggle with,” I admitted. “I can’t think of the last person I slept with where there was spooning involved.”

Hallie sighed. “Yeah. Same. You haven’t really dated anyone since Lowell, have you?”

I glared at her. “I’ve just been rejected from the most important career opportunity of my life, and you have to bring up Lowell? Do you hate me?”

She stretched her leg across the sofa to nudge my hip with her foot. “Sorry, Jack. He was an ass. Probably still is. Besides, he probably wasn’t any good at cuddling to begin with. The man was about as comforting as a bag of sticks and rocks.”

Hallie wasn’t wrong. My ex was not only stiff and oddly formal, but he was also all elbows and knees. And way more interested in marine microplastics and their effect on food webs than me. Which was fine. Ocean pollutants were, indeed, a serious issue. But so was my need for affection.

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