Dude, girl. Conventional female wisdom would dictate that you not expose your hand. Don't let him know. If he knows how you feel, you have less power over him, they say. Power is really important in relationships, they say.
But who wants a power imbalance in their romantic relationships?
Clearly, you know about this. You want to be subtle, and hint. Make it seem like his idea.
He'd be the active agent and you helpless to meet your own needs otherwise.
There's no green zone for hinting to effectively work. And, what kind of relationship is that? Where one member communicates exclusively with fortune cookies. Can you imagine being on the receiving end of that? Yuck. And all those broken cookies too.
It's unlikely that after the revelation that you really like him, that the relationship will remain the same. It could fall anywhere between: It gets much better for you and him, or, it ends. It's a spectrum. The result will be in there somewhere.
It's scary to tell the truth, to bear your heart. Mean people will jam a stick in it a twist, but good people, well, they're good and something positive will come from it.
It's probably best to sit down with him somewhere and talk. Probably not in the middle of everyone, break off from the group as a couple and talk. You're looking to initiate a conversation, where you talk about how you feel about him, and -- this is important, how he feels about you, and what to do from there.
It can be tough, it can be really tough. It would be equally difficult for him to do the same thing. The genders aren't so different in that respect, both are thinking, feeling humans. You're not so different from him, regardless of what they say.
He can't read your mind, just the same as you can't read his mind.
When is the soonest date you can talk to him privately and in person?