BLURB: The year is 2100. Wise people marry by registering with Bioexpa Data Match. The matchmaking company has such a near perfect record that choosing your own mate is now considered tantamount to marrying a blood relative.
Recently paired, Sienna Bloom and Jakob House have known each other since they were teens. She’s his sister’s best friend. Sienna’s been awaiting her perfect mate since she signed up with Bioexpa at the age of eighteen. She’s thrilled when she’s paired with Jakob. There’s only one problem. Jakob’s in love with another woman.
Jakob only signed up with Bioexpa to make his girlfriend Ella happy. When he returns to his hometown, it’s with the intention of settling down with Ella. But then he’s matched with Sienna through Bioexpa and his plans fall apart. He’s not one to ever break a promise, but he can’t deny the pull he feels towards Sienna.
The waiting room walls were a stark white. Above his head and on the wall opposite were picture panels at least seventy-two inches wide that displayed tranquil ocean scenes of water lapping at beach shores. Jakob House wondered briefly if they were being piped in live or if they were recorded video footage. To his left was a bank of silver elevators. On the right there was a window that spanned the entire wall and filled the space with light. Outside blue skies and a few puffy clouds filled the view. In front of the window was a large semicircular desk. The surface was clear and slanted on an angle toward the receptionist. Her hands moved deftly over the glass desktop, opening and closing files on her computer.
Jakob returned his attention to the tablet in his hands. He’d already sent the extensive contract to his lawyer for review. Though the document was almost two hundred pages, he’d been informed that it was the standard Bioexpa Data Match contract. It was thorough and airtight but completely legal.
His hand trembled as he placed it over the tablet to scan his palm print. The print was more binding than a signature and could not be duplicated by anyone else in the world. He reminded himself that he was doing this for Ella. She wouldn’t consent to be his wife unless they were paired by Bioexpa.
The far reaching success of Bioexpa was amazing. Bioexpa Data Match was much more than a matchmaking firm. They were renowned for their happy and lasting marriages in a time when divorce had become rampant. In the relatively short time the company had existed, they had so ingrained themselves into society that getting married without being matched by Bioexpa was as taboo as intending to marry a blood relative.
Jakob’s misgivings about completing his registration went beyond any wariness he harbored about giving the matchmaking service permission to invade his privacy. He couldn’t help the nervous turn of his stomach that told him this was a mistake. There was no guarantee that they would be matched and they had no plan in place if that possibility came to pass. Ella seemed so confident that their relationship would receive the Bioexpa stamp of approval. But then, Ella had a tendency to ignore any unpleasant details that ran counter to her wants and desires. Each time he’d broached the possibility, she’d brushed aside his concerns or become angry. However, he was a born planner. Ignoring facts was impossible for him. The entire situation was enough to make him break out in hives.
Jakob looked around at the other occupants and realized that he was the oldest registrant in the room. Most people registered at eighteen. Eleven years ago when he’d graduated from high school, his only thoughts had been of his career. Marriage hadn’t been on his radar. Across from him were three boys, each holding a tablet computer. A pretty blonde girl to his right conferred with her mother.
Having procrastinated long enough, he rose and approached the receptionist’s desk. The nametag on her silver jumpsuit declared her name to be Sarah. Her hair was short, spiky and dyed a blinding white. She smiled as he approached. Jakob handed her the tablet. She glanced at it briefly. “Thank you, Mr. House. You may now fill out our questionnaire. That can take some time. If you need to break for lunch or complete it at another time, please let me know. After the questionnaire, there will be your physical, during which they will need samples of your blood, saliva, and sperm. Following that, they will schedule an appointment for a psych evaluation.”
Jakob flinched. “What? Why would you need my sperm? Or my blood and saliva for that matter?” He tried to keep his voice low, but he felt certain that he was on the edge of hysteria.
“We use it for pheromone testing. It was explained in the contract.” She smiled, seemingly unfazed by his near panic. “Don’t worry. We won’t use it for disreputable purposes such as cloning.”
He frowned. If that was supposed to be reassuring, it wasn’t. But it wasn’t as if he had much choice in this matter. He’d already placed his palm on the contract. They had the right to delve into his financial records and his criminal history. A few fluids…he suppressed a cringe…didn’t get much more invasive than that. Resigned, he nodded his acceptance.
She pointed at a hallway to her right. “You may fill out your questionnaire in the first room to the right. Go through the white double doors. You may sit at any available desk. To log in to the questionnaire, simply place your hand on the surface so that it might be scanned.”
Feeling more trepidation by the minute, he followed her directions. Pushing through the white doors, he found another white box of a room. This one had rows and rows of glass surface desks. A Bioexpa employee wandered the room assisting those who needed help.
Jakob sat in the last row in the seat closest to the door. Placing his hand on the surface activated the computer. “Welcome, Jakob” flashed on the screen before the questionnaire opened automatically. The first questions were basic. He confirmed data about his age, birthdate, and job status. He expected the questions about what he was looking for in a woman. He hoped he was describing Ella, but he wasn’t sure. They didn’t ask him about his physical preferences for a mate. He knew he wanted someone who was kind and supportive. That he should be sexually attracted to that person was a given. When he got to the questions about what he liked sexually, he could feel himself blushing. He glanced around the room. It was fairly full. He wondered how many of these young kids could answer these questions with any degree of accuracy. He’d lost his virginity at fifteen, but if someone asked him what he wanted at eighteen he would have been flummoxed. Even now he didn’t feel like he was getting everything he wanted from Ella. But he’d committed to her and overall, he was satisfied with their love life.
After a few more explicit questions, he felt himself sweating. He might need to take a break so as to prevent his face from becoming permanently red. As the Bioexpa employee passed by his area, he had to resist the urge to cover the screen from her—which was ridiculous considering that she’d probably seen this questionnaire thousands of times.
Taking a deep breath, he powered through the remainder of the questionnaire. When he stood, the employee approached him. She wore the same silver suit as Sarah, but she filled it out better with a curvaceous figure that was hard to ignore. Jakob’s eyes dropped to her nametag and quickly away lest she think she was ogling her breasts. Gemma smiled at him. “If you’d like to come back for the testing later, that will be fine. I know the questionnaire can be stressful for some.”
“No. I’d like to just get this over with.”
Her smile dimmed, but she nodded. “Mr. House, if you’re having doubts, perhaps it would be best if you took some time-”
“No. I’m sure,” he said firmly. He’d promised Ella he would do this and he didn’t give promises lightly.
“Okay. Then you’ll want to go back through the waiting room and take the elevator up to the next floor. Congratulations and good luck.”