Smart contracts could help her marry well. And divorce better.
Ashley clawed her way from her small, poor home town to the high-tech city, and vowed never to go back. Big data from pervasive biosensors and the internet of things, stored in an unforgeable blockchain, enforced by algorithms instead of the whims of judges and juries, made Eric a multimillionaire. Marry him, and Ashley’s set for life. Even if he leaves her. Unless his software detects she breaches the marital contract. When the honeymoon’s over, will she stay content as a trophy wife? Alone in his mansion. Watched by his computers. Automatically punished for any minor transgression. Is marrying for millions worth a loveless marriage? Or can Ashley win a dangerous game, keeping Eric’s money while somehow finding love?
Sample of “Lyin’ EIAS”
The day before the wedding, Ashley met her fiancé at the EIAS office to sign the electronic prenup.
A receptionist with sharp cheekbones and a fawning manner guided Ashley to the conference room. The receptionist’s sidelong envious glances warmed Ashley’s heart. Though ten minutes late, Ashley sauntered, her heels striking the marble like gunshots, framed oils and Chinese vases pleasing her eye. She inhaled conditioned air scented like the lobby of a grand hotel or the ladies’ section at Neiman Marcus.
Ashley paused outside the conference room and fluffed her blond hair with her hand. Bat her eyes a few times—if Eric grimaced, act baffled by unexpectedly heavy traffic—and Eric would overlook her tardiness.
The conference table, twenty feet long if an inch, was as smooth and firm as a male massage therapist’s hands. Beyond the table, floor-to-ceiling windows faced north and east, toward Eric’s mansion.
Their mansion, soon enough.
Eric stood with his back to the windows, his gaze on a tablet flat on the tabletop. A slender hand, jutting past a silk suit sleeve and a diamond cufflink, swiped. He raised his other palm her way and tapped the tablet a few more times.
Making me wait—
Let it go. That’s how he makes the money you’ll get to spend.
Eric looked up. Thinning gray hair. Deep creases in his forehead and down the sides of his nose and mouth. Eyebrows like caterpillars needing a haircut, over icy sapphire eyes. He was older than her father, far older than the small town boys she’d let run their hands up her skirt when parked in their pickups.
She put on a smile. Eric was ten thousand times richer than her father and all those small town boys combined.
“Glad you made it, Ash,” he said in his barnacled voice. “Time to get this over with so we can enjoy our lives together. Trevor?”
Ashley hadn’t noticed the other man, seated at the head of the table. Pudgy build, shaggy brown hair, the EIAS logo on his polo shirt. The help, nothing more. Trevor nodded like a dog hoping for a treat. His voice sounded nasal and nervously high. “Of course, Mr. Jeffries.”
A cold tendril wound in her belly. You’re making a huge mistake, her friend’s voice echoed, activating that electronic prenup through the company Eric owns. Ashley put on a smile for Eric and the cold tendril eased and warmed. Her due diligence made clear the electronic prenup bound him too.
And if she needed to get out of the prenup, she could hire the best divorce attorney in the city. The prenup couldn’t be binding, she was coerced into it. Eric wouldn’t marry her otherwise.
Trevor said, “Ms. Madison, Mr. Jeffries, please take your seats. Our policy requires I go through the entire contract with you both.” He looked at Eric and rolled his lips in.
Seated now, Eric covered his yawn with the back of his hand.
Ashley sat too, hands on the tabletop, one over the other. “I’m glad you’re walking us through it, Trevor, because I’m not sure I understand all this.”
Eric said nothing, just watched her with his icy sapphire eyes.
Behind Trevor, a video display bloomed with color. A title slide, and in the footer, an EIAS logo with the acronym’s words, Enforced Interpersonal Agreements Systems, spelled out.
Trevor guided them through page by page. Despite her week of late nights reviewing the contract, she squinted and frowned as if she didn’t fully understand. She understood enough. As of the effective date—tomorrow, their wedding—Eric would give her a new car every two years, two weeks of vacation in Europe, and a $25,000 monthly allowance. EIAS would serve as escrow agent for those transactions.
In exchange for his money, she would cook dinner at least three times a week and do other wifely duties.
His cold, bony fingers creeping over her body. She froze her face as a shudder went through her. A slide with a list of duties and corresponding allowance adjustments flickered past before she recomposed herself.
Termination clauses. Either party could end their marriage it will. If she left, she lost everything. If he left her before their tenth anniversary, he would pay her a lump sum of $10 million. After their tenth anniversary, the lump sum jumped to $25 million.
Across the table from her, Eric rested his temple against his long fingers and peered at his tablet screen.
A block of certainty filled Ashley’s torso. Nine years and eleven months from now, he would leave her. That’s what she would do in his shoes.
The block warmed her. $10 million dollars would keep her in the lifestyle she deserved, without any need to perform wifely duties.
Trevor moved to the next slide. “The contract will also terminate if either party collects one hundred breach of contract points. In the event of one party’s breach, the other party will receive the maximum financial benefit we just discussed.”
Ashley’s puzzled frown turned real. She wouldn’t cheat on Eric—she barely wanted sex with a rich man, why would she want it with a poorer one?—but how could a contract determine heart rate indicative of sexual activity in the absence of the other party? Or body motion data indicative of assault and battery?
Not important. He was too old to hit her, and she would rather spend his money than cheat on him.
A closing slide appeared on screen. “Any questions?” Trevor asked.
“No,” Ashley said, coyly angling her head. “I understand what I’m getting into.”
Eric smiled, with his lips, not his eyes. “So do I.”
“Please, both of you, open your intent-registration apps,” Trevor said.
Ashley pulled her phone and matching stylus from her purse. Thumbprint on the home button, signature in a text box, a blinding screen flash for the front camera retina scan. Lastly, a checkbox. Do you confirm you wish to enter this agreement with Eric Jeffries?
She tapped her stylus on the checkbox, then tapped Continue. A blank screen followed with a spinning rosette of dots. Taps sounded and light flashed at Eric’s side of the table.
The blank screen vanished. Congratulations! Your contract with Eric Jeffries is now binding, effective tomorrow.
Eric’s frozen gemstone eyes regarded her like a work of art or an expensive bottle of wine. Ashley put on a warm smile. For $25,000 per month and $10 million when he left her, he could feel toward her anything he wanted.
A beautiful wedding. The church was like the great hall of a castle. A high-voiced woman from the city’s opera company sang a solo piece in some foreign language. Most important of all, when Ashley walked down the aisle in her diamond-studded white lace dress, every eye turned to her. Three hundred men regarded her with longing, three hundred women, with envy.
The greatest moment of her life. A glow filled her throughout the ceremony, dimming only after she said “I do.” Eric puckered his lips. Her gorge rose in her throat. Was all his money truly worth giving her body to him?
The minister said something, ending with, “…You may now kiss the bride.”
Eric leaned his face toward her. She clamped her abdominals against the onion and rare steak stench of his lunch and forced her brightest smile onto her face.
When they returned from their honeymoon, a shiny black Mercedes coupe with temporary paper tags waited in the circular driveway in front of the mansion. Ashley filled her voice with a girlish tone. “Is that for me?”
“I uphold my ends of my deals,” Eric said. He rested his hand between her shoulder blades, pressed her toward the car. “The salesman already coded it to your biometrics. Go on, Ash, give it a spin.”
A yard from the driver’s door, the locks clicked open. The seat molded to fit her back and thighs. The dashboard was like a spaceship control panel designed by Movado, dozens of sleek buttons and handles in black and stainless steel. Her slender fingers caressed the steering wheel and the electric motor hummed to life. An easy throw of the gear shift, a gentle press of her foot, and the tires whispered on the pavement. Off she went, down the driveway, through the gate, and around the block.