Worn out at the end of an ordinary day, Emily stops at a roadside diner, where she meets Jim, a sensitive man who intuitively understands her. Can she move beyond the pain of her broken marriage and rediscover the simple pleasures in life over a bowl of soup? A short story from our Candlelight romance line. Excerpt ----------------------------- Emily Walker strove for equilibrium. She wanted that clear calm spot at the fulcrum, a small coherent space unmoved by external forces. Like Louis, her ex-husband; his exuberant vitality had demanded reciprocity. The corresponding expenditure of energy had left her exhausted and out of her depth. She made him leave ten months ago, but a drained, stretched-out sensation remained. She felt it most driving home from work. Her quiet, modest apartment was her refuge—a respite from the needs of others. Yet tonight she felt reluctant to go there. A light rain slanted across the windshield as Emily exited the freeway. She switched the wipers to the intermittent setting, veering right at the off-ramp, turning onto Johnson Street. It was then that she spotted the sign, red neon glowing against the dull gray of the fading September light: Jim’s House of Soups. The small restaurant stood between a Shell service station and a Quik Print shop. She changed lanes and pulled into the parking lot. The rain became more insistent—fast, hard drops drumming on the roof of the car. Emily slipped the collar of her coat up over the top of her head and bolted for the restaurant. A bell tied to the door handle jangled as she opened the door. She shrugged her coat back into place, letting the door swing shut behind her. To the left stood a counter with a row of swivel stools. A series of white placemats with red napkins ran down the top. At one end stood a lanky man with a lean face framed with gray hair at the temples. He closed the cash register. A compact teenage boy with bad skin folded napkins at the far end, next to a soda machine. Three square tables and two booths with burgundy vinyl benches completed the seating arrangements. A complex, soothing scent composed of chicken, vegetable and seafood broths mingled together in the warm room. “One?” asked the man at the cash register. “Yes, I saw your sign…” “Oh, good. We opened last week, but the sign just went up today. Please, sit anywhere you like. You’re our first customer tonight.” Emily went to the counter. She set her purse next to a stool and began to take off her coat. “Here, let me take that for you. I’m Jim.” He came from behind the counter, helped her out of her coat and hung it on an oak hat tree in the corner. “Thanks, Jim. I’m Emily,” she said. “Emily Walker.” He shook her hand, gripping it firmly and meeting her eyes. “Pleased to meet you, Emily.” Had he held her hand a bit longer than necessary?