A 5K and a Kiss by Maddie Evans

Love isn’t a sprint—it’s a long run. 

Welcome to Brighthead, Maine, a coastal town where the winters are cold and the hearts are warm.

Only a month after the death of her sister, Aileen gets an offer from the running club her sister founded. They want to hold a memorial 5K race in Kelty’s honor, and they’d like Aileen to be a part of it.

Although Aileen is a librarian who’s never run a day in her life, the club promises that running will help her feel closer to her sister’s memory. It doesn’t hurt that the guy who offers to train her is cute and tells fun stories. She agrees, although running three miles is the scariest thing she’s ever done in her life. Maybe she’ll read a few books about it first.

Trey has never held much to schedules. Life’s too short to tie yourself down. He’s got a flexible construction job that lets him help his brother who’s failing out of college…or that sweet new member whose grief and insecurity make him want to smooth out the road before her. He’d love to take away Aileen’s pain, and running together is the best way he knows. She has fun when she’s with him. If it leads to more, he’s all-in.

While Aileen becomes overwhelmed with settling out the details of her sister’s life (not to mention two houses full of furniture), Trey has no shortage of spontaneous adventures, whether it’s tidepooling or an impromptu concert. But time after time, when she needs him, all he gives are broken promises. That’s not going to work for a training program—or for a relationship. 

A 5K and a Kiss brings together an unlikely pair racing to find love somewhere between the starting line and the finish.

Read an Excerpt:

As he reached the top of the hill, Trey Pendleton slowed his pace to glance at the coastline. The brittle cold crept in around his neck, but man, was this place gorgeous. Early morning sunlight crashed into the ocean, and the rocks only barely held their heads above the full tide. At the edge of the coastline stood a lighthouse, framed by the sunrise.

Paradise should be like this, except about thirty degrees warmer.

He turned off the state route, but here it was uphill. It was a little late to have gone running, but he’d wanted the traffic to die down. His boss would understand. Actually, his boss wouldn’t understand, but the clients liked Trey. Then the boss would roll his eyes and tell Trey to join the crew and get to work, and hey, guess who got a run without the rush hour traffic?

Movement across the street caught his eye. What on earth…?

He took three more strides before stopping, and with his breath puffing off him like Vesuvius giving a rumble, he stared at a monster.

On the theory that you don’t get many monsters in Brighthead, Maine, he took a tentative step toward it. Then another.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a monster.

More unfortunately, it was a skunk with its head stuck in a peanut butter jar.

Animal Control wouldn’t answer the phones this early, and the cops would just try to call Animal Control. Actually, some of the cops Trey knew would tell him skunks made great pets, so just go ahead and pull the jar off.

Could he? Because that was obviously what someone had to do here. Skunks with jars on their heads couldn’t eat, probably couldn’t see too well, probably couldn’t breathe that great either. The thing was trying to wriggle out of this miniature cave that followed it everywhere, backing around the street where a car could just round the corner and kill it. If someone didn’t help, it would die.

A parade of helpers didn’t show up, so that meant Trey to the rescue. If he could.

Problem. Skunks spray people when they’re scared, even people with opposable thumbs who can pull peanut butter jars off their heads.

So, Objective A was saving the skunk, and Objective B was avoiding the loaded end. Eminently doable, his father would have said, although Trey took a moment to acknowledge that his father would say this with ease, seeing how his father wasn’t within six hundred miles.

“Hey, buddy,” Trey said. It was too ridiculously cold for this, plus his workout stats were wrecked. As he advanced, the skunk bounded forward in uneven jumps. Skunks weren’t normally out in the daytime. But they also weren’t normally clad in a plastic helmet, so no one was using the right playbook. “Dude, I’m going to get that thing off you,” he said, nervous when it pounced near him and then bounded away. “Just don’t spray me. You don’t need to thank me. Not stinking will be enough.”

Light on his feet, Trey moved toward where the skunk seemed to be headed. Look, life was short. The spray should wash off eventually, right? If nothing else, he’d have a great story to tell. So on his toes, he sprang forward and grabbed the jar.

He grasped it with both hands while the skunk struggled. Trey hadn’t taken a biology class in ages, but it stood to reason that the skunk couldn’t break its own neck. If he yanked, though, he might hurt it, and that would stink. Literally. So he held still while the skunk shifted and pulled and tugged and tried to back out—and then with an audible pop, it was free.

The thing fled into the brush. “You’re welcome!” Trey called after it.

Then shivering, he fled back toward his apartment, because geez, it was cold out here in running gear and a Lycra jacket.