09/25/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
Eddie Murphy's annual family vacation in Hawaii is always the same: just a little R&R for the actor and his five children, ages 4 to 16, at his favorite $10,700-a-night luxury suite at Maui's Four Seasons Hotel. Except this year, he brought along someone new who's been spending a lot of time with him lately: singer Melanie Brown—also known to '90s pop fans as Scary Spice of the Spice Girls—and her 7-year-old daughter Phoenix Chi. During the weeklong trip in late August, the party of eight bonded while lounging poolside in private cabanas and dining out together at the island's branch of Spago. Brown even took the entire blended brood by herself to the beach one afternoon to go body surfing and boogie boarding. Says one onlooker: "There was a lot of togetherness between the families."
Could they be one big, happy family soon? Murphy—who divorced his wife of 12 years, Nicole Mitchell, in April—met the Leeds, England-bred Brown, who split from dancer Jimmy Gulzar in 2000, at a party in June. Since then they have kept their relationship quiet, but it's no secret that they're smitten. At a Fourth of July BBQ Murphy hosted at his Beverly Hills home, the pair "were very loving and cute together," says a source. And Murphy, 45, recently escorted Brown, 31, to his favorite haunt, L.A.'s Laugh Factory, where "they were very cozy," says a witness. Says Brown's mother, Andrea: "They are both very happy."
And quickly getting serious. The British singer is spending more time at her L.A. house to be close to the actor. Murphy—who is earning early Oscar buzz for his turn in Dreamgirls—already has his family on board. "[Eddie] seems very happy with her, and that's what's important to me," says Murphy's big brother Charlie. "He's in a good place. If she does that [for him], then that's great."