But the ride ended abruptly at the end of October, when Martin, 50, moved out of Shepherd's 8,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style Encino, Calif., home, where he had lived with the former Cybill and Moonlighting star and her three children for the past four years. "It was sudden," says Shepherd's publicist Heidi Schaeffer. "She's devastated."
The split also took some of Shepherd's colleagues by surprise. "I thought he was a supportive, good partner for her," says Cybill executive producer Jay Daniel. "He had a calming influence on her. In terms of seeing this coming," he adds, "I saw no indication."
Shepherd, who balances her acting with a successful singing career, first met Martin during her 1994 cabaret tour when he played in her band. He moved in soon after, and by January 1996 she was calling Martin her fiancé, even though there was never a formal announcement or wedding date. In fact, when PEOPLE asked Shepherd last year when they might marry, she joked, "I like the idea of 2015." Then she added, "I'm afraid of marriage. I'm not good at it."
Not that she hasn't tried to get it right. Shepherd and her first husband, David Ford, an auto-parts dealer and father of her 19-year-old daughter, Clementine, were divorced in 1982 after a four-year marriage. And in 1990, her three-year marriage to Dr. Bruce Oppenheim, a chiropractor and father of her twins, Ariel and Zachariah, now 11, also ended in divorce.
Still, says Cybill's Daniel, Shepherd has a happy knack of staying on good terms with former lovers. "In Cybill, her two ex-husbands cared for her, and I based that concept on Cybill's real life," says Daniel. "I wouldn't be surprised if she and Robert remain friendly."