Public Displays of Afflection

updated 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Two love scenes played out on a recent Sunday morning on the Beverly Hills set of Man About Town. In one, star Ben Affleck nuzzled onscreen paramour Rebecca Romijn while the cameras rolled. Then the crew and a few fans watched Affleck in a real-life PDA with girlfriend Jennifer Garner, who showed up early, newspaper in hand. "He was pretty relaxed. Between takes, they were smiling and holding each other," says one observer. "They didn't seem to care [that people were watching]. They looked really happy, looking into each other's eyes."

Deep gazes seem pretty normal for a couple at their giddy stage—their romance is coming up on seven months. But is there more to this pair, both 32, than meets their love-locked eyes? A school pal of Garner's speculates that they could get engaged as soon as Valentine's Day. "It's my understanding that he's going to give her a ring," says the friend, who adds, "I don't know for sure."

Affleck did present his sweetie with a "pair of expensive earrings" for Christmas, says a Garner friend in West Virginia, where the couple spent a low-key holiday at her parents' house. (It wasn't their first visit to her hometown. Last September they were spotted there catching a movie, Garden State, and grabbing cappuccinos at a local bookstore.)

There are other signs that the couple is growing closer. In November Affleck bought a 4,500-sq.-ft, five-bedroom country-style home just two miles from Garner's Brentwood, Calif., lair. They are often seen in the neighborhood shopping for groceries at Vicente Foods, refueling at Jamba Juice and Starbucks ("Jennifer never wears any makeup and always looks healthy," raves one barrista) or renting flicks to make it a Blockbuster's night.

Cocooning may be a comfort to Affleck. He's producing a third season of Project Greenlight, debuting on Bravo next month, but he just earned three Razzie "worst performance" nods for Jersey Girl and Surviving Christmas. Garner's latest film Elektra also landed with a thud—its $14.8 million opening weekend was beaten even by Catwoman. She's rebounding with a strong Alias season, but Affleck, says one industry source, "has to spend more time getting good material and less time wooing gorgeous girls."

Offscreen, though, there's no doubt—Affleck is doing just fine in the role of romantic leading man. He and Garner are "like high school sweethearts," says a source. "They're very lovey-dovey."

Allison Adato. Brenda Rodriguez, Lycia Naff, Kwala Mandel and Cynthia Wang in Los Angeles, Amy Robinson in Charleston, W. Va., and Samantha McIntyre in New York City

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