With that, Anthony let his feelings be known—and now that his divorce from Torres, his wife of four years, is final, the road seems smooth for Anthony and the artist formerly known as J.Lo to move their romance into higher gear. Especially intriguing: the square-cut diamond ring Lopez has been spotted wearing on her left middle finger. One source close to Lopez says that the new bauble is a "friendship ring" from Anthony, "but it's setting the stage for the other ring—the engagement ring." The source adds that Anthony has been spotted browsing at L.A. jeweler Neil Lane and that Lopez has already sought the advice of Sharon Sacks, the planner who worked on both her wedding to Cris Judd and the aborted Ben Affleck nuptials. "They're engaged unofficially," says the source. "There's talk of a wedding." Asked when, the source replies, "Within six months."
But for now it's just talk—don't be fooled by the rock she's got. "Are they engaged? I'm pretty sure they're not," says Lynda Lopez, Jennifer's sister. Nonetheless, those close to Lopez, 34, and Anthony, 35, say they're serious. "They're in a good place," says a source, adding that Lopez, currently shooting the comedy Monster-in-Law with Jane Fonda, "is at her happiest because she's working.... After work she goes home to a guy that adores her. What's not to love?"
Still, with two failed marriages—and one failed Bennifer—behind her, the swiftness with which Lopez jumped back into a serious relationship seems to establish the glamor-loving star as a sort of 21st-century Elizabeth Taylor in search of Mr. Right. "I think she's convinced that the guy [she's with] is the right guy, [every] time," says her friend, photographer Gilles Bensimon. "Everything she does, she puts all her effort into it. I think she wants to build a family with somebody."
In Anthony—born Marco Antonio Muniz—Lopez finally may have found her match. "She grew up watching West Side Story starring a lot of triple-threat performers, and that's what Marc is," a source says of Anthony, who's acted on Broadway and recently costarred in the Denzel Washington drama Man on Fire. "He's not a pretty-boy Ricky Martin type. Marc has texture and a depth in a kind of career that Jennifer really wants to have, and she respects that in him."
And his affections for Lopez, whom he briefly dated in the late '90s, seem to have some history. "Is Marc head over heels in love with her?" asks a source close to them. "Yes. He always has been."
It's not hard to see the bond between the two. After all, his Marco-from-the-block story mirrors Lopez's in many ways: Like her, he was raised in New York City by parents of Puerto Rican descent. While a preteen Lopez was honing her dance skills, Anthony was pursuing a singing career; by his mid-teens he was working as a backup singer. "I could do it, but I wasn't the marketable cutie-pie," Anthony said of his early gigs. "I was the one with 'personality.'"
That personality—plus an outsized talent—helped the slight (5'7") singer break into the big time, just as Lopez's career was doing the same. In 1998 the pair appeared together in Anthony's video for "No Me Conoces" ("You Don't Know Me"); it was around that time they dated. But Lopez was headed for other high-profile pairings—first with P. Diddy, then with choreographer Cris Judd—and in '00 Anthony married Torres, 29, with whom he has two sons, Cristian, 3, and Ryan, 9 months. (He also has a daughter from a previous relationship.) In July '02 Anthony and Torres separated, only to renew their vows five months later. "I tend to gravitate to doing romantic things," Anthony told PEOPLE in 2001. The reunion would prove short-lived, and in February Anthony was hit with a paternity suit. (DNA evidence has excluded Anthony as the father; the case is still pending.)
But it was the timing of the renewed Lopez-Anthony pairing—in January, just as Bennifer broke up—that raised the most eyebrows. Her new love "isn't about spiting Ben," says a source close to the couple. "Whatever it was that was there is gone. His name never comes up. Never." Still, the source also says that the end of Lopez's relationship with Affleck "changed the rules for her. She got burned by Ben Affleck. She wanted that relationship to really work."
No doubt she feels the same way about her current relationship. So could Anthony make husband No. 3? "She's serious about the relationship," says an insider. "They're definitely going to get married." Pause. "Unless they break up before then."
Michelle Tauber. Kathy Ehrich and Joanne Fowler in New York City, Linda Trischitta in Miami, Kwala Mandel in Los Angeles and Alba Reyes in Santo Domingo
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]