"I know he loves me," Hunter, 45, tells GQ in a lengthy new interview. "I have never had any doubt at all about that. We love each other very much. And that hasn't changed, and I believe that will be till death do us part. The love doesn't go away. It's unconditional."
That love began on the night she met Edwards, 56 – and first slept with him – in February 2006. "I had never experienced anything like what was flowing between us. I sat on the other side of the room. I wouldn't go near him," she says. "It was just this, this magnetic force field like I had never experienced. It terrified me. Absolutely terrified me."
Hunter, hired as a videographer for Edwards's 2008 presidential campaign, describes the ensuing saga in detail – how she became pregnant in May 2007, Edwards's initial denials of paternity (it took until this January for him to admit it), his continuing presidential ambitions, the convoluted plan for Edwards aide Andrew Young to claim paternity, and the end of the affair in July 2008, when the National Enquirer published photos of Edwards, Hunter and baby Frances Quinn at the Beverly Hilton.
Denies She's a Home WreckerHunter says she feels "such compassion" for Edwards's wife Elizabeth, who has battled breast cancer since 2004 – and stood by her husband for several years before separating this year. But Hunter adds: "Infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages. The break in the marriage happens before the infidelity. And that break happened, you know, two and a half decades before I got there. So the home was wrecked already. I was not the Home Wrecker."
Echoing Edwards's denials that he recently proposed to her, Hunter says they have not – "to date" – discussed wedding plans. Their primary focus, she says, is their daughter, whom Edwards is now helping to raise.
"He is doing the right thing," she says. "And he's a great father. Once Johnny and Elizabeth separated, we were able to move forward quite quickly. And it has to do with him not hiding in order to see his daughter. He very much wants to be in her life full-time, and he doesn't want to hide."
She adds that the public has misjudged her – "I'm not a predator, I'm not a gold digger, I'm not the stalker," she says – and that Edwards has actually redeemed his life, not ruined it, by leaving a marriage and a career for which he wasn't well suited.
"Everyone talks about how Johnny has fallen from grace," Hunter says. "In reality, he's fallen to grace. He is integrated. He is living a life of truth. He has grown in awareness and humility. He had all these things within him, but they weren't the guiding, leading principles of his life. Now they are."
Does she see herself living happily ever after with him? "I have no idea," Hunter says. "I do know that I will love him and that love is till death do us part, and probably beyond. We have a child together, so at the very least we will be co-parents together."
Paul Adao / INF; Charles Eshelman / FilmMagic