04/19/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT
Cynthia Shackelford says the card her husband gave her on their 30th wedding anniversary was "mushy, with pink roses. It said how much he loved me." Months later came the late nights working with someone he insisted was "just a friend" and credit card bills showing expensive dinners. Finally, Cynthia, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., hired an investigator, who confirmed her fear: Allan, by then her husband of 32 years, was having an affair. And while some might have moved on, Cynthia moved to stop the other woman in her tracks. Using a law that exists in only seven states, Cynthia, 60, sued Anne Lundquist, 49, for "alienation of affection," claiming she destroyed their marriage. On March 16 a jury told Lundquist to pay up $9 million.
Allan Shackelford, 62, an attorney, who met Lundquist while consulting at a college where she worked, said on a newspaper message board that the marriage was over long ago. Lundquist, 49, who filed an appeal, didn't address guilt but says in court documents that she believes $1 is fair. (Both declined comment; public records show they left North Carolina and now both live in Aurora, N.Y.) But money was never the goal, says Cynthia: "I don't want other women out there thinking about cheating with someone they know is married." Besides, she adds, "I would much rather be with my husband today and have our marriage the way it was than have $9 million."