10/02/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
One thing you can say for Nicole Kidman: The woman knows how to keep a secret. Throughout the summer, the Oscar-winning actress dismissed inquiries of a romance with rocker Lenny Kravitz with "we're-just-friends" denials. Yes, she was renting his apartment, but please don't get the wrong idea. Meanwhile, the two befuddled photographers by arriving and exiting hot spots around Manhattan at separate times. A coincidence, naturally – celebs often stumble over each other at the coolest places. Over the weekend of Sept. 19, however, the couple popped up at several high-profile events, including a tribute to Gregory Hines at the Apollo theater. The buzz increased accordingly. Then, on Sept. 30, the pair finally came clean: Kidman had indeed fallen for her leather-trousered landlord. Reps deny reports that the couple are engaged but won't discuss persistent buzz that the two will announce an engagement in the near future. "They're very close," says her spokeswoman Leslee Dart. "He's very important to her. Beyond that, I don't know."
In retrospect, a romance between Kidman, 36, and Kravitz, 39, was in bloom to anyone who saw them together at an intimate dinner party at Tavern on the Green on Sept. 13 or at magician David Copperfield's birthday party at Tao restaurant six days later or at Kidman pal Naomi Watts's birthday bash at the hip Tribeca eatery 66 on Sept. 25. "They were always touching each other," says one Tavern on the Green witness of the "flirtatious" demeanor that's grown since Kidman (in town shooting the big-budget comedy The Stepford Wives, costarring Matthew Broderick) first sublet the rocker's SoHo digs while work continues on her own $8 million West Village apartment. Adds another: "They were gazing at each other all night long. She was sitting on his lap, massaging his leg. They were eating off each other's plates."