When we invited readers to send in questions for Heather Locklear, there were two topics you couldn’t resist. One was how the consummate California girl, who turned 46 on Sept. 25, looks so fabulous. The other? Her love life. Curled up on a couch in her dressing room on the set of the CBS sitcom Rules of Engagement (she guest-stars in two episodes starting Oct. 1, with a possibility of more), Locklear giggles and blushes as she talks about her new boyfriend: Jack Wagner, who turns 48 on Oct. 3. The former Melrose Place costars began stepping out in March, about a year after Locklear split with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, her husband of 11 years. Welcoming and warm (she insists on sharing her steak and beet salad and apologizes profusely for double-dipping in the horseradish dressing), Locklear laughs off questions about Rules star—and her oft-rumored pre-Wagner paramour—David Spade. “He’s a great friend. He was there during a very important time in my life,” says Locklear, who weathered a tough period around her divorce (Sambora went on to date Locklear’s former friend Denise Richards; he and Richards have since split). “He’s always had my back.” Between gushing about Wagner and her daughter Ava, who turns 10 on Oct. 4, Locklear tackled your questions with PEOPLE’s Alexis Chiu.
You and Jack make a ‘beautiful couple’. When you were working on Melrose Place, did you ever think you two were meant for each other?
God, no! Never, ever, ever. We were just very good friends. I did think, “Wow—he’s so funny and his wife [ex Kristina; they divorced in 2006 and have two sons, Harrison, 11, and Peter, 17] is lucky and he’s lucky.” That’s all. He [told the press] I was a good kisser, but he [recently told me], “Actually, you weren’t. You just kissed, like, eh.” I said, “‘Cause I was married!”
You married Richie Sambora and Tommy Lee, and Jack had a hit song [’All I Need’ in 1984]. Do you gravitate toward musicians?
Los Angeles, Calif.
I think they gravitate toward me [laughing]. I don’t think I knew Jack sang until he forced his CD on me when I first met him! I didn’t listen to it.
What is it like dating Jack Wagner?
It’s incredible. It’s wonderful, and exciting, and blossoming…. It’s insane! I deserve it. Not saying anything bad about anyone [I dated] before; it’s just that it’s like, ‘Wow, this just feels so right—now.’ … He’s very nurturing. He teases a lot, like my brother. We’re kind of bratty and very similar and so we laugh all the time, which doesn’t sound romantic … but the flip side is, he’s very hot.
You just turned 46. What are your secrets to still looking so fabulous?
I stay out of the sun and sleep in soft sheets. I try and stay positive. And stay around happy people, positive people like my daughter.
Do you work out on a regular basis?
Hmm … I’m going to do that right after this episode, get back on the treadmill and elliptical machine. Actually weights are the most important to keep toned. I love sports—not that I’m good—but I’ll golf, go to the batting cage, rock climb. I stay active.
Who’s the better golfer: you or Jack?
He’d say it’s him. Men would say it’s him. I imagine it’s me.
What’s the biggest challenge of growing older, and how do you handle it?
You can’t go back, so just look forward. Know that this is your time—now—so use it wisely. And don’t look in the mirror much.
What’s the most important value you want to instill in Ava?
Loyalty. And faith in herself. I hope from me she gets lightness—not taking herself too seriously. My daughter, she just knows what’s right. She’s watched a lot. She’s smart, soulful and just a great girl.
How have you managed to stay friends with Richie [Sambora, her ex-husband]?
I love Richie and nothing’s going to stop that. There are certainly rough spots. We try our best. We’re human. I think for kids, you just have to show that the main thing is Mommy and Daddy’s breakup is between the two of us. Also, we had a great time. Can’t take that away…. And he’s so close, he’s almost living in my backyard.
What’s your diet like, and what’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I love red meat. I try not to eat too much, especially for Ava—she eats fruits and vegetables, which I wasn’t big on [as a kid]. But I never feel guilty about food. I love half-melted vanilla ice cream doused with chocolate syrup. So good.
How do you release stress?
Los Angeles, Calif.
Stress relievers are a bath or a massage. Also massaging Jack’s feet, or my daughter’s. I go, “Can I rub your feet?” and Jack goes [incredulously], “You’re the best girlfriend.”
Do you wish the big hair of the ’80s would come back in style?
It helps my head shape! I could put a beer on my flat head. Ava will go, “Mom, why is your hair puffy?” Ava’s got this big, round, perfect head. But on me, the puff works!
Do you want to be married again one day?
New Iberia, La.
I was married for 20 solid years. Honestly, it makes me shake—the idea—because it feels like [I have] a certain amount of freedom…. Part of me probably would do it tomorrow. If Jack said, “Let’s get married,” I’d go, “Okay!” But I have a daughter to consider. I’m trying to be a thoughtful role model and not selfish.
Will you be doing a Melrose Place reunion?
Port Orchard, Wash.
I’m doing a reunion right in my house! That’s the best reunion. Can’t get any better.