The writing may have been on the wall—but it wasn’t in the painting. At the Head to Hollywood party at L.A. boutique Kitson on Sept. 27, Paris Hilton purchased a piece of pop art depicting her with fiancé Paris Latsis. The couple were surrounded by angels holding a banner that said “True Love.” “Paris would love this,” she told the salesperson. But Hilton wasn’t wearing her engagement ring. Three days later she had shed her fiancé too. And by the weekend she was kissing and holding hands with another man, Stavros Niarchos III, a young Greek, like Latsis, with an Olympic-size family fortune.
The demise of Paris Squared, as Hilton and Latsis had become known in some circles, hardly came as a shock. Dating since December 2004, the two became engaged four months ago and were photographed together in Athens, London and Los Angeles. “He’s the one,” Hilton said in May. But in recent weeks, Hilton, 24, began showing up frequently at events and parties without Latsis, 22, by her side (see box). On Sept. 30 she announced the engagement was kaput. Sources close to her say she was consumed with her busy schedule and became wary of marriage. “She didn’t want to make a mistake with the whole world watching,” says her aunt, actress Kyle Richards. “When Paris gets married she wants it to be forever.” A romance was rumored with music producer Scott Storch, who worked with her on her upcoming debut album and squired her around Miami during the MTV VMAs in August. But Hilton always denied it That’s “the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” says a friend of Hilton’s. “Paris Hilton would never touch Scott Storch.”
Stavros Niarchos might be a different story. Hours after the breakup was announced, Hilton partied at Spider Club in Hollywood, where she met up with a group that included Niarchos. The next night, he joined Hilton, sister Nicky and their entourage for dinner at the Lodge before meeting up later at hot spot Element. At the club they “danced and did shots of tequila all night long,” says an observer. “They were all cuddled up. They kissed. She was totally happy.” A model and kite-boarder who previously dated Mary-Kate Olsen, Niarchos has been friends with Hilton for two years, which is all she says they are. “I hang out with a lot of guy friends,” Hilton told PEOPLE.
“I’m just having fun right now. I don’t have time for a relationship.”
Small comfort to Latsis, who hasn’t called off rumored plans to produce three films starring Hilton.
“Right now is a very tough time for me,” he said in a statement. “I love Paris very much. This was the best experience of my life.”
For her part, Paris has nothing but kind words for Paris. “I will always love him,” says Hilton. “He treated me like a princess the entire time. I love how he’s handling this like a gentleman. I really respect that.”
Chris Strauss. Dimi Gaidatzi in London, Bryan Alexander, Margi Blash, Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna, Amy Elisa Keith, Kimberly Lansing, Marisa Laudadio and Lycia Naff in Los Angeles and Peter Mikelbank in Paris
THE FIRST HINTS OF TROUBLE…
Paris Latsis? Paris who?
At a post-Emmy party last month, Hilton’s parents Rick and Kathy were asked about daughter Nicky’s boyfriend, Entourage actor Kevin Connolly. Rick immediately volunteered: “We love him.” Added Kathy: “He’s charming, he’s likable, and he’s kind. I like to see someone make it on his own.” As for the family-funded Latsis? Said Kathy: “I really don’t know what he’s like.”
Paris Hilton? Paris who?
Greek politician Gregoris Kasidokostas, Latsis’s father, told PEOPLE Sept. 23: “We [he and his ex-wife Marianna Latsis] don’t want Paris to be thinking about marriage and family.” His reaction to the breakup? “We welcomed the news. They were like night and day, complete opposites. Everything is fine now.”
Once a party girl…
Despite telling Vanity Fair that she’d given up her club-hopping lifestyle in favor of quiet nights at home with Latsis, Hilton was frequently spotted, in the past few weeks, frolicking at L.A. hot spots Nacional, Mood and the Tropicana Bar sans fiancé. She was also the only Paris in Vegas on Sept. 24, when she joined her parents at the opening of Tao Las Vegas at the Venetian.