March 06, 2006 12:00 PM

Last spring Lloyd Eisler and his wife, Marcia, were happily anticipating the arrival of their second baby on a visit to their local Harley-Davidson dealership. The owners of his and hers bikes were beaming with joy as they picked up a teeny motorcycle jumpsuit for their little tyke, who was barely even a bump at the time. “They were such a great couple,” says Jamie Fitzgerald, who runs the Kingston, Ont., bike shop and frequently saw them out riding together. “They were always smiling and happy; it was obvious they were in love.”

What a difference a year makes. Now Eisler, the former World Champion pairs skater, is spinning around town with Kristy Swanson, the actress he got paired up with on FOX’s Skating with Celebrities. Currently separated from the mother of his two children (Seth, 10 weeks, and older brother Ethan, 21 months), Eisler, 42, is now openly dating the former Playboy playmate, 36, best known for starring in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Says their Skating competitor Bruce Jenner, who saw them at a recent press event: “They seem to be very happy.”

Oddly, chemistry was exactly what they were lacking on early episodes of the show, which premiered in January but taped in the fall. “I’d love to see more of a connection between the two of you,” said Skating judge Dorothy Hamill. She got her wish. In recent episodes they practically melt the ice. “Yeah, you’ve bonded, I believe,” said host Scott Hamilton of a particularly passionate performance that aired Feb. 13. According to one source on the set, the pair’s away-from-the-rink relationship was an open secret: “Everyone knew there was something going on. It was obvious they were together.” Well, not to everyone. “I just noticed that they got really good [at skating],” says Jenner. “I never knew anything until I saw it on the news.”

As for Marcia, 31, who visited the L.A. set last fall, she “felt a vibe that things weren’t normal,” says a friend of Eisler’s. Still, Marcia’s suspicions weren’t confirmed until, she claimed, Swanson forwarded her an e-mail that Eisler had sent her. (Neither Swanson nor Eisler will comment on either the e-mail or their relationship except to say that Eisler’s marriage was over before he started seeing Swanson.) Marcia confronted her husband, and on Nov. 5, Eisler moved out of his and Marcia’s home in tiny Bath, Ont. (population 1,000), to an apartment in Kingston, 15 miles away. “We became officially separated Nov. 30,” says Marcia, who gave birth to Seth two weeks later.

Eisler first met Marcia in 1995 (a year after he and pairs partner Isabelle Brasseur won their second Olympic bronze) at a bar where she worked in her native Kingston (a small city about 160 miles east of Toronto). She soon hung up her bar towel and became a Catholic-school teacher; on summer vacations they’d take trips together on Eisler’s Harley. In 2001 Eisler proposed during a bike trip in South Dakota. The two were married a year later. “Of all the comments we’ve heard about the wedding, the most common has been that the ceremony was incredible and that our vows brought everyone to tears,” Marcia notes in a section of Eisler’s Web site devoted to their wedding, a reminder of happier days, which remains online.

Still, it’s upward and onward for her. Although the couple have yet to get a divorce, she’s already gone back to her maiden name, Marcia O’Brien, and she’s also changed the children’s last names to hers. “She’s an amazing person,” says her father, Mike. “And she’s got all kinds of support and friends to lean on.” Cradling baby Seth on her shoulder as Ethan clings to her leg, Marcia says that despite everything, “I’m great—I’m doing really, really well.” Looking at her two children, she smiles. “I’m the lucky one in all this—I have my two boys.”

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