February 27, 2006 12:00 PM

At most events thrown by designer Donatella Versace, plunging necklines and thigh-flashing gowns grab the spotlight. Not so at the glittering reopening of Versace’s flagship boutique on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue on Feb. 7, where all eyes were on a 6′2″ blond with broad shoulders, a chiseled jawline and—oh yes—Halle Berry on his arm. While celebs such as Jennifer Lopez, Kate Hudson and Nicolas Cage worked the room, Berry, 39, and her new boyfriend, Canadian model Gabriel Aubry, 30, let go of each other’s hands only once (to flank their hostess on a couch) during the party. “Oh my God, it’s like you can read it on their faces,” says a pal of Aubry. “They are so smitten.”

And have been since they met shooting a Versace ad in L.A. in November. A month earlier, Berry was still seeing ex-beau Michael Ealy, her costar in the TV movie Their Eyes Were Watching God. But at the shoot, says Aubry’s friend, they noticed each other “in a big way.” By Christmas, when Aubry flew to Montreal to spend the holiday with his father, Gérard, 62, and his eight brothers and sisters, he spoke of Berry “with brilliance in his voice,” says Gérard. Showing that kind of emotion is unusual for Gabriel, who overcame a tough childhood—he lived with five foster families between the ages of 3 and 18 until moving in with his dad—before rising to the top of the modeling world. Says Nadia Canova, whose Montreal-based Montage Models Inc. discovered Aubry, then a cook, in 1997 at a Quebec ski resort: “He’s a very quiet person, with good values.”

And excellent taste in wine. Last month, the Manhattan resident squeezed in time during fashion week in Milan, says his friend, to “buy a few bottles of red he knew Halle would enjoy.” Meanwhile Berry, who is in the city filming the thriller Perfect Stranger with Bruce Willis, skipped out of a Feb. 10 dinner party in NoHo because Aubry had an early shoot the next day. When asked about the romance by PEOPLE, Berry playfully zipped her lips. But Aubry is clear about his feelings, says his dad: “He told me he was in love.”

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