August 19, 2013 12:00 PM

Walking onstage for an X Factor panel at a Television Critics Association gathering on Aug. 1, the always-confident Simon Cowell appeared shaken. As he addressed a packed room of reporters, “he was smiling but jittery,” says an audience member. “He looked nervous.” And with good reason. The day before, shocking news broke that the TV honcho, 53, is expecting his first child, with Lauren Silverman, 36, the wife of Cowell’s close friend, real estate mogul Andrew Silverman, 37 – and that Andrew named Cowell as an adulterer in his divorce filing. Suddenly the man who became famous for his brutally honest opinions was being judged by the world. “He’s a very private person and is disgusted that so much information is leaking out,” says a source close to Cowell. “He’s upset that news of him becoming a father has turned into a dirty drama.”

Asked about the scandal immediately after the panel, Cowell told PEOPLE, “There are a lot of things I will eventually clear up when the time is right, but I really have to be sensitive because there’s a lot of people’s feelings involved here.” Not to mention his own: A confirmed bachelor who has in the past expressed his lack of interest in parenting, Cowell is privately reeling. “He never expected this [pregnancy] to happen,” says a music insider. “It caught him by complete surprise.” Adds the source close to Cowell: “He’s always been honest about having no desire to settle down.”

How did the father-to-be get himself into this situation? The British TV personality met the Silvermans in 2007 while vacationing at the Caribbean resort Sandy Lane. “It was an instant friendship,” says Lauren’s pal Tanya Zuckerbrot. “They stayed in touch and traveled together.” According to those close to the mega-rich New York couple, the Silvermans’ marriage was rocky from the start. His parents did not approve of Lauren and boycotted their wedding: “They felt she was a gold digger,” says a source close to the elder Silvermans. But Zuckerbrot says nothing could be further from the truth: “Lauren couldn’t care less about social status. Her heart’s a good one.”

By 2012 Lauren was described in Tom Bower’s biography on Cowell as his “closest confidant,” and she popped up at events with Cowell, without her husband, but alongside a gaggle of Cowell’s current and ex-girlfriends (see box). “Their friendship turned romantic a few months ago,” says the source close to Cowell. “Simon feels bad that he was intimate with a married woman, but it was his understanding that they were separated.” When Lauren got pregnant, says the music insider, “I think he felt trapped. He was freaked out.”

Andrew found out earlier this summer, and he promptly filed for divorce from Lauren, asking for sole custody of their 7-year-old son Adam. “When you name a corespondent in a divorce proceeding, it’s like saying, ‘I’m furious and I’m going to bring you down,’ ” says New York divorce attorney Marilyn Chinitz, who is not involved in the case. With the New York and U.K. tabloids churning out new, tawdry headlines daily, everyone involved is hoping to reach a quick end to the drama. “Simon asked Lauren to figure things out with Andrew in a quiet way,” says the source close to Cowell.

As for what the future holds for Cowell and Lauren, the source close to Cowell says, “Simon is not thinking of marrying Lauren, and there’s no plans for them to merge lives.” Still, a Cowell insider says they’re “absolutely a couple” and “happy and committed to each other and the baby,” despite being miles apart since the news broke, with Cowell flying to France on Aug. 3 and Silverman remaining on the East Coast. But only time will tell how the jet-setting, multimillionaire TV personality will handle diaper duty when the baby arrives next March. “It took some getting used to,” says the source close to Cowell, “but he is excited to become a father.”

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