By Dave Quinn
October 31, 2017 09:20 AM
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Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez‘s red-hot romance has been going strong since the two started dating in February. But it turns out the two may not have gotten together if Lopez hadn’t taken a chance and approached Rodriguez when she saw him walk by while having lunch in Beverly Hills.

“It was just one of those things where you feel compelled to do something you wouldn’t normally do,” Lopez, 48, told Vanity Fair in the cover story to the December issue, published Tuesday. “I almost yelled out ‘Alex,’ but I am the shyest person when it comes to things like that.”

Instead, Lopez — who had met Rodriguez 12 years earlier when her then-husband, Marc Anthony, threw out the first pitch at a baseball game — decided instead to follow Rodriguez outside where he was facing away from her. “I could literally just have walked away. But I walk over and tap him on the shoulder and say ‘Hey.’ ”

“I had just come from a promo for my show, Shades of Blue, so I’m dressed like my character, like a boy — Timberlands, jeans, curly short hair,” Lopez continued. “He looks at me. I say, ‘It’s Jennifer.’ He says, ‘You look so beautiful.’ ”

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez when they first met in 2005
Anthony J. Causi/ Splash News Online

It turns out that tap on the shoulder would change it all for Lopez and Rodriguez, 42. He would call and ask her to dinner. Their first date was at the Hotel Bel-Air days later.

“He was sitting there in his white shirt, very confident and manly, but then he was just so talkative!” Lopez recalled. “I think he thought I was going to be this loud person, but I’m not. I just listen. So he’s talking, talking about his plans, about how he had just retired from baseball, about how he saw himself getting married again, all these things you wouldn’t normally talk about on a first date. I don’t know if he thought it was a date. I thought it was a date.”

Rodriguez, in fact, was being so candid is because he didn’t know if the two were on a date.

“Maybe we were seeing each other at night because of her work schedule? I went in uneasy, not knowing her situation,” Rodriguez confessed, adding that he thought it would be “incredibly productive” to have dinner with “one of the smartest, greatest women in the world” either way. “I thought it would be a win-win no matter what.”

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images For Entertainment Weekl

He learned quickly enough. “She told me around the third or fourth inning that she was single,” Rodriguez remembered. “I had to get up and go re-adjust my thoughts. I went to the bathroom and got enough courage to send her a text.”

The text message? “You look sexy AF,” Lopez said, laughing with Rodriguez.

Their evening may have been heating up, but things cooled down quickly. “The fire alarm went off, and we had to evacuate,” Lopez said.

Mario Testino/Vanity Fair

It’s a charming first date story, but just one of the many examples Lopez and Rodriguez’s relationship has felt so easy. It’s helped that they’ve lived parallel lives in many ways, and appear to understand one another perfectly.

“We are very much twins,” Rodriguez said of his girlfriend. “We’re both Leos; we’re both from New York; we’re both Latino and about 20 other things.”

“I understand him in a way that I don’t think anyone else could, and he understands me in a way that no one else could ever,” Lopez said. “In his 20s, he came into big success with the biggest baseball contract [at the time]. I had a No. 1 movie and a No. 1 album and made history. We both had ups and downs and challenges in our 30s, and by our 40s we’d both been through so much. And more importantly than anything, we had both done a lot of work on ourselves.”

“The most impressive thing to me was how he did pick himself up and take that opportunity to make himself a better person,” Lopez added, looking back on the struggles they had both had in their last. “The hardest times prove who you are. That’s what I love and admire the most about Alex. He doesn’t let anything beat him. He just comes back stronger.”

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez
Kevin Mazur/Getty

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The couple, who say they are homebodies, have been merging their families together — including Lopez’s 9-year-old twins Max and Emme and Rodriguez’s daughters, Natasha, 12, and Ella, 9.

They also said they believe that if they had been single when they first met years ago, their relationship wouldn’t have worked.

“We had to grow and discover ourselves first,” Lopez said. “A lot of people I’ve met in my life, they don’t appreciate what they’re doing and how amazing it is … not the greatness of the house, but the moment of sitting there with someone you love, with a family, with healthy kids.”

“We’re really good at reminding each other [to appreciate life],” Rodriguez said.