In April's GQ, Rielle Hunter, John Edwards' mistress, breaks her silence about her affair with the former Democratic presidential candidate.
Contrary to reports, Hunter 45 - mother to their 2-year-old daughter Frances Quinn - says they never met in the lounge of The Regency in NYC.
But she says that's where they first locked eyes. "He saw me. And it was a mutual unusual staring going on," she tells GQ. "There was an instant and odd connection that we both felt. Like, 'I know you, you know me, who are you?' Anyway, he then got up and left."
She insists she didn't know it was him at the time. "The John Edwards I saw in 2004 on TV I believed to be a disconnected, two-dimensional-geek kind of guy," she says. "And the man sitting across the room was not that at all."
After she learned who he was, she slipped one of his associates a business card that read: "'Rielle Hunter. Being is free,'" she tells GQ.
When Edwards later spotted her "on the corner of 61st and Park Avenue," he "lit up like a Christmas tree," she says. "And I thought his reaction when he saw me was just so cute. I mean, he looked like a little kid at Christmas. And I just uttered to him, 'You're so hot.' And he said, 'Why, thank you!' And he almost jumped into my arms. Literally."
Hunter - who went on to work as a videographer on his campaign - says she told him, "'I can help you.' And he said, "I want your help. I need your help." And he told me how to contact him [at the Regency]. He said, 'Please call me.' I said, 'How long are you staying?' He said, 'Until tomorrow morning. Please, call me. Call me.'"
They eventually connected on the phone.
"He said that he really wanted to hear what I had to say. Would I mind, um, meeting him in his room? And I said, 'No, I wouldn't mind at all,'" she recalls. "And the reason I wouldn't is because he's a celebrity. I have a lot of celebrity friends, and I know their rules are different. Also, it felt completely familiar, like I'd known him all my life. Anyway, so I said, 'Let me eat my Caesar salad, and I'll see you in 15 minutes.' And I said to my friends, 'I'm going over there.' And it was funny, because they were like, 'You cannot sleep with him! You cannot sleep with him, because you can help him!' And I said, 'I am not going to sleep with him.' I gave them my word: 'I won't sleep with him.' [laughs] And so I went over to his room, and I walked in, and I. Was. Terrified."
"Because I had never experienced anything like what was flowing between us," she continues. "I sat on the other side of the room. I wouldn't go near him. And he kept saying [she mimics his southern drawl], 'What are you doin' over there? Come over here. I can't even see you. Come closer. I won't bite you.' I was just — there was sooo much attraction and sooo much… I want to say love, but it wasn't love at that point. You know, it was just this, this magnetic force field like I had never experienced. It terrified me. Absolutely terrified me. And, um, I eventually walked over to his side of the room. [laughs] He was pretty relentless. And that's all I'm gonna say on that! Now fade to black!"
He called her the next day, she says, and they "talked on the phone almost every night for four hours. We met on February 21. On February 25 — on the phone, from Davenport, Iowa — I fell in love with him. Head over heels in love. I was a goner."
She says she helped him keep the affair hidden from his breast cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth, 60, by buying him a second cellphone -- identical to his regular one -- for her to call him on.
But Elizabeth, suspicious he was having an affair with Hunter, discovered the second phone one day. When she dialed the last number called, "I answered the phone and said, 'Hey, baby.' And, click," Hunter recalls.
Elizabeth then "confronted him and confronted him, and he finally confessed," Hunter says.
Hunter says she initially had "problems" having an affair with a married man, but that their "force field of our love overrode any issues" she had.
Plus, she says: "Infidelity doesn't happen in healthy marriages. The break in the marriage happens before the infidelity. And that break happened, you know, two-and-a-half decades before I got there. So the home was wrecked already. I was not the Home Wrecker."
Adds Hunter, "I believe what happened in his marriage is, he could not go to his wife and say, "We have an issue." Because he would be pummeled. So he had a huge fear. Most of his mistakes or errors in judgment were because of his fear of the wrath of Elizabeth. He's allowed himself to be pushed into a lot of things that he wouldn't normally do because of Elizabeth's story line. And the spin that she wants to put out there. He was emasculated. And you know, the wrath of Elizabeth is a mighty wrath."
In July 2007, Hunter says she learned she was pregnant. Though Edwards said he would support her, "on some level, he was hoping I would get an abortion," Hunter says. "He wasn't happy about the timing. Which is understandable. He was married and running for president."
Hunter says Edwards has been a "sweet" and "very loving" father, adding that their daughter "calls him Da-da. She's always known who Da-da is. Yeah. She's never had Da-da missing from her life ... He very much wants to be in her life full—time, and he doesn't want to hide."
Now that Edwards and Elizabeth have separated, she says she has "no idea" if they'll wind up together. "I do know that I will love him and that love is till death do us part, and probably beyond," Hunter says. "We have a child together, so at the very least we will be co-parents together."
Looking back, she says she knew they had something special the night they met.
"We had an extraordinary night, and I did know that this was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced," she says. "And as we have all learned, that was accurate! [laughs] He in fact did say to me the first night, 'Falling in love with you could really f--k up my plans for becoming President.' And of course I said, 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.'"