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Britney's LOVE triangle; SEXY STAR TWO TIMED JUSTIN WITH ACTOR BEN.

Byline: DAVID JAMES

POP princess Britney Spears had a secret affair with Hollywood star Ben Affleck, it has been claimed.

And that's the shocking secret reason why *NSync star Justin Timberlake dumped her last March, US magazine Star said.

Justin, 21, was heartbroken and furious when he found out she had betrayed him with the Pearl Harbor star. The report also claimed that Ben was still romancing Britney at the same time his relationship with superstar Jennifer Lopez started to heat up.

Britney, who turned 21 last Tuesday, met Justin on the Disney Club and they dated for four years. But sources claim Ben had an on-off fling with Britney dating back to the end of 2000.

Until now the screen star has managed to keep his relationship a secret from fiancee J-Lo.

Britney and the Good Will Hunting actor met in 1999, and she was so taken by him that she instantly made her move.

She invited him to her June 31 concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles and to a private party held by her label Jive Records immediately after.

A witness said: "They flirted all night. Ben had his arms around Brit and she was just glowing."

But another source said their romance actually began the following summer after a game of strip poker at Ben's house in the Hollywood Hills.

The couple had met by chance earlier in the evening at Las Palmas, a trendy Mexican supper club in West Hollywood. They went back to his place with some of his friends - while Justin just happened to be out of town that night.

One of the players said: "The guys talked Britney into playing strip poker but some of them took advantage and cheated by dealing her losing hands.

"When it came time for her to take off her blouse all the guys launched into their own version of her song Baby One More Time, and were singing Strip For Me Baby One More Time.

"Britney couldn't understand why she kept losing. Then it dawned on her when she saw their faces. They were ready to burst with laughter.

"She roared hysterically herself and told them, 'Next time, I make the rules.' "

When the game was over Britney was left in nothing but a skimpy bra and frilly panties.

To make up for all the cheating, joker Ben stripped down to his jungle-print boxer shorts.

It is claimed Britney stayed on when everyone left to help Ben clean the place up. She gave him her phone number but didn't hear from him right away.

The singer checked with several of her pals and finally got a hold of Ben's mobile number. Then she called him up and invited him on a date.

A few weeks later, on October 5 2000, she and Ben met up again. They went to Holl-wood nightspot The Sunset Room, just before Britney was due to fly to start touring in Europe

Again, Justin was nowhere in sight.

Club patrons were shocked when the pair openly showed their affection for one another.

One partygoer said: "Britney and Ben were all over each kissing and being very touchy-feely.

"He was dressed pretty low-key but Britney was sexy in a tiny top and very tight pants."

The singer soon began to get more brazen about her feelings for Ben, talking openly about him to pals.

She told a friend: "I am totally hooked on Ben - he's so hot."

But sources said the screen star, who is 10 years older than Britney, was reluctant to get serious at the time because he felt she was too young for him at 18.

Ben was also busy being one of Hollywood's hottest playboys. He had an on-off affair with Gwyneth Paltrow while also seeing starlet Famke Janssen and rocker Courtney Love.

Another insider told the magazine: "With Britney, it started with a lot of heavy petting going on, but eventually became a full-blown romance."

Britney was careful to keep her fling from Justin, but Ben seemed to have no such concerns about their privacy. A source said his assistant twice walked in on him and Britney making out.

Then in December last year, Ben became infatuated with Jennifer Lopez while they were shooting the movie Gigli.

Her marriage to second husband Cris Judd soon crumbled, as did his relationship with Britney - but not before Ben and Britney had one last rendezvous. A source said: "It happened when Britney called Ben and invited him over for pizza and videos.

"She told some of her pals that he stayed over at her place."

But the report claims that Justin knew nothing of the affair until Britney blurted out the truth during a lover's tiff.

An insider said: "Justin had already heard rumours about an affair between Britney and Affleck, but he didn't believe them.

"At the time, he was blinded by love, and when he asked Britney about the rumours she assured him there was nothing to them.

"She said, 'Don't worry, I just like his movies'. Justin believed Britney. He loved her and he trusted her. He wanted to believe in her."

But her shocking confession came during a phone call while they were both on the road.

A friend said: "When Britney spitefully admitted she had been cheating on him, it broke Justin's heart.

"He was crushed and so angry that he ended it. I don't really know why she did it, and I don't think Justin knows, either.

"Justin just couldn't handle the betrayal. That's the real reason they split."

Ben Affleck's publicist called the allegations "rehashed bulls**t".

But in June last year Eminem recorded a track Aint' Nuttin' But Music on an album with rappers D12 that stated Ben and Britney were lovers.

CAPTION(S):

SECRET ATTRACTION: Movie star Ben Affleck; HEARTBROKEN: *NSync singer Justin Timberlake; OOPS: Britney told Justin the truth during an argument and he dumped her; NEW ROMANCE: Ben and J-Lo are engaged
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 6, 2002
Words:994
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