While Jessica Simpson is going out and having fun with her sister Ashlee Simpson and ex-boyfriend John Mayer, showing off how happy she is might be serving another purpose — to make her ex-husband Nick Lachey just a little bit jealous.

Although John may be the perfect Mr. Right Now — the two recently hung out at Katsuya — she knows her Mr. Right was, is and always will be Nick. As every woman knows, having a public affair with a sexy rocker would make any man jealous. And Jess’ night with John, who has a habit of broadcasting his affairs to the press and on Twitter (hello, Jennifer Aniston!), just might make Nick — who has been spotted with Jess look-alike Holly Letchworth — take notice.

“Nick is the guy Jess knew she should be with, but they were too young and their lives catapulted so quickly into fame that they never seemed to be able to catch up,” a pal says of the Newlyweds co-stars, who ended their three marriage in 2005. “She’s changed so much since they split and found out a lot about herself.”

That includes realizing she still has feelings for Nick.

“He’ll always hold a special place in her heart. It was her first love,” the pal says of their marriage. “Jess isn’t sure if Nick would give her a chance at this point, but she’d love to be friends. She says a part of her will always love him.”

For more on Jessica, John and Nick, pick up the new issue of OK! — on sale everywhere Thursday!

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