Hayden Panettiere's Relationship with Brian Hickerson Is More Than Just a 'Dalliance': Source

Hayden Panettiere‘s romance with Brian Hickerson is progressing.

Though the Nashville actress, 29, and her aspiring actor boyfriend’s romance may have started as a fling, according to a source, they’ve gotten more serious.

“Hayden really likes Brian, has a great time with him, and the romance has gone past a dalliance,” the source tells PEOPLE.

“She was first attracted to him because he was hot and different, and now she is pretty interested in him,” the source adds.

The pair was first linked in August, when they were seen grabbing dinner together in Los Angeles shortly after reports circulated that the actress and ex-fiancé Wladimir Klitschko, with whom she shares 4-year-old daughter Kaya, had split.

Since then, they’ve been photographed together on numerous date nights.

“Hayden has responsibilities of her own,” the source shares, “but also needs an outlet to make her feel special.”

And she’s enjoying spending time with Hickerson.

“She is young, and Brian seems to be a take-charge person in a different way than Wlad was, which she needs,” the source explains.

Still, the source is uncertain if their relationship “will lead any further” and believes it may be “better” for the star to focus on herself and “spend as much time with her daughter as she can.”

In December, Hickerson defended their romance following a report that Panettiere’s friends were concerned about the coupling.

“Just to be clear, Hayden’s friends and family are not worried about her at all,” Hickerson said in a statement to Access.

“Hayden is happy and healthy and so is our relationship,” the South Carolina native continued. “That is all I will comment on so please respect my privacy. Have a great day.”

The rumor came weeks after Panettiere, Hickerson and his father were all reportedly involved in a dispute in October.

Although names were redacted, a police report obtained by PEOPLE from the Greenville City Police Department states that officers responded to a call for assault and battery at approximately 11:44 p.m. on Oct. 25 at a residence in South Carolina. The actress’ reps did not return PEOPLE’s requests for comment at the time.

Last week, the couple stepped out for a date night attended a screening of the new documentary Sharkwater Extinction at the Arclight Theatre in Los Angeles and held hands as they left the theater together.

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