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Horstmann, 32, was the runner-up on season 14 of The Bachelorette, which featured Kufrin, 31, as the leading lady. During an interview on the Real Life with Kate Casey podcast on Friday, the Bachelor Nation alum admitted to speaking with the former publicist prior to her recent stint on BiP.
"We did kind of chat here and there, and we were back in touch within the last, like, six months," Horstmann said, noting "it kind of came down to if she was going to do Paradise or not."
Kufrin confirmed her split from ex-fiancé Garrett Yrigoyen in September 2020 and moved to Los Angeles for a fresh start. Hortsmann said he was "actually shocked" to learn that the couple's romance didn't last.
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"I always thought they would never break up. So like, I completely put her out of my head. It was never something, like, 'When they break up …' because I never thought they would," he admitted during the podcast. "When they did, it was, like, this weird thing of, 'Well, I wonder if there's anything still there?'"
Horstmann said he "would be willing to talk" to his ex if she ever circled back, though it's not something he ever anticipated. For now, Horstmann is waiting to see "how Paradise works out" for Kufrin, though he isn't sold on the idea that Bachelor producers would be keen on the idea of them linking back up.
"The show doesn't like me, the show doesn't want to see us together," he said, adding that the franchise is "kind of her life" at this point. "She has, like, the ABC podcast [Bachelor Happy Hour]. That's kind of her thing. She is very much involved in that show. We'll see."
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In a promo for season 7 of BiP, Kufrin is seen chatting with Thomas Jacobs, the villain from Katie Thurston's season of The Bachelorette. At one point in the clip, she is heard telling Jacobs "I can't stop smiling," while on an apparent date.
Hortsmann told Kate Casey that contestants are sometimes "insecure" about being led on by producers while being filmed in what he calls the Bachelor bubble.
"We are worried that, like — I've talked to a lot of people and they're worried at the time, like while you're in it like, 'Do I just like her because the producers tell me or do I just like her because all the other guys like her so much?' It's more of a competition," he explained. "And so there were moments where I would ask myself [if he felt led on by producers]. I actually kept a journal throughout my experience. And there were times — if I went back and read it — there were times when I was like, 'Do I love her or do I just love her because blah blah blah blah?'"
Looking back at it now, he knows he was truly in love with Kufrin, which he suggests makes him "quite unique" as a former runner-up on the ABC reality show.
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"I think there are a lot of, even people who got second [place] look back and are like, 'She's an amazing woman, but I wasn't in love,'" he told Casey, adding there were "specific moments" in his experience where the Bachelorette backdrop briefly faded away.
"I was in love, and I'm not afraid to admit that," he told Casey. "I think some guys also — and women, for that matter — have a sense of pride like, 'No, I wasn't in love because I got dumped,' or whatever, like, 'I wasn't really in love.' I'm comfortable enough to be like, 'I was in love. And I got dumped, and that happens.' But no, I definitely thought she was the one, and it just didn't work out."