Continuing her search for The One. Rachel Recchia had an immediate connection with Clayton Echard during season 26 of The Bachelor, and their chemistry took her all the way to the final three. Now, she’s one of the season 19 Bachelorette leads.
The flight instructor, 25, caught Clayton’s eye on night one. Looking back on their first meeting, the former football player, 28, told Us Weekly in January that Rachel was a “calming presence.”
“When I spoke with her, [the] conversation wasn’t forced, it was very natural,” he explained. “That was one of those conversations night one where I walked out of there, along with other conversations I had, and I was like, ‘I’m already feeling good about these girls early on, like, where could we be at the end of all of it?’ This is great to see night one.”
Clayton and Rachel’s connection grew stronger every time they were together. She landed her first one-on-one date during the January 31 episode and later received back-to-back group date roses.
The Florida resident secured a place in the Bachelorette season 18 alum’s final three alongside Gabby Windey and Susie Evans during the episode. In promos for the end of the season, Clayton told all of the remaining women that he is in love with them.
In the finale, both Gabby and Rachel were sent home so Clayton could reconnect with Susie after her abrupt departure, which was caused by her learning Clayton was “intimate” with both Gabby and Rachel.
After Rachel made her exit, she dropped a bombshell accusation on Clayton. “You told me that I was the first person that you said ‘I love you’ to in six years. I had no reason to ever doubt you,” she said. “So did you tell me that you were in love with me because you wanted to sleep with me?”
Clayton told Us in December 2021 that he no longer uses “absolutes” after confessing his love to his final three.
“I kind of started laughing in disbelief. I don’t know if it was a nervous — I think it was a nervous laugh,” he recalled of acknowledging his feelings for multiple women. “But you know what, I realized, like, ‘You can’t fight these feelings, you have to allow them to come out.’”
As for his sex confession, Clayton revealed that it was “upsetting for the women to hear it and rightfully so.” However, he wanted to be “very transparent” with them.
Host Jesse Palmer revealed during the After the Final Rose special earlier this year that Rachel and Gabby were both chosen to star on season 19 of The Bachelorette. For the first time in the franchise’s history, two leads will appear side by side looking for love during an entire season.
“I am so happy for [Gabby]. I truly am!” Rachel said during the After the Final Rose special. “It’s crazy. This is insane and I’m excited to do this journey with you. We did it once together. We’ve been through the most crazy experience together.”
Gabby chimed in: “I’m a girl’s girl through and through, so having a friend by my side is the best thing I could ask for.”
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The Bachelorette airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET.