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Rachel Lindsay: Before Anger at DeMario Washed Over Me, This Bachelorette Guy Made Me Cry Tears of Happiness

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Rachel Lindsay vied for Nick Viall‘s heart on season 21 of The Bachelor, now she’s on her own journey to find love on the latest season of The Bachelorette — and she’s blogging about it exclusively for PEOPLE! Follow Rachel on Twitter at @TheRachLindsay

Hey Bachelor Nation, thanks for dropping back in to get the inside scoop. The first week seriously lit the fuse as far as both romance and the drama goes! I also want to take a second to thank you all for the outpouring of support I’ve gotten on social media and in person since this has all started. It feels like the whole world is my home team I’m thrilled and privileged to have you all pulling for me!

I woke up the morning after the meeting the guys to my dog Copper nuzzling my face with his wet little nose. While I was in Los Angeles preparing for this journey, Copper was involved in an accident that left one bone in his little paw broken. I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus on finding love if I left the most important piece of my heart back in Dallas. So right before the guys showed up I flew back, had his furry leg wrapped in a cast, and booked us both first class seats back to California. Truth is I needed him to comfort me as much as he needed me.

I thought I would be dead tired after having invested so much energy into giving each of my 31 suitors my undivided attention the night before, yet knowing I was about to kick off the very first date of the season had me up at the crack of dawn picking my outfits and getting dolled-up to go see my men.

FROM PEN: The Bachelorette’s Rachel Lindsay on Why She Loved Night 1 of Her Season

I rolled up to the mansion and found the guys just getting settled after moving in. As good as these men looked in their suits, it was even better seeing them dressed down in their normal threads. When you’re dating this many guys you study every little detail you can get on them, including their style.

I’m very vocal at how much I struggled with the group dates on Nick’s season. It took me longer than it should have to open up to him and this time around I was focused on making personal connections no matter how many people were on the date. We started the day by lighting the BBQ and playing football, something I would do on any given weekend back home. Little did they know the real games were just beginning, any guy can cook a hot dog, so it was time to put these guys through the husband obstacle course I designed with my favorite celebrity couple.

I don’t know if I will ever fully grasp how huge Bachelor Nation is, but having Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis drop by to help officiate the date was a eureka moment that helped me realize even some of the biggest celebrities are actually huge fans of not just Bachelor Nation … but of me! Actually not even just fans, but super fans who unwind on Monday nights with a glass of wine and an episode just like us.

Ashton and Mila wasted no time sharing their first impressions of the guys with me. I had brought a diverse group of guys on this date, real dads like Kenny, young bachelors like Dean, and everything in between. I wasn’t just looking to see who could set the table for dinner, I wanted to see who could focus on me and not just fanboy over Ashton and Mila. I could tell Ashton wasn’t feeling Lucas’ comedy bits, but he was a fair referee and in the end declared Lucas champion. I can’t tell you how shocked the rest of the guys looked.

The after party at the art warehouse turned out to be great chance to get to know the guys on a deeper level because they came in ready to share. Lucas actually got serious for a split second and surprised me. In the end Dean used his time that evening to make the strongest and most natural romantic connection. I felt a spark between us I wanted to grow and so I gave him the rose. It was like giving Popeye a can of spinach because suddenly he had the confidence to walk me outside and kiss me. It was a tough call who to give it to, but that made me feel like I made the right one.

RELATED VIDEO: Could A Cyrus Sister Be the Next Bachelorette?

The next day I got to take Peter on my very first one-on-one date! Peter struck me as a man who is incredibly down to earth … especially for being so handsome. The way his hands were shaking when he first met me the first night was so endearing. Our conversations and romantic moments flowed with an ease that was completely different than any other relationship I’ve had before. I couldn’t help but tease him about this date actually being a two-on-one and I knew if we were going to work I had to introduce him to the other man in life. He seemed a little confused and nervous until my dog Copper jumped out of his chauffeured car and ran up the tarmac into the private jet.

Peter seemed to win over Copper just as fast as he won me over. Among all the doggy fun Peter did something off camera that made me cry tears of happiness. Without telling me or anyone else he snuck away from the date to give a homeless man his sandwich. Take the rose Peter, it’s all yours. The fireworks were going off in my heart long before the real ones shot off into the desert night sky.   

The basketball group date the next day wasn’t just a game for me — sports are my life! It felt so nice to kick off the heels and lace up some Space Jam Jordans and show my men another side of Rachel. Having Kareem Adbul Jabbar swing by the gym to help me put these guys through the paces had me fangirling so hard, keep it together Rachel, he’s too old for you!

When game time rolled around I was so impressed by all the guys I found myself in the cheerleader section shouting at the top of my lungs. From DeMario dunking on everyone to guys like Lee who were weren’t ballers but had heart and that precious ability to have fun even when challenged, the day couldn’t have been going any better.

Then the entire date fell apart.

After the game a young woman pull me aside before we could head to the after party and reminded me that this journey wasn’t all fun and games, it was also an emotional minefield. All I asked was everyone keep it 100 with me. I can forgive past mistakes and understand how someone could come to this experience having recently ended a relationship, but what I can’t put up with is some idiot trying to play me.

This woman explained coherently how DeMario had never ended their relationship and just ghosted her when he moved into the mansion. I grabbed DeMario to hear his side of the story and his first reaction was pretending he didn’t even recognize this woman he had been in relationship with for months!

It took 10 minutes of listening to DeMario talk in contradictions and circles, change his story, mix up his dates and make every other stupid move players go to when caught, before I stopped letting him dig his grave any deeper and just kicked his ass to the curb. I’m a very chill person … until I’m not.

Once he was gone I started reeling from the realization that, throughout this journey, at any second, things could completely change in the worst way.

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get back in the right head space at the after party that night. Luckily the concern and honesty the remaining guys approached me with that night carried my head and heart back to where they needed to be. It was clear to me that first impressions were already over and the men were trying to make connections.

Josiah out of all of them seemed the most affected by DeMario’s lies because he felt the closest to him in the house. He felt played, too — we shared that. Then he opened in more detail about how he became a prosecutor, the challenges that he faced as a child and how they made him the man that was sitting before me. I gave him the rose that night because our moments together resonated deeper than I had expected and it was clear that even when hurt himself, his focus was still on protecting me.

FROM PEN: Find Out Why Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay Has Been Googling Real Housewives

Going into the cocktail party the very next evening I thought we had pumped the brakes on the drama and I would finally be able to focus on finding the relationships that had a future, not a past. I was wrong. The guys in the house seemed to have gotten to know each other well enough that they felt they needed to warn me about each other instead of letting me figure it out myself.

The past beef Blake and Lucas shared from both being on a prior dating show had gotten packed in their luggage and brought to the mansion. Blake warned me Lucas was not genuine, Lucas warned me Blake was watching him sleep and doing shameful things with produce from the kitchen. I like a corny joke, but Lucas had run out of good material — or maybe it was just never there — and Blake spent so much time focused on getting back at Lucas for past sleights instead of on me, I was really questioning his intentions.

Then Chris Harrison interrupted the cocktail party and asked to speak with me and I knew something serious was about to go down. I love Chris, he’s my rock through the good and bad times, he’s challenged me when I needed it and comforted me too. But there are certain situations where he walks in and you just know the news isn’t going to be good.

Then he told me DeMario had Uber-ed his way back into my life. I felt a wave of anger wash over me. I thought about leaving him out in the driveway and not wasting another second of my time on him when there were so many guys who were still waiting for an opportunity to share my company, yet something in my gut told me to hear him out. I hate going through life leaving loose ends, wondering what if, so I needed to know if he was here to apologize or to offer up more excuses and lies. 

FROM COINAGE: The Bachelor Engagement Rings Cost How Much?!

Thanks for hearing me out guys. Writing is actually a creative passion of mine, and I love sharing as much of my journey with you as I can.

Check in next week to get the scoop on the return of DeMario, the end of the most dramatic cocktail party of my season, the return of a few familiar faces and the dirtiest group date in Bachelorette history. Yes, that seriously all happens in one week. Thanks for reading!

Sincerely,
Rachel

The Bachelorette airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.