February 05, 2003 04:11 PM

And they said it wouldn’t last.

Well, they were right: ABC’s “Bachelor” No. 2, Aaron Buerge, and his supposed bride-to-be, Helene Eksterowicz, are no longer together.

After dropping to one knee in front of 29 million viewers last November, the 28-year-old banker from Springfield, Mo., now tells PEOPLE that his engagement to Eksterowicz, 27,was kaput by New Year’s.

“There has not been any dagger throwing,” Buerge says, adding that neither party was unfaithful.

He says he still keeps in touch with the New Jersey school psychologist via e-mail, and adds that he and Helene will reunite and explain what happened on a Feb. 20 ABC special.

Meanwhile, as one relationship fades, another heats up. “The Bachelorette” semifinalist Charlie Maher is keeping his lips sealed over whether he’ll make Trista Rehn’s cut on Wednesday night, when she whittles down the contestant pool from three eligible guys to two on the ABC show.

But, the Los Angeles bachelor tells AP Radio, “people must be nuts if they think ABC would let her within a 10-mile radius of any one of the guys. There’s just too much at stake to even let that happen.”

Maher claims he told the show’s producers that he would make the commitment to try and find true love on the show, if possible.

“I said, I am at a point in my life where, if I met the right woman, I would be ready to settle down and get married,” Maher said.

But to Trista? “I wasn’t going to commit to them and say, yeah, for sure, I’m going to get married to this girl if she chooses me,” he said. “I don’t think that would be fair.”

On the surface, at least, Maher goes for Trista’s type.

“I’ve always been attracted to petite blondes,” he says. “Obviously, Trista fits that mold very well. She’s a very beautiful woman — even more beautiful in person.”

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