Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon were romantically involved on the reality show last season
PEOPLE caught up with the ABC stars at Iaconetti’s “Biggest Group Date Ever” Valentine’s Day charity event in New York City sponsored by Flocku, which included a Bachelor viewing party and auction of special guests/former stars from the franchise Haibon, JJ Lane, Josh Murray, Nick Viall, Michael Garofola, Ben Zorn and Joshua Albers.
“[Jared is] probably my best friend from the franchise. I spend more time with him than anyone,” Iaconetti told PEOPLE.
Though the two had their fair share of ups and downs during their romance on the hit reality dating show last season – and even some drama on Sunday night’s special, Bachelor 20: A Celebration of Love – the friendship is stronger than ever now.
“It took a little bit of time [to get to this point],” Iaconetti explained. “I think while [Bachelor in Paradise] was airing it was awkward, and then in September I was just kind of like: ‘Okay, we’re going to be good friends.’ And then we were really tight.”
Haibon agrees: “Ashley and I are so close,” he told PEOPLE, adding that the two are “very, very similar.”
“Even in Paradise, we had such a good friendship. That was the most difficult part, was hurting somebody that I really care for,” he explained. “I knew we were going to be friends outside of Paradise, and we have become such close friends. I am very grateful for Ashley I. being in my life.”
Haibon also raved about Iaconetti’s work putting together the event, which benefited the Pennsylvania State Dance MaraTHON towards helping the families of pediatric cancer patients: “I mean, Ashley is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, so her throwing a charity event is really not that surprising.”
RELATED VIDEO: Watch Ashley I. and Jared Return from Their Overnight Date on Bachelor in Paradise
As for Iaconetti – well-known for her tearful confessionals on the show – she explained it all stems from a “raw” place.
“You get so close to the producers … that when you’re sitting down in front of the cameras talking, you’re just being yourself,” she said. “And it feels like it’s therapy – you’re like: I’m sitting down with my therapist, or my best friend.’ ”
“Jared and I have totally different views on the way we talk to the camera,” she added. “He’s like the publicist, and I’m the journalist: I expose everything, it’s out there, I don’t want anything censored. And then he – he doesn’t lie, he just says everything very nicely, very concisely, politically correct, so, all of us handle the show in different ways. I just happen to kind of let it all out there.”
And while she’s enjoyed her run on the show, Iaconetti doesn’t expect to appear on Bachelor in Paradise again anytime soon: “I really have zero plans to go back on,” she said.
As for any potential flame-rekindling between the two, who knows – but he did bid $750 for a date with her during Sunday’s event, so here’s hoping!