"She's the person I care about most right now," Chmerkovskiy tells PEOPLE; but Monaco's rep insists they're just pals

By Dahvi Shira and Michele Stueven
October 17, 2012 05:45 PM
Craig Sjodin/ABC

A passionate contemporary routine on Monday night’s Dancing with the Stars made viewers clear on one thing: Val Chmerkovskiy and Kelly Monaco have serious chemistry.

“It’s unexplainable, I don’t know,” Monaco, 36, told PEOPLE on Tuesday, of the connection to her partner, 26. “I think each week, we get a little closer.”

As for Chmerkovskiy, he says he’s “very attached, very protective,” of the General Hospital star.

“Obviously with every week, it gets more and more personal,” he says. “I was raised with loyalty, honesty, camaraderie. Those are the things that I value the most. She’s the person I care about most right now.”

Monaco, holding onto her partner tightly, agrees with him, explaining, “I was raised the same exact way I’ve been down a really rough road in my life I’ve put up a lot of walls and I don’t let many people in. He’s slowly allowing me to believe in friendships and relationships and trust and all of that, you know?”

Monaco also tells PEOPLE of the sensual number, “I wish [the dance] had gone on forever.”

Despite Monaco’s closeness to her DWTS partner, her romance with actor beau Heath Freeman is still on, according to her rep.

In fact, a source close to Monaco says Freeman “doesn’t mind” the dancing duo’s bond at all.

“Kelly and Val are really good friends who have great chemistry on the show,” the insider tells PEOPLE. “But Kelly and her boyfriend are still happily together.”