The Bachelor bachelorette Nicki Sterling, a 26-year-old dental hygienist from Hurst, TX, was eliminated by Bachelor Ben Flajnik when he narrowed his love search to two women during last Monday night's broadcast of the ABC reality dating series' sixteenth season.

During a Thursday conference call with reporters, Nicki talked about her The Bachelor experience and broken heart -- including why she said she'll always have Ben's back and will never have anything bad to say about him, to what extent she admitted she was in love with Ben, whether she believed her relationship with The Bachelor star was a slow progression or just edited to look that way, and what she had to say about the "malicious" Courtney Robertson and her questionable feelings for Ben. 

Below is Nicki's conference call. Click here to read our earlier interview with the bachelorette.

In addition, click here to read our interview with Kacie Boguskie, who returned to the show in search of some answers and closure during last week's broadcast of the ABC reality dating series' sixteenth season after Ben had eliminated her the week prior.  

You didn't get as much one-on-one time with Ben as Kacie B., Lindzi Cox and Courtney did. So do you think that played a role in your elimination?

Nicki Sterling: I really don't think it played a factor and the whole time, I knew that the time we spent together -- even though it was short -- was very meaningful. I felt that gave him enough to know that what we had was really good and in my mind, I looked at it as almost a compliment.

He didn't need that extra time to kind of figure out that he wanted to keep me around. He liked what he saw from the time he was getting with me, and so, I don't think that played a role in the end. I think, just like he says, it boiled down to him just having stronger feelings for two other women.

Do you still feel like you were truly in love with Ben or looking back, do you believe your emotions might have been affected by the atmosphere and competitive situation?

Nicki Sterling: I absolutely knew, and to this day, would say I was in love with him. It was very real. I know it seems like a fantasy world, however, I felt as though I really got to know him very well and my feelings were very true and very deep for him. To this day, I'll tell you he's a great person and I don't regret falling so hard so fast at all.

I mean, looking back, it hurts just as bad to see it now as it did then, but no. It was definitely real. My feelings were real. In that situation, you get to know somebody a lot quicker than you would in the normal dating scene. I got to know a lot about Ben really quickly and liked what I saw and my feelings really grew really fast, so it was definitely real.

What has surprised you the most while watching the show back?

Nicki Sterling: Honestly, I don't know. I don't know if there's specific surprises. I would say one thing that I am almost -- I feel good about saying is some of the connections I didn't really understand Ben having throughout the season -- while I was filming, I couldn't see that.

Watching it back, I now see him and Lindzi's connection and I didn't get a good grasp of that while I was living with her. But watching it back, I now understand why he kept her for so long and of course I'm surprised and shocked to see how hurtful Courtney's words were that came out of her mouth.
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I knew while filming that she was kind of mean, but watching it back, I didn't know exactly how mean and how soon the comments started to flow. So, I would say that was probably the biggest surprise.

Who do you see Ben with, Lindzi or Courtney?

Nicki Sterling: I see him more so with Lindzi. She's very laid-back, easy going. I feel like their sense of humors are very compatible and my hope is that he picks her.

Do you think it would be a mistake for Ben to pick Courtney?

Nicki Sterling: I do think it would be a mistake if he picks Courtney. Like I said in my exit interview, I think he made a mistake by sending me home and I think he would make one by picking her.

You got a more under-the-radar edit than the other three bachelorettes who got hometown dates. Do you think your relationship with Ben progressed more slowly than the rest or was that just how the viewers saw it?

Nicki Sterling: I, on my end, I think that our relationship got off to a pretty good start. It was pretty fast on his end, hearing him refer to me as the "dark horse," that lets me know that maybe he enjoyed my company in the beginning but didn't have a very strong connection towards the end. And I'm fine with that.

He has said things like, "The more time I spend with her, the greater I feel and the stronger my feelings grow." And I'm fine with that. If it took him little by little to speak good things to me, then that's fine, although I'm aware I probably had stronger feelings for him sooner than he did for me.

Have your feelings changed towards Ben now that you've been watching the season back?

Nicki Sterling: Absolutely not. I thought I got to know a really good person while filming and I stand behind that. Until I die, I will say he's a great person. Do I feel for him watching it? Yes. Do I feel that he's being tricked and fooled by Courtney? I do. I think that he's doing what a lot of guys in his situation would.

Ben was unable to see everything then and his decisions were based on what he could see at the time and I was in love with him and I still have -- I care about him. I still have feelings for him, but it's something I had to get over, you know?

I came back and went back to my normal daily routine and it was hard, but I'm finally getting back to that place where I was before I started the show. So yeah, I would say the person I think he is now is the same that it was while filming and looking back, those feelings were true and real and I would never say a bad word about that guy -- ever.

When Courtney told Ben she didn't want him thinking she was fake, did you believe a word she said and do you regret warning Ben about her at all?

Nicki Sterling: I do not regret warning Ben about her in the least. I, at that point, was really starting to fall in love with this guy and I felt that if I didn't say something, if he ended up hurt in the end, then I would somehow take blame for it.

So, I don't regret that in the least. Did I buy her apologizing to him or the hurtful things she said about the girls in this last episode, no. I didn't buy it at all. From my outlook, from my standpoint, it looks as though she realized that her making it to the end with him -- her chances of that -- might be hindered by the way she's treated other people.

So therefore, she starts to back-pedal. That's my take on it just because I never -- the Courtney that I got to know was not sincere in that manner. I didn't believe it. I didn't believe her tears. I didn't believe the apology.

Courtney was spotted trying on wedding dresses at a store rcently. What are your thoughts on that?

Nicki Sterling: Wow, that's news to me. I (laughs) didn't know that. I'm shocked. I didn't know that news. I haven't been up on my gossip, so I'd have to chew on that for a little while. I don't even know. (Laughs) I'm kind of shocked right now. So, I don't know. I'm sorry, I don't even have an answer to that. I just -- wow. My mouth is open right now.

If Courtney wasn't on the show, do you think your chances with Ben would have been better?

Nicki Sterling: No, I don't think it's a matter of chances -- comparing one girl versus another. I'm confident and I fully believe that if Ben and I were supposed to be together, we would, regardless of the other people around.

And that's what's helped me get through this process, so I don't. I don't think she affected my chances. If the connection's there and he wanted to be with me and propose, then it would have happened regardless of who was around.

If you could describe Lindzi and Courtney using only one word for each girl, what would those words be?

Nicki Sterling: Okay, let me think about this for a few seconds. Okay, I got one. Let me think of the other. Yes, I got it! (Laughs) Courtney, I would say "malicious" just because I feel that she knew what to do in any situation in order to get Ben's attention, make it to the end and do what you gotta do.

For Lindzi, I would say "easy-going" or "nonchalant" rather -- I'd say that one's a better one. For Lindzi, we saw her comical side. She's really good at dropping one-liners and we always thought she was just a really laid-back nonchalant, never really got into drama, never got super emotional -- I never really saw the super serious of Lindzi.

But watching it now, seeing how strong her feelings were for Ben, I'm glad to see that, because I didn't see that while in the house. So that would be my best one-word description for those two.

After watching Ben's relationship with the other women, such as how he went skinny dipping with Courtney, has your respect level for him gone down at all?

Nicki Sterling: It stung a lot to see that knowing that was the same week when I had my one-on-one and it was essentially our first real moments together. However, I tried to put myself in Ben's shoes. Do I wish he would have said, "Oh, not a good idea. The girls are going to be upset about this."

Of course I wish that, but he's a guy. He's a 29-year-old guy who is being seduced by one of the most attractive women on earth. I mean, I can't fault him for it. He's a guy, you know?! I mean, in that moment, he would have done the same thing that any guy in his position would have done.

I mean, she worked her magic and it worked. So, it doesn't change my opinion on him. Was I a little disappointed to see that? Yes. But in the grand scheme of things, I don't know many other guys that would have done anything much differently.

Given Courtney has been seen trying on wedding dresses and everything, do you buy that she actually likes Ben or do you believe that she really was just "in it to win it." Do you think they could possibly have a good relationship?

Nicki Sterling: Um, honestly, I don't even -- that is such new info to me, I don't even know how to take it. My hope is that by now, especially if I was in Ben's shoes -- having to watch her and see everything that he's seen on the show, surely she would not put him through something else, such as a wedding, if it wasn't genuine and sincere and true love.

So my hope is that if those are true, then it is coming from a place of love with her and that they work it out or whatever. I would hope that, but I'm just shocked. I just can't believe it at this point. I don't. I don't know.

So just to clarify, do you think Courtney really liked Ben?

Nicki Sterling: At this point, no. I don't buy it that she loves him. I think there's too many other factors. I think that she's gaining a lot from this experience and I feel that he was almost a surprise instead of a soulmate, essentially, in her eyes.

Do you think Courtney could have just acted the way she did on the show and is trying on wedding dresses just as a publicity stunt?

Nicki Sterling: Surely not, surely not, surely not. If so, I didn't know there were people on this earth that would go that far for publicity. I would hope and pray that that is not the case, because that would be -- there are no words to describe how horrible that would be.

Somebody's heart's on the line and not just somebody, but Ben, who I care deeply about. Oh, for that reason, I cannot believe anybody -- even somebody as manipulative as Courtney -- would take it that far. I would hope not.
About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.