“I had the ring with me,” the former football player, 28 exclusively told Us Weekly on Wednesday, March 16. “It was very conditional with, ‘How is this conversation gonna go?’ To be honest with you, I knew she would show up ‘cause I knew it wasn’t her character not to show up. But I was very, very certain she was going to say no to me. I kind of anticipated that.”
Although Clayton doubted that Susie, 28, would take him back during the final rose ceremony, he wanted to show her the Neil Lane engagement ring he picked out for her to symbolize his intentions.
“I wanted her to know that, ‘Hey, I’m for real about this. I really, really do love you and I would get down on a knee,’ but I was reading the room,” he explained. “I was waiting to see how she came in, and I could tell by her mood and through her words that I’m like, obviously, this will not lead to a proposal. This is going to lead to the end of the line. I had come to terms with that. It hurt me, but I was like, ‘Whatever she tells you, respect it and be thankful that she showed up.’”
Susie broke up with Clayton before he could pop the question during part two of the finale, which aired on Tuesday, March 15. He had previously sent her home after a fight over the fantasy suite dates but tried to win her back after eliminating Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey.
While the Bachelor and the wedding videographer did not get their happy ending in Iceland, they announced during the live After the Final Rose portion of the finale that they got back together after filming wrapped.
“We’ve talked about it and we know from here on out, like, this is a relationship in the real world where you never know — anything can happen and we’re aware of that,” Clayton told Us on Wednesday. “We’re gonna give this every chance that we can. We love each other. And as of right now, we’re both very, very happy. But relationships take effort. They are hard at times. And so we know that there’s gonna be those moments that lie ahead. There’s never any guarantee in life, but with all that being said, I am incredibly happy to be with her. I’m so excited to be able to just go get dinner, to go hiking, do all these things with her, travel.”
The Bachelorette season 18 alum gushed that Susie’s “huge heart” and “unselfish” nature are the qualities that he loves most about her.
“She’s so humble,” he continued. “I wish people would’ve seen more of that. She got so emotional on the show when we did that shopping spree [date] because she’s like, ‘I don’t deserve this.’ And I was just taken aback. I was blown away when she said that because I was like, ‘You are an incredible woman who she doesn’t feel like she should be given anything.’ Like, she just wants to give and give and give to everyone and almost feels she doesn’t wanna receive things because — it truly speaks to her character. And I was blown away by that. That someone as beautiful as her, as loving as she is just wants to give everyone the world and everything that she has.”
Clayton noted that he now knows what Susie deserves. “I wanna be able to give that to her and let her know that, like, I want to give her everything because she absolutely deserves it because she is like somebody that I’ve never met,” he said. “I mean, there are very few people, if any, like her and that have the character that she does, and I continue to be impressed day in and day out.”
The couple’s first step toward their future together will be the Missouri native’s move to Virginia Beach, a location they chose because of its significance to Susie. “I lived there, I was born there and I moved away for a long time. And I came back to the area a couple years ago and I’m really happy there,” she told Us. “My work is there, and I had a beautiful life before coming on the show and it’s just great that I get to make an addition to it. And Clayton before the show, he was ready to uproot and figure out [what’s] next for him and he’s totally on board to come to Virginia Beach. So, we’re gonna give it a shot.”
With reporting by Sarah Hearon