In PEOPLE's exclusive sneak peak at Thursday's episode, Taylor Ann Green says of Austen Kroll: "When we were both not in good places with our [exes], we created such a bond"
When the two friends meet up at a restaurant, Olivia, 31, kicks off the awkward conversation by telling Taylor she heard that Jarrett "JT" Thomas had been grilling Austen, 36, about rumors of an ongoing romance between him and Taylor following their hookup in the wake of their respective breakups. (Austen and Olivia briefly dated during season 8 before calling it quits; Taylor and Shep split in February after two years together.)
"Shep was telling me about guys night, and JT raised questions involving you and Austen — and Shep started to seem a little shook," Olivia tells Taylor.
Taylor quickly dismisses the rumors: "Nothing is going on, and I will put my hand on a Bible. There is nothing going on."
But Olivia isn't convinced. "I don't know, [Shep] said when JT confronted Austen about it that Austen was, like, tongue-tied. So what exactly is it that Austen is so tongue-tied about?"
After a bit of nervous hesitation, Taylor then explains what actually went down between her and Olivia's ex after their hookup.
"After New York, when we were both not in good places with each of our [exes] — he was not in a good place with you, I was not in a good place with Shep — but we created such a bond in the midst of that vulnerability and that just absolute brokenness and the two of us being pushed together because of our situations," she recalls. "I was like, 'I mean, Austen, is this something we explore?'"
"I was the one who said it," Taylor continues. "I was like, 'Is this something we're meant to explore?'"
"You and him being together?" Olivia asks, only to be met with silence by Taylor.
In last week's episode, Shep, 43, was starting to suspect there was chemistry and a growing connection between Taylor and Austen. “I would not be surprised if they both looked at each other like, ‘Let’s just go for it and no one will ever know,’" he said to Craig Conover, adding, "I think it’s f---ed up.”
Shep also said in a confessional interview that he saw Austen's budding friendship with Taylor as a way to keep tabs on his ex-girlfriend.
“I sort of see Austen as a life raft between me and Taylor and I get information,” he revealed. “I ask, ‘How she is? What she’s up to? Is she happy? How was she last week?’ Because I care.”
Taylor recently opened up to PEOPLE about how it felt to come face to face with Shep again when filming kicked off for season 9.
“That was the first time we saw each other in a while — it had probably been a couple months — and obviously I found out some things in the interim and it was pretty upsetting,” she said, referencing claims he cheated on her while they were together. “I wanted to go in there just calm, cool and collected, and maybe sad for [Shep], but my emotions got the best of me.”
Taylor also shared with PEOPLE that when her friendship with Austen turned into something more, it “drew a wedge between myself and a really good friend [Olivia].”
“I take full blame for everything that transpired and how I handled the situation and the things I said and how I acted," she continued. "That was really tough. I think that there's a lot of forgiveness that can be had. That's a big thing this year — there's a lot of forgiveness and tough love.”
Shep, meanwhile, pins the blame for the women's friendship faltering squarely on Austen.
“It came out, and it was a tough pill to swallow,” he told PEOPLE of learning that Austen and Taylor had hooked up. “I couldn't help but think, to be honest, that Austen should have known better. She was vulnerable, she was hurt, and they were very close friends because of me, and he's got to know better.”
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Southern Charm airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.
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