According to Heat, the singer was in contact with Ashley days before she travelled to Cape Town to celebrate the New Year with her alleged new partner Derek Hough.
A source told the magazine: "Something seems to have changed between Cheryl and Ashley. It's taken a while, but she did wish him a happy New Year when Derek had gone out. The emotions are still very much there between them.
"Ashley asked Cheryl straight out if she was in love with Derek, and she told him she has feelings for Derek, but they're taking things slowly. That's when she said she'd never love anyone the way she loves Ashley."
The source added: "Derek found himself spending the whole of New Year's Day supporting her and trying to cheer her up. He had to virtually force Cheryl out of the villa for a walk along the beach, which they took in silence."
An alleged family friend added: "Derek seems to be a very patient man. He really wants things to work out with Cheryl, so he's sticking around."
Ashley was said to be close to tears after seeing pictures of Cheryl and Hough together abroad.
Meanwhile, Hough has reportedly told Cheryl to stop texting her ex-husband.