After a summer in Europe, Brian Walling returns to America to work for the Cardaway Corporation, run by his father Don. Brian meets attractive Summer Johnson, the African American room mate of his friend Glory Dalessio. Brian's sister Stacey is opposed to Cardaway's production of a dangerous chemical, and she decides to undermine the business with a hidden bomb. Meanwhile, Astrid Rutledge attempts to block the appointment of Mark Desmond Cardaway's board of directors. Mark's girlfriend Yvonne worries that her former career in porn films will be exposed by Astrid.
Yvonne turns to Helen Walling who suggests stopping distribution of the porn flick Flowers of Paradise by appealing to the producer, Yvonne's ex-husband Brad. Brian hears rumors that Cardaway is planning a mass layoff of employees. Stacey confesses to her brother that she was responsible for the explosion at Cardaway. Later, Brian meets Summer again. Mark is appointed to the Cardaway board. Stacey realizes learns she's wanted by the cops for an act of terrorism.
Summer helps Stacey evade the authorities, but when Glory discovers her hiding in their apartment, she calls the cops. Mark's forced to tender his resignation from the Cardaway board after Astrid vindictively exposes Yvonne's past as a porn star. Meanwhile, Yvonne reluctantly agrees to stay with Brad, who promises to stop distribution of Flowers of Paradise. Anderson wants to discontinue his relationship with Glory, and she resorts to blackmail to keep him. Cardaway board member Hilary Madison finds her new chauffeur Nick very attractive.
Stacey is placed under protective custody. Glory's role in Stacey's arrest is exposed. Yvonne attempts suicide. Hilary helps Nick acquire a job as a draftsman at Cardaway. Brian and Summer quarrel and then recognize their attraction to one another. Barbara Coby meets with Nick, who is working for her as an industrial spy at Cardaway.
The police release Stacey into the custody of her parents, and she decides it might be worse than jail. Glory exposes her affair with Anderson. Brian plans a date with Summer. Don plots the takeover of another company. Yvonne agrees to receive psychiatric help in exchange for Mark returning to Cardaway. Hilary discovers one of Nick's secrets.
Brian and Summer can't fight their attraction any longer. Nick attempts to explain the situation with his son to Hilary, who believes him. Stacey and Helen have a serious conversation about Stacey's inability to conform to the ideal of a perfect Walling child. Howell and Don argue about the takeover, and it ends with a life-or-death emergency.
Howell faces a difficult decision. Hilary chastises the board of directors for using an illness to their own advantage. Sharon agrees to dismiss Nick, but only after he performs one final act of treachery for her. Later, Nick is nearly caught in the act of industrial espionage. Don sets a time limit for the takeover. The board vows to unmask the spy at Cardaway.
Don craftily manipulates Howell into making the right decision. Nick's treachery is revealed at Cardaway, and Hilary informs him that the company intends to press charges. Brian attends a family get together with Summer. Summer's grandmother finds Brian charming, but her prejudiced brother warns Brian to stay away or face the physical consequences.
In jail for industrial espionage, Nick appeals to Hilary's kindness and asks her to take responsibility for his son. The judge in Stacey's case considers an alternative and then hands down a sentence. Howell finds that he made the correct decision. Don offers to keep Sharon from going to jail if she agrees to a Cardaway takeover. Leona gives Anderson a taste of being left at home alone. Brian reassures Summer that he's serious about their future as a couple.
Nick enters a plea, and Hilary receives custody. Summer wants to know why Brian hasn't told his family about their relationship. Stacey adheres to the judge's orders. Leona's friend Julie makes a shocking admission, and later, Julie's husband makes an equally shocking allegation about Leona and Julie's friendship. The Wallings are less than thrilled when Brian reveals that he's in love with Summer.
His parents' reaction to the news that he wants to marry Summer forces Brian to move in with Summer. A recovered Howell returns to the company. Helen becomes attracted to David Valerio, the director of her drama group. Anderson confronts Leona about the accusations leveled at her by Julie's husband. After denying the accusations, Leona makes a reluctant confession to Julie then runs away. Julie chases after Leona, leading to a horrific accident.
Julie's angry husband confronts the Gaults. Summer receives startling news that she shares with Stacey, but swears her to secrecy. Don decides to use a Cardaway board member to put a stop Brian and Summer's growing relationship. Stacey becomes involved in Cardaway business again. Helen rejects David's mutual attraction to her and leaves the drama club.
David persuades Helen to come back to the drama club and promises to behave as a complete professional. Harry decides not to follow Stacey's advice about Don's offer. Brian and Summer have a quarrel, and she can't muster the courage to tell him that she's pregnant. Following the tragedy, Leona begins to exhibit signs of psychiatric problems.
Summer and Brian's relationship is on tenterhooks as they decide to move in opposite directions. Helen returns to David's drama club. Hilary visits Nick and can't deny that she still harbors deep feelings for him. Anderson fears for his wife's mental health as her forgetfulness becomes worse. Walter encourages Summer to have an abortion, while her grandmother suggests she come clean with Brian about her pregnancy.
Stacey's new relationship with Harry is taken to the next level, but Don disagrees with her choice. Feeling neglected, Helen accepts a platonic theater date with David. Don and Helen are alarmed when they discover Leona in a serious state of mental deterioration. After paying a visit to Summer's grandmother and learning of Summer's pregnancy, Brian races against the clock to stop her from aborting the child.
Brian finds Summer at the abortion clinic. After seeing David escorting Helen, Howell and Astrid surmise that the two are having an extramarital affair. David admits to Helen that he isn't content with a platonic friendship and urges her to become his lover. Later, Helen confides to Stacey that her marriage to Don is without passion. Brian proposes marriage to Summer, but she refuses to consider the idea unless the Walling family accepts her.
Stacey turns her attention away from Harry who complains that she's just using him for casual sex. While away on a business trip, Don becomes enamored with Bree McIntyre, the wife of a business associate. When Bree takes Helen's phone call in Don's hotel room, Helen assumes that her husband is having an illicit affair. Helen seeks comfort from David, who is only too happy to comply, but the evening turns to tragedy when they're mistaken for burglars.
Helen finds herself in a maelstrom of rumor and innuendo following the shooting. Unaware of the tragedy back home, Don moves closer to Bree, but backs off when things become too serious. Brian and Summer decide to reveal their wedding plans to Brian's parents, then receive word of Helen's predicament. Don returns home and angrily confronts Helen about her relationship with David. Bitter recriminations threaten to dissolve the Walling marriage.