Jay Stallings, a hard-edged, blue-collar type, immediately caught the attention of older widow Lisa Shea, and the suspicion of her son, Tom Hughes, and her paramour, Grant Colman. Both distrusted Jay because he seemed to have a chip on his shoulder. Their fears seemed to be realized when Lisa was almost killed in a series of accidents when Jay was around. Although Grant suspected that Jay, who was suspected of arson as a teenager, was trying to murder Lisa, in reality, Jay was the target. The culprit was Jay's stepfather, Gil Stallings, who wanted to collect Jay's hefty inheritance. Finally, Gil held Lisa hostage and set fire to the bookstore that Lisa had taken over from Penny Hughes Wade. Luckily, Grant saved Lisa, and a murderous Gil was shot and killed by the police. After the ordeal, Jay used his inheritance to form his own construction company. He also formed a close friendship with Lisa's former daughter-in-law, Carol. Carol and Tom had just divorced, and she decided to stand on her own two feet by getting a job at Jay's company. Soon, the pair fell in love, and Jay wanted to take their relationship further. Although, he bedded Susan Stewart, it was Carol he wanted. Carol though didn't believe in sex before marriage, so Jay convinced her to marry him and they eloped out of town. At about the same time, Carol's ex-husband, Tom Hughes, married the sultry Natalie Bannon.
Though both married, Natalie and Jay found it difficult to resist their feelings for each other. Making it difficult were Tom and Carol who, still friends, wanted to hang out together. Soon, Jay and Natalie's attraction was growing while their spouses were oblivious. Though both Tom and Carol were content in their lives, Jay and Natalie both wanted more out of life than a mundane small town existence. Finally, Tom noticed how uncomfortable Natalie was around Jay and called her on it. Not wanting to endanger her marriage, Natalie covered up her feelings of lust for Jay and told Tom that Jay had designs on her! However, when Tom confronted Jay, he laughed it off by saying that Natalie totally misread him. Finally, one day, Jay and Natalie found themselves alone. Their urges overpowering them, Jay pulled Natalie into a smoldering kiss that she didn't resist. Later, the truth about Natalie's history was finally revealed when a customer told Lisa that he hoped Natalie would pay for the pain she caused.
Curious, Lisa did some digging and learned something startling--Natalie's first husband didn't die of a drug overdose, he committed suicide after she had an affair with his married brother! Not knowing what to do, Lisa confided in Bob who then went to Natalie urging her to tell Tom the truth. She did and although Tom understood, he couldn't condone the fact that she only told the truth because his parents told her to and he left. Distraught at what seemed to be the end of her marriage, as Carol was out of town, Natalie turned to a willing Jay and the two finally gave in to their passion. Unfortunately the next day, Tom came back and he found out about Jay and Natalie's affair. Angry, he got in a violent confrontation with Jay. Afterwards, Jay begged Tom not to tell Carol, and not wanting to see Carol hurt, Tom agreed. However, he did divorce Natalie, while remaining silent to Carol about why he hated Jay so much. Meanwhile, Jay was desperate to keep Carol happy and agreed to adopt a child. At this point, Natalie left town but couldn't get Jay out of her system and kept calling him and hanging up. Finally, Jay pleaded with Tom to intercede and Tom located Natalie and told her to stop calling. Natalie demurred, then returned to Oakdale and blackmailed Jay into giving her a cushy job at his construction company or she'd tell Carol everything.
Though Jay complied, he still couldn't get Natalie out of his system and again when Carol was out of town, the two began a full fledged affair when Natalie convinced Jay that Carol was still in love with Tom. At that point, Tom learned that Carol and Jay had been moved up the adoption list. Wondering if he should tell Carol about the previous affair, so that an innocent child wouldn't be brought into a doomed marriage, his decision was made for him when Natalie told Lisa! Being told by Natalie that the truth wouldn't hurt as much if it came from her, Lisa told Carol about Jay and Natalie. Devastated, Carol threw Jay out. Although Jay appealed to Tom's father, the fair-minded Bob, to convince Carol to give him another chance; it did no good and Carol initiated divorce proceedings. Soon after, Jay was critically injured after heroically saving Annie Stewart from a cave in. Natalie, noticing how Tom was comforting a frightened Carol, visited Jay at the hospital and told him that Carol was seeing Tom. Jay however, refused to take the bait. He also received visits from Carol, who agreed to work for him again. Although Jay hoped that this would be a new beginning for them, Carol made it clear that while she didn't hate him, she no longer loved him. However despite her words, her heart felt otherwise and she later agreed to take him back,
Soon after, Natalie learned she was pregnant! Knowing that Jay wouldn't leave Carol, Natalie asked Jay to give her money for an abortion. However, Jay didn't believe in abortion and refused. Not knowing what to do, Jay confided in Kim Dixon who convinced him to be honest with Carol. To his surprise, Carol understood and suggested that since Natalie didn't want her baby, she and Jay could adopt it. Natalie agreed on the condition that Jay help her set up her own real estate firm. However, soon a greedy Natalie decided she wanted more and hit up Jay for $ 10,000 to ensure that she'd go through with the adoption. Meanwhile, Jay's business was floundering while Natalie was in debt as well. When Jay refused her demand for more money, Natalie vowed revenge. After getting the money from Carol (who was afraid to upset Natalie out of fear that she'd renege on the deal), Natalie double-crossed the Stallings and left town! In addition to troubles with Natalie, Jay also had to contend with his company being in debt and he was certain that his former foreman, Pete Larson, was responsible.
When he finally got proof, Jay violently brawled with Larson in public and then, needing to talk to someone, he sought out his friend, Melinda Grey since Carol was out of town visiting her father. Later on the way home, Jay heard on the radio that Larson was dead! Suddenly Jay became prime suspect #1, especially when he refused to give an alibi for that night. Although he told Tom that he'd been out driving that night and ended up at a bar, Tom saw holes in his story. Although Jay still tried to hedge around the truth, Melinda came forward. However, despite Tom's advice, Jay refused to use Melinda as his alibi since he didn't want Carol to know he'd been out all night with a woman, despite the fact that nothing at all happened. Though Jay wisely had a change of heart at the trial, this time Melinda changed her story by saying that Jay forced himself into her apartment that night and she had to fight him off! Unfortunately for Jay everyone, except Tom, believed Melinda's story, and although he was cleared of Larson's murder, he lost Carol in the process.
Meanwhile, Natalie unexpectedly wrote Carol to announce that she'd had a baby girl and later deposited the girl at Carol's doorstep. In debt and his marriage seemingly over, Jay suggested giving the child up, but Carol wouldn't hear of it and even stopped divorce proceedings to guarantee that they'd get to adopt the child, who was named Amy. Meanwhile, Don Hughes went to see Jay about the shopping center he and Ralph Mitchell were building and saw that the prices on the invoices had tripled. Jay's supplier had warned him that sending out duplicate invoices could land him in trouble. Jay told his supplier to stay cool; no one was going to jail. After Ralph and Dan Stewart confronted him, Jay left town to see if he could raise the money he needed to get his construction company back on its feet. When he returned unsuccessful, in February 1979, he confessed what he had done to Carol and said he did it for her and little Amy. Carol understood, but she didn't condone his actions, and she insisted Ralph must know. Unfortunately, Jay wasn't able to be honest with Ralph, and Carol was very disappointed.
In the meantime, a man named Hank Robinson, who hated Jay since Jay took off with his girlfriend years earlier, sexually assaulted Carol! Learning what Hank did, Jay angrily confronted him and beat him to a pulp. Unfortunately, he was arrested for assault and, knowing that there was no proof that Hank raped Carol, Jay pled guilty to protect her. Not wanting him to go to jail, Carol tried to get proof that Hank was an abusive man and sought Grant’s help. Carol discovered that Hank beat up his old girlfriend, Linda, when she was two-timing him with Jay, but Linda didn't report it, so it wasn't admissible in court. Later, Grant produced a tape of Hank offering Grant $5,000 to call off the investigation.. Jay was sentenced to 60 days in jail for the assault and spent the time taking courses in English and law so he could make it in the business world. He wanted Carol and his little girl to have the best that life could offer. While in jail, Jay made a new friend, Matt Kelly. Matt was in jail taking the rap for a car that had been stolen by his older brother, Chip, and Jay admired him for that. When Jay was released from jail, Sandy Thompson insisted on backing his new construction company. Jay hired Matt to come and work for him. Matt suggested Jay hire Chip as well. Jay was not impressed with Chip, but hired him as a favor to his friend. Jay's instincts were right; Chip was bad news. He was borrowing money from a loan shark named Roy Barker, and Matt was worried about the danger Chip had put himself in. One night when Chip was going to meet with Barker, Matt decided to follow, and Jay came along as well. They witnessed Chip and Barker holding up a liquor store. Though the Stallings resolved to make a go of their troubled marriage, not long after, Jay tragically died in a mining accident.