Nursing student Hillary Kincaid's life was turned upside down when she arrived in Springfield in 1977. A kind, uncomplicated girl, Hillary soon found out her entire life was a lie. While hospitalized for a bout of appendicitis, Hillary was visited by her kindly stepfather, Bill Morey. Though comforted by his presence, she was confused as to why he was so nervous about being in public. Then came two startling revelations: Bill Morey was actually Bill Bauer, who was presumed dead by his family ten years ago! Not only that, but he wasn't her stepfather, but her actual father! Confused, Hillary distanced herself from Bill and began running around with Roger Thorpe. Though she tried to end the relationship after sensing that he still had feelings for Holly Norris, Roger later gained her sympathy by claiming to be terribly injured in a hit and run and they resumed the affair for a brief period until Hillary ended it for good. By this time, Hillary's anger toward Bill softened and she got to know her family, which included her newfound half-brothers Mike and Ed. Being accepted by the Bauers showed Hillary that she wasn't alone and she ended her affair with Roger in early 1979.
In 1980, Hillary became involved with Kelly Nelson, a young doctor at Cedars. Unfortunately, Hillary had a rival in Nola Reardon who lied to Kelly that Hillary was running around with Derek Colby. Kelly was livid and went and beat up Derek and broke off things with Hillary. Afterwards, Hillary contemplated starting a relationship with private investigator Joe Bradley -- who totally charmed Hillary, as well as many of the other nursing staff, with his ruggedly handsome good looks. However, Hillary finally set her sights on Floyd Parker, her best friend, Katie's, brother. Having already known each other, the relationship was a comfortable one. Hillary knew Floyd wanted to be a rock star and encouraged his interest, which endeared Hillary to Floyd even more. Soon, Hillary started to believe that perhaps Floyd might be her next lover. Unfortunately, for some reason, Katie was very uncomfortable with the idea of a close friend of hers dating her brother. Hillary also started getting the third degree from Katie about her dates with Floyd. Also causing friction between Hillary and Katie was the fact that Hillary had doubts about Katie’s new boyfriend, Andy Norris's, sincerity (Hillary would be proven right). As if this wasn't enough aggravation for Hillary, Hillary found out that Nola Reardon was yet again up to her old games. At this point, Nola was telling everyone that she was pregnant with Kelly Nelson’s baby. Thanks to Nola’s mother, Bea, it was discovered that Kelly was in no condition to conceive a child on the night in question. Realizing that Nola was pregnant with his child, Floyd stepped up and asked Nola to marry him for the sake of their child. Although she agreed, at the altar, Nola decided that she couldn’t go through with it. Meanwhile, things would peter out in Hillary and Floyd's relationship, when Floyd became more interested in launching his rock star career.
A little later, Hillary began dating Derek and eventually became engaged. However Derek would react jealously when he saw Hillary dancing with her friend, Tony Reardon. The pair had an argument and Hillary stormed out. Tony, worried about Hillary going home alone when she was so upset, offered to drive her. They went to his apartment to talk, mainly because Hillary feared disturbing Katie. It was after 2:30 in the morning when Hillary, emotionally exhausted, fell asleep on Tony's sofa. However, thanks to an anonymous note by Vanessa, Derek believed that Hillary and Tony had slept together and the pair broke up. Immediately after, Hillary began dating Tony.
Hillary finally ended up meeting Mr. Right in the form of Dr. Jim Reardon, Tony's older brother. Arriving in Springfield to find a cure for the mysterious Dreaming Death virus, Jim kept his identity a secret (posing as Dr. John Stephens), until he revealed himself when Tony was brought into Cedars. After a nice courtship, Jim suddenly disappeared. Not realizing that he'd simply locked himself away in the lab in order to find a cure, Hillary believed that he'd gone to San Rios and went there to find him. There she met glib reporter, Fletcher Reade who, by coincidence, worked for the Springfield Journal. Fletcher, who was investigating the Dreaming Death story, returned to Springfield with Hillary. When Hillary caught the illness, Jim, against Dr. Claire Ramsey's protests, injected himself with the virus and the cure (created with inspiration from an African medicine man named Zamana), to test it. Luckily, the cure worked, and Jim and Hillary continued their romance, eventually becoming engaged.
Soon, a mystery caught their attention. Hillary's future sister-in-law, Annabelle Simms Reardon, was convinced that the island cottage she bought was haunted. Though skeptical the Reardons decided to investigate. They were particularly struck by a picture of a woman, whom an elderly librarian named Miss Emma Witherspoon, identified as Victoria. The librarian added that the dress Victoria was wearing in a portrait in Tony and Annabelle's cottage was the same one Victoria had worn some 40 years ago at a Founders' Day Picnic. Then things got really bizarre. Annabelle started having dreams about a black man and a little girl who were screaming! The painting started to cry real tears. Also found were secret rooms hidden behind paneling and strange Caribbean voodoo artifacts. Annabelle had more bizarre dreams about a young black woman named, Sharina Tamerlaine. Then Miss Emma was brutally assaulted! On her deathbed, Miss Emma eerily posed a riddle, "What's thicker than water and runs uphill, straight to the heart of a rich man's well?" Shortly thereafter, Hillary was staring out the front window of the cottage, thinking, when she saw the Spaulding mansion on Skyline Drive and figured out the answer to the riddle -- it must involved an illegitmate child of Brandon Spaulding's! Unfortunately the instant Hillary made the connection a music box sent to the Reardons by Susan Piper blow up in her face, killing her instantly!