Emma Lavery, formerly known as Emma McDermott, first went to Pine Valley, Pennsylvania, on the run with her mother, Annie McDermott. The storyline unfolded as Annie was desperate to keep her distance from her husband, Terry. Before going to Pine Valley, Terry had told Annie that he didn't want to father any children of his own because of medical problems in his family. But since they both wanted a family, Annie and Terry went to see the famous fertility specialist, Dr. Greg Madden, and Annie conceived through artificial insemination. Nothing made Annie happier than her daughter, and she believed for a long time that Terry felt the same way. Annie's life began to disintegrate when she discovered that Terry was a sexual predator who preyed on young teenage girls. After she discovers that he has seduced, and in at least one case, raped one of their babysitters, Annie files for divorce.
However, Terry was a powerful man, highly regarded in his profession. When Terry threatened to sue Annie for full custody of Emma, Annie panicked. With Terry's powerful contacts, Annie feared that he would gain custody and eventually victimize her daughter the same way he had done to other young women. After making contact with an underground rescue group dedicated to helping women like herself, Annie took Emma and went on the run from Terry. A member of the rescue group, Jamal Cudahy, took her to Pine Valley.
In Pine Valley, another member of the rescue group, Erin Lavery, took Annie and Emma into her home, passing Annie off as an old college friend. Annie and Emma became friends with Erin's older brothers, Ryan and Jonathan. The truth about Annie and Emma soon came out. Annie and Emma grew closer to Ryan after Terry's death. Annie and Ryan soon began dating and a bombshell came to light: it was revealed that Ryan was Emma's biological father. This drew them closer together as a family. With the new connection revealed, Emma gained a paternal half-brother, Spike Lavery. Ryan and Annie soon became engaged and married.
With the connection revealed, Annie and Emma later became part of the Lavery/Slater family. Ryan and Zach got along to protect their family. Emma loved to play with her best friend, Kathy (who happened to be Kate Martin). She seemed to be a very happy child. Emma was going to have a baby brother or sister by her parents. Emma learned that her mother lost the baby and her father decided to plant a tree in memory of the baby that was to be her brother or sister.
Ryan took his daughter from her mother after finding a gun in the house, and Emma was is in the care of Kendall and Zach Slater. Emma knew that her parents were getting a divorce and that there was a custody battle between her parents, which her father won. Emma was kidnapped and the kidnapper contacted her parents to say they needed to pay $10,000,000 to get her back.
Annie was later shot and it was unknown if she shot herself. Annie was later kidnapped too. Annie called Ryan and Ryan was able to track the number down to town. Ryan, Greenlee, and Aidan found two fresh graves, which they thought were Emma and Annie's. Greenlee told him that they were alive. Annie later called again and told Ryan that she was in a small beach house. When she hung up, Annie was seen in the bathtub.
Annie then phoned Ryan and told him that she was at a beach house that overlooked a tower. Aidan decided to lock Ryan up for "safety." Aidan was working with Annie to get revenge on Ryan and Greenlee. Di thought that she was watching Emma so that Ryan and Annie could try to save their marriage. Di learned the truth about Annie setting up a fake kidnapping so she could win back her husband. Di decided to keep Emma at a church, only to have a fire start. Ryan stepped in and saved his little girl. Annie and Ryan were reunited with her, but it remained unclear while why Annie did this.