While serving in the army in El Salvador and under the command of Trevor Dillon, Pierce Riley saw his lover, Christina, shot by guerillas. Christina died in his arms. After the war, Pierce returned to Pine Valley and was living in a cabin belonging to Phoebe Wallingford at Willow Lake in return for acting as its caretaker. Pierce is a very talented artist, which was reflected in the cabin and its interior.
While living in the cabin he found Janet and Laura alone in the woods. Janet was ill so he took her and Laura in, nursed Janet back to health with his natural medicines and began an affair with Janet. When Laura had an appendicitis attack and needed hospitalization, Pierce, ever the recluse, went to Pine Valley Hospital, ran in to his mercenary buddy Trevor and met Phoebe's niece, Brooke English. Pierce fell in love with Brooke and out of love with Janet. Pierce was convinced that he should leave the cabin, move to the city and set up shop in Stuart Chandler's gallery. Pierce and Brooke, fearing that their relationship would hurt Laura, kept it a secret. When Laura found out about their affair she was so upset, that Brooke chose Laura's happiness over her own, and broke off with Pierce. Pierce left Pine Valley for Santa Fe and a full-time pursuit of his art. Laura and Brooke were reunited and Laura became Brooke's adopted daughter. Pierce returned to Pine Valley for the adoption ceremony and took up with Brooke where he left off. Pierce was haunted by memories of his past and his "forced" execution of a woman he fell in love with in Central America, Christina. No one knew, but Christina was still alive. She somehow survived her gunshot wounds and spent nearly two decades in jail. When Brooke began a search for the woman and the child she had conceived with Pierce, the Central American captors released Christina. She headed to Pine Valley under the name Diana Martinez to tell her story to Brooke, not knowing that Brooke was in love with Pierce. The truth was exposed and Pierce was left to deal with his feelings for Christina. With pressure from, of all people, Brooke, Pierce and Christina returned to Central America to find their daughter.