Young Dusty Donovan arrived in Oakdale with his stepfather, horse trainer Burke Donovan. A rebellious teen, Dusty had no idea that Burke's motive for coming to town was to destroy Gunnar St. Clair, his late wife's former lover and Dusty's biological father. Unbeknownst to Dusty, Burke, who blamed Gunnar for his wife's death, conspired with James Stenbeck to ruin Gunnar's life. Meanwhile, Dusty started hanging around James's son, Paul. An impressionable kid, Paul let himself get talked into shoplifting and was almost injured with a firecracker set off by Dusty. Since Dusty was seen as a bad influence on Paul, Gunnar, his stepfather, forbade the boys to see each other. This only fueled Burke's anger toward Gunnar. While conducting his vendetta against Gunnar, Burke learned that he was suffering from a fatal heart disease. Knowing that someone had to take care of Dusty, Burke set out to find a suitable stepmother for the boy. Forming friendships with James' wife, Karen, and his sister, Ariel, he decided that Ariel would make a wonderful wife and set out to marry her. Unfortunately, Dusty saw Ariel as a manipulator and confided in Karen that he didn't want his father marrying her. Not liking Ariel herself, Karen told Dusty to tell his father what he thought. Dusty did and, as a result, Burke stopped the nuptials. Though he later learned the marriage was legal, he kept this information from Dusty so as not to hurt him. At the same time, Burke's doctor, John Dixon, convinced Burke that he had to tell Ariel and Dusty that he was dying. Unfortunately, when Burke first tried to blurt out the news, Dusty got confused and, believing that he was about to learn that Ariel was his new stepmother, he ran off to Paul's place to hide. He was later found and brought home where he learned of his father's disease.
Prior to his death, Burke asked that Karen, who had since left James, be the boy's legal guardian. Unfortunately the courts were wary of giving the boy to a single parent, and so John Dixon volunteered to marry Karen for Dusty's sake. By this time, most of the town had learned shocking news: James Stenbeck was not the true Stenbeck heir, Gunnar was! Rocked by this revelation, James tried to kill both Gunnar and Dusty but luckily both were saved by John. Not long after, Gunnar left town after being diagnosed with a fatal blood disease. With Gunnar’s death, Dusty became the sole heir to the Stenbeck fortune. At the same time, Karen and John's marriage fell apart due to his relationship with Lucinda Walsh and Karen left Dusty in John's care.
About this time, Dusty met Lucinda's daughter, Lily Walsh. Though he initially saw her as a spoiled brat, she later impressed him with her knowledge of horses and the two struck up a close friendship. In time, Dusty's feelings became romantic. Unfortunately, a major obstacle for a lovesick Dusty was Lily's mother, Lucinda. When she found out that Dusty took her Lily to a rock & roll club, she forbade Lily to see him again. When John agreed with her, a furious Dusty got angry and trashed John's lab. Unfortunately, as he was cleaning up afterwards, he knocked over a test tube containing toxic chemicals. Becoming disorientated, he wandered into the snow and collapsed but luckily was found and brought to Memorial where he became deathly ill. Fortunately, John was able to find a cure and saved Dusty's life. Meanwhile, Lucinda, wanting Lily to be with someone more appropriate, forced her to attend a party with a preppy named Harrison Blake. Jealous, Dusty crashed the party and started a fight when he overheard Harrison brag about how much of an easy score Lily was. When a confused Lily, who had no idea what was going on, was confronted by Lucinda she denied that Harrison had been bothering her and Dusty was thrown out. Angry, Dusty sped away on his bike and was hit by a hit and run driver. Although Craig Montgomery eventually confessed to it, Dusty admired Craig and told him not to ruin his life by telling the police. Weeks later, a jealous Harrison decided to get back at Dusty by planting marijuana in Lily's backpack (correctly figuring that Dusty would be blamed). Finally, fed up with her unreasonable mother, Lily made plans to run away and got as far as the stables when she decided to call Dusty to tell him where she was. She settled in for a nap and was almost raped by a drunken Hank McPerson, the stablemaster's son. Fortunately, Dusty rescued her in time.
Not long after, Lily would meet the Walsh’s' new stableboy, the smoldering Holden Snyder. As time wore on, Lily and Holden's attraction to each other grew, especially when Dusty went off to England for back surgery. Over period of several months, Lily spent more and more time with Holden and his family. After spotting Holden at the Snyder pond with a pretty girl, Lily suddenly became jealous and rudely snubbed her. That girl turned out to be Holden's younger sister, Meg, who didn't take to being treated so rudely by Lily and decided to get even. By now, Dusty had returned to town and Meg decided to get back at Lily by pretending to be her friend and then stealing Dusty away. In addition to kissing Dusty when they first met at the farm, Meg also manipulated John into thinking that Lily was distracting Dusty, thus endangering his chances of getting into Harvard. Feeling enormous pressure from John about getting into Harvard, Dusty skipped his high school graduation banquet and ran off to New Mexico, with Meg following. After the pair made love, they returned to Oakdale. However, Meg was anxious to get Dusty and his money for herself and decided to trap him into marriage by claiming to be pregnant. Trying to be noble, Dusty agreed to marry her and then told Lily the story. Lily discovered that Meg was lying about the pregnancy and threatened to tell Meg's mother, Emma, about it unless Meg backed off. Not wanting to hurt her mother, Meg complied. Later, Lily was shocked to learn that Iva Snyder was her biological mother! Confused, Lily ran away and Both Holden and Dusty went off to look for her with Dusty finding her first. After he called John to tell him that Lily was fine, he and Lily made plans to run off together but were found by Holden. When Lily learned that Dusty sold her out to John, she shunned him and sought comfort with Holden and returned home.
Free to be together, the pair made plans to marry, however Lucinda disapproved of Holden more than Dusty and decided to put a stop to the relationship by telling Lily that Holden knew the truth of her parentage all along. Angry and hurt, Lily broke off with Holden and turned to Dusty, with whom she lost her virginity. Ultimately though, Lily's heart belonged to Holden and so Dusty left Oakdale and Lily behind to go to school.
Several years later, Dusty returned to Oakdale a very wealthy man having made millions in investments. Upon arriving, Dusty immediately drew the wrath of Rose D'Angelo, Paul's fiancée and Lily's long-lost identical twin sister, after he kissed her on the neck. Though he tried to explain that he thought she was Lily, Rose reminded him that Lily was a married woman and thus the kiss was still totally inappropriate. Though he tried to make amends with Rose, she was still wary of his intentions toward Lily and things only got worse when he impulsively kissed her a second time. Though he feigned confusion, his motivation soon became clear--he was working for Barbara to break up Rose and Paul! Apparently, Dusty lied about his wealth and was actually totally bankrupt. Owing money to loan sharks who were threatening his life, Dusty was forced to agree to Barbara's demands. Unfortunately, not only did he begin to feel guilty about hurting Paul, he also found himself instantly drawn to Molly McKinnon.
Despite his efforts, Dusty couldn't quite break up Paul and Rose and finally confessed all to Paul, who bitterly left town and wound up presumed dead. Unfortunately, since Dusty failed, Barbara refused to pay him any money, and Dusty was forced to try to get the money out of an unsuspecting Molly. Molly soon caught on and warned Rose about Dusty. However, by this time, Dusty found himself really caring for Rose and worried what his former associate, Spangler, would do if Dusty didn't get give him the money he owed him. His fears were realized when Spangler started threatening Rose and ended up kidnapping Lily (who he mistook for Rose). Soon, Rose was kidnapped also, and Dusty worked feverishly to try to find them. Though he met with resistance from Holden and the police, who were convinced that Dusty arranged the kidnappings, he convinced them to let him talk to Spangler, only to have him be murdered! In the end, it was discovered that James Stenbeck was responsible for the kidnapping as payback for his son's death.
Thankfully with clues provided by James, Dusty and Holden were able to find Lily, but Rose was nowhere to be found. Though Dusty was quickly able to find her, they both ended up at the mercy of James’s henchman. While Dusty struggled with Brackett, Rose, tied up with a noose around her neck, almost died until she was suddenly rescued by Paul (although a groggy Rose would think it was an hallucination). Reuniting with her family, Rose decided to stay away from Dusty, partly in compliance with Lily's wishes and partly because of guilt about Paul. However, it didn't take long for Rose to decide that she wanted Dusty no matter what. Later, though, Rose suddenly became confused when Paul unexpectedly started to become friendly with her. Though she was still committed to Dusty, she started questioning Dusty's fidelity, especially when she started seeing him flirt with both Molly McKinnon and Paul's sister, Jennifer. Warned by Dusty that Paul was coming between them to get revenge, Rose softened toward Paul after he confessed to planting bugs in Dusty's club in order to discredit him and win back Rose.
Touched by Paul's honesty, Rose went back to Paul, despite Dusty's warnings that he was only using her. she then quickly agreed to marry him and move to Paris. However, Dusty was still convinced that Paul hadn't forgiven Rose, especially when he learned that Paul never bought an apartment in Paris as he claimed to. Though Rose wanted to believe that Paul was being honest with her, the doubts kept growing. When Rose began receiving harassing telephone calls, she was clearly spooked. Touched when Paul offered to hire a bodyguard for her, Rose started trusting him even more implicitly, despite his suspicious behavior (such as initially suggesting they invite the people who hate them to their wedding). During all of this, Dusty continued to warn her about Paul, telling her that he was trying to isolate her in Paris so that he could hurt her. Soon, Dusty found proof that Paulwas the one who'd been harassing Rose, when after Rose's car had been vandalized, Dusty found a bat in Paul's car trunk. However, instead of going to the police, he took the evidence himself to show it to Rose and be the hero.
Unfortunately, the plan backfired when Molly (who knew of the evidence) leaked the information to Hal who obtained a search warrant for Paul's car and found nothing. Later, Rose finally learned that Paul was the one who had been harassing her! Horrified, Rose confronted Paul who admitted to wanting to test her. Confused, Rose went to Lily who, though not condoning what Paul did, encouraged her to give the marriage a try, while Dusty told her to stay away since she was in danger. Not wanting to believe that her love for Paul had been a lie, Rose went through with the wedding. It was on that day that Rose found out Paul's true motive. After the minister asked for objections, Paul let loose with a tirade against Rose totally humiliating her. Immediately after, Rose collapsed! Rushed to the hospital, it was learned that she'd been poisoned. That night, Rose died believing that Paul had poisoned her.
Convinced that Paul had killed Rose, Dusty pushed for the police to arrest him, even enlisting Lily's help in his vendetta against Paul. Even after Barbara confessed to the crime, Dusty was unconvinced and kept digging into the matter until he found evidence that fingered Paul as the murderer -- computer files from Paul's computer that showed him visiting websites devoted to selling the drug, Methanol. Thinking that it was beyond a doubt that Paul was guilty, Dusty was shocked to learn that the killer was actually Paul's thirteen-year old brother, Will, who'd only wanted to make Rose sick, not kill her. Sickened by the revelation that Rose's murderer was a teenaged kid, Dusty told Paul his family was sick and placed the blame for Rose's death squarely on Paul.
In the midst of the murder investigation, Dusty's relationship with Molly soured when, in a fit of resentment, she tried to set him up for Rose’s murder by planting evidence in his room. Although she tried to explain away her actions by saying that she was simply jealous over the hold Rose had on him, Dusty bitterly told her their friendship was over. As his relationship with Molly deteriorated, his relationship with Lily seemed to improve over their grief over Rose's death. Completely devastated by Rose's death, Lily lost herself and started to act and dress like Rose. After saving her from a suicide attempt at the Snyder pond, Dusty encouraged her to let go of Rose. However, Lily was still having a hard time dealing with her loss and Holden enlisted a reluctant Dusty to help Lily. Unfortunately, Dusty's past came back to haunt him when mobsters, in the form of a man named Starziak, suddenly came around demanding money that he owed. Seeing no way out, Dusty laundered money out of the Foundation that he and Lily set up in Rose’s name. Although he tried to keep his activities a secret, Molly discovered what was happening and told Holden and Lily. Weeks later, Dusty rescued Craig's teenage daughter, Lucy, from a kidnapping at Metro. Convinced that he had been targeted by Starziak, Dusty confronted the man only to learn that it wasn't a mob act. That meant that Lucy was the target--not Dusty.
Dusty appeared to be right when Lucy was almost kidnapped again. Then the day she was set to leave Oakdale, Dusty caught a glimpse of Lucy's limo driver and grabbed her before she was able to get into the car. Although she believed that he was her kidnapper, Dusty was able to convince her that saved her--the limo driver who was sent to take her to the airport, was the same man who tried to kidnap her at Metro! Although a frightened Lucy wanted to go back home, Dusty was convinced that she was in danger and the pair hid out for weeks so that he could find out who exactly was trying to get her and why. Although Lucy was initially antagonistic toward Dusty, they soon grew closer. Meanwhile, through his investigation, he was able to rule out mob involvement and found out the name of her would-be kidnapper--Don Creel, who was simply a hired gun. Not long after he made this discovery, FBI agent Nikki Munson located the pair. Although Nikki wanted to arrest Dusty, by this time Dusty had earned Lucy's trust and she convinced the agent to listen to Dusty's theory. Not wanting Lucy to hear, Dusty took Nikki outside and told him his theory--someone in Lucy's family was behind the kidnapping. Mere days later, Creel was dead and Lucy went home, although she still had no idea who was ultimately behind the kidnapping. However, Dusty did. Having gone to meet Creel to find out if Craig had set up his own daughter’s kidnapping, Dusty's theory turned out to be correct when in his dying breath Creel implicated Craig. Wanting to protect Lucy, Dusty kept this information to himself until he had proof. Meanwhile, Lucy expressed her newfound feelings for Dusty. Although he tried to discourage her since he was almost twice her age, it was obvious that Dusty had feelings for her also.
However, Dusty couldn't deny his feelings for very long and the two began a relationship. At the same time, Dusty was approached by an old friend named Dominic who wanted Dusty to find him a boxer to compete against the young fighter he was managing, Rafael "Rafi" Ortega. Suspecting that things weren't on the up-and-up, Dusty declined but allowed himself to be talked into it since he wanted to be able to provide for Lucy without relying on her trust fund. Although he wanted to keep this new venture from Lucy, she soon discovered the truth and asked to be involved. Although Lucy had tried to help by finding a fighter, Dusty informed her that the trick was to find a fighter who was good, but not too good, so Dom's guy could have a good chance of winning. After looking for weeks, Dusty found the perfect person--Holden's son, Aaron! Despite some objections from Lucy, Aaron accepted the offer. Meanwhile, Dom's fighter, Rafi, finally arrived and Dusty was shocked to learn that he was a childhood friend of Lucy's.
Later, Dom told Dusty what he'd suspected all along--Aaron must go down in the third round of the match or there would be consequences. Although Dusty tried to warn both Aaron and Rafi that Dom could be dangerous if crossed, both young men were determined to fight a fair fight. However, unbeknownst to almost everyone, Rafi's gloves (that he was forced to wear) were weighed down and despite himself, he landed Aaron a near fatal blow to the head. While Aaron was undergoing surgery to save his life, Rafi was arrested for using the weighted gloves and both Dusty and Dom were arrested for the illegal fight. Lucy, angry, left Dusty but later relented when he made a deal with the cops--he'd rat out Dom for immunity for himself and Rafi. However, Dusty knew that Dom wouldn't let his arrest go unpunished and was convinced that they were all in danger. He appeared to be correct when Craig went missing. Despite Sierra's assurances that Craig was probably fine, Lucy was worried and asked Rafi's help in having her locate her dad. After lying to her mother that she was going on a ski trip, Lucy and Rafi set out to locate Craig.
Unfortunately, Dusty was right again about the danger and the Lucy and Rafi found themselves under attack by Dominic's men. Soon, the pair found themselves stranded after the plane they were on crashed. Deathly afraid, Lucy turned to her friend for comfort and the pair made love. Luckily, the pair was rescued by Dusty and returned to Oakdale, where Dusty professed his love for Lucy. However, now Lucy had a problem. Although she was in love with Dusty, she couldn't just toss aside the feelings she had for Rafi. Not wanting to hurt either man, Lucy confided in her father, who trying to curb his controlling tendencies, simply suggested that she do what was right for her. In the course of the conversation, Lucy realized that what she really wanted to do was attend college and make a life for herself, so with a heavy heart, Lucy said goodbye to her family, as well as Dusty and went off to attend Williams College. At the same time, Dusty accepted a job offer from Sierra to work with her at Worldwide.
While working at Worldwide, Dusty began working closely with Jennifer Munson. Also working closely with Jennifer, as manager of her new Company, was Craig! In a impulsive act, the pair slept together and Jennifer ended up getting pregnant with Craig's baby!. Although Dusty and others tried to run Craig out of town in order to keep him away from Jen and their unborn child, the plan backfired with Craig returning to town and marrying Rosanna Cabot in order to get custody of the baby. Jennifer would end up going into labor prematurely and giving birth to a baby boy whom she named John Dustin. Within a day, Jennifer’s baby tragically died, though she insisted that wasn’t the case. Afterwards, Craig was sent to prison after running Rosanna off the road with his car. While all of this was happening, Dusty was pleased at the arrival of his old flame--Meg! While the pair was resuming their old relationship, Dusty was also preoccupied with worry about Jennifer. Sadly, the pain of losing her child became too much for Jen and she turned to drugs. Fortunately, both Dusty and Meg recognized what was happening and got her help. Afterwards, Jen confessed to Dusty, that despite the evidence, she still believed that her baby was alive.. Doing some digging, Dusty learned that Gwen Norbeck’s baby (whom the Montgomerys were planning to adopt) was born the same day as Jen’s—meaning he could be Jen’s baby. Dusty then asked Meg to help him get a DNA test done. To Jen’s disappointment, the test came back negative. However, later, Meg hinted that the test could have been incorrect. Using Meg’s clues, Dusty confirmed that Jen’s baby had been switched and was indeed alive! Apparently Craig switched the babies so he'd end up adopting his own child. Unfortunately for Meg, he also discovered that, at Paul’s request, she falsified the results to begin with and had known the truth for months. Furious, Dusty wrote her off and Meg ended up losing her nursing license as a result of faking the DNA test.
His relationship with Meg over, Dusty immediately started a relationship with Jennifer. At the same time, Paul, out on bail, disappeared and later evidence suggested he committed suicide. Although Jen was devastated, Dusty shed no tears for his former friend because of the pain he'd caused. Several weeks later, Dusty was shocked when Emily Stewart, who'd helped Paul with the baby switch conspiracy, presented Dusty with evidence that Paul had faked his death. An agitated Emily then tried to convince Dusty that Jen would be better off if her brother was dead. Not long after, Dusty came face to face with Paul and the two got in a vicious argument about Paul's actions and how Jennifer was better off without him. That same night, Dusty was struck from behind and taken to an abandoned warehouse. Dusty was kept there for several weeks shackled and blindfolded until finally his blindfold was removed and he saw his captor--Emily Stewart!. By this point, Dusty's disappearance was considered a murder since Paul had confessed to the crime in order to protect Meg, whom he thought had done it. Though Dusty thought Paul was in on the kidnapping, Emily assured him that she acted alone. Emily explained that Paul deserved to rot in jail for what he did to her - even if there was no body, but if the police insisted on finding one, she'd give them one. Seeing that she was about to kill him, Dusty tried to convince her that she was wrong--Meg wasn't in love with Paul; she was in love with him.
Dusty tried to convince Emily that he could help win Paul back. Unsure, Emily suddenly got a call from Paul asking to see her. That day, Paul unexpectedly declared his love to Emily and offered to marry her to secure his freedom. Immediately after the jailhouse wedding, Emily cleaned Dusty up and forced him to write a note to Jennifer. With this proof that Duty was alive, the murder charges against Paul were dropped. However, Dusty was still a liability so Emily kept him captive. Not long after, the walls started closing in when Jennifer mentioned that Dusty had called her. Worried that he'd escaped, Emily went to the farmhouse and was and followed by Jen! Emily threatened to kill Jen if Dusty didn't keep quiet. Immediately after Jen left, Emily marched Dusty into the woods with the intention of killing him. However, Dusty got a jump on her. He then grabbed her gun while Emily took off running. Dusty tried to follow but ended up coming face to face with Paul instead. Although poised to shoot Paul (who he was still convinced was in on the kidnapping), Dusty reconsidered when Jennifer arrived on the scene and begged him not to shoot her brother. A few days later, Emily was finally apprehended. With his ordeal over, Dusty asked Jennifer to marry him and offered to adopt Johnny.
Unfortunately things would take a tragic turn. Almost immediately after the adoption went through, Johnny became ill and was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. At about the same time, Emily discovered she was pregnant with Paul's child. Knowing she wouldn't be able to raise the child, Emily was uncertain about how to proceed since she didn't want Paul to raise the baby with Meg. Soon, it was discovered that stem cells from Emily's fetus could save Johnny's life. However, it was risky; Emily's baby could die. Emily took the risk and not only did her baby survive the procedure, but Johnny recovered as well. Grateful, Jennifer wanted leniency in Emily's sentencing and continually asked Dusty to either not testify against Emily or ask the court to go easy on her. Dusty refused since he thought Emily should pay for what she'd done. While Johnny was still in the hospital recovering, Jennifer began to feel ill herself. On the day that he was due to be released, Jennifer was admitted and diagnosed with viral pneumonia. Although her Uncle Bob wanted to keep her overnight, Jennifer was adamant about going home. She had been away from her son for the first few months of his life and was determined to go home with him. Since Bob had been called away on an emergency drill he placed fledging intern Lucy Montgomery in charge. Despite Lucy's repeated warnings,, Jennifer checked herself out of Memorial. (after signing a released that she'd done so against doctor's advice). Jennifer's action would have fatal consequences. That very night, she collapsed. Though she was quickly rushed back to Memorial, it was too late; her heart had undergone irreparable damage. While Dusty tried to insist that she'd be fine, Jennifer got Meg and Paul to tell her the truth--she was dying. Realizing the truth, Jennifer asked Dusty to marry her. After a simple wedding in her hospital room, Jen bid a heartfelt goodbye to each member of her family. Later that night, after an imaginary dance with Dusty, Jennifer passed away in Dusty's arms. Days later, Dusty fulfilled Jennifer's final wish and told the judge at Emily's trial that he would not testify against her. Without Dusty's testimony, the state had no case and Emily was set free.
Meanwhile, Dusty and Lucy began to grow even closer, despite warnings from Barbara that Dusty was just on the rebound. Things got complicated though when Craig returned to town. Fresh from having had his conviction overturned, Craig was hell bent on getting custody of his son. A cold Dusty was convinced that Lucy would side with her father, but she convinced him that was not the case—in her eyes, Dusty was Johnny’s father. Meanwhile, with help from his attorney, Tom Hughes, it seemed as if Craig might have a shot when he was awarded visitation rights. Dusty’s only hope was for Craig to be in jail again. To accomplish this, Dusty asked Lucy to bring Craig up on kidnapping charges. Though Craig begged her not to turn against him, Lucy knew that Craig was not fit to raise a child and was determined to testify about his kidnapping of her years earlier. Unfortunately, Craig got to Lucy when someone tampered with Dusty’s brakes.
The day of the trial, Craig played on Lucy’s fears that if she were to testify, something awful might happen to Dusty. Fearing for Dusty’s life, Lucy stated in court that she could not be absolutely certain that it was Craig who kidnapped her. Dusty decided to do whatever it took to get Craig out of Johnny’s life and showed Lucy his gun. After telling Emily, Lucy warned Craig to back off but he refused. During the conversation, Dusty called Craig to meet with him. Knowing what was being planned, Lucy rushed out to stop him. Although she was able to knock Dusty down, Craig was shot anyway. While Dusty was in jail for attempted murder, Craig recovered and told Lucy of his plans to get custody of his son, Craig Jr. and keep him away from his family. Realizing that the fighting would never end, Lucy decided the only way to protect Johnny, and let him have a happy life, was to spirit him away from Oakdale. Though Lucinda tried to convince Dusty that Lucy did it to protect the child, Dusty was still angry and not convinced that Craig would not find Johnny.
In the meantime, having bought half the paper herself, Emily was looking to have WorldWide invest in the Intruder. Dusty was unable to deny that it would be a good investment and worked with Emily to get Lucinda’s backing. However, Dusty could not help but notice that Emily seemed distracted. In due time, he thought he knew why---she had another career as a high priced call girl! Though Emily claimed she was working undercover for a news story, Dusty had his doubts. When someone beat Emily up, Emily broke down and told Dusty that she was roughed up but refused to press charges. Later, when Dusty saw Emily with a high priced madam, his suspicions became greater and he arranged for a night with Emily. Cornered, Emily tried to convince him that she was working on a story but finally broke down and admitted that she was working as a prostitute. Emily tried to defend her behavior by stating that it made her feel in control and begged Dusty not to tell anyone. It took some time, but Dusty finally convinced Emily that what she was doing was self-destructive and she deserved better. Soon after giving up on prostitution, Emily discovered a porn video starring her kid sister, Alison! Wanting to locate her sister, Emily asked Dusty for help and offered to pay him with the money she’d gotten from prostitution. Though he refused at first, he relented and agreed to help, without taking any money. The pair figured out that Alison was in Las Vegas and brought Ali, who was now using meth, home. There, Emily urged her sister to get her life together. Reluctant, Ali took a job at Al’s but continued to try to score meth. It didn't take long for Dusty to realize that Alison was still using meth. Meanwhile, things had gotten so desperate for Alison that she slept with her drug dealer in order to get a hit.
When Dusty and Emily found out how far she'd sunk, they decided Susan, Emily and Alison’s mom, had to know and Alison needed to go to rehab. However, Alison begged them to reconsider and Dusty agreed to stay with Ali while she detoxed. In the meantime, Susan was suspicious about the time Emily was spending with Dusty and to keep her from discovering Ali's problem, Dusty pulled her into a kiss. Soon, they were pretending to have slept together in order to protect Ali's secret. At the same time, Alison got a visit from her old movie producer, Lance, who ordered her to return to Vegas or he would send Susan one of her old movies. When Ali refused, Lance revealed a secret about Emily--she was a whore. Emily was forced to admit that she did work as a prostitute. Angry, Alison left with Lance after she blurted out Emily’s secret to Susan. When Lance tried to force Ali into making porn movies again, Alison threatened him with a razor blade. Alison slashed Lance to fend him off. Luckily, Dusty came to her rescue. As he comforted a freaked out Ali, they made love. He then brought her back to Oakdale. This time, Alison was ready to turn her life around. At the same time, both Dusty and Emily realized that their feelings for each other had grown. Wanting to show her his feelings, Dusty surprised Emily by kissing her. Unfortunately, thanks to Lance, Emily accidentally stumbled upon a tape of Dusty and Ali making love. Later, Emily told Alison that she forgave her but she couldn’t be near her for a while. She also condemned Dusty for not telling her what happened in Las Vegas. Wanting to get away from both of them, Emily left Oakdale for an extended vacation.
Soon after, Dusty saved Lily from conducting business with Cheri, Emily’s former madam. Not happy that Emily quit hooking, Cheri hinted to Dusty that she would go after Alison for revenge. She made due on her threat by posting the video of Dusty and Alison on the internet. Later, Cheri vowed to go away if Dusty gave her $ 50,000. However, before he could respond, Dusty passed out from the drink she gave him. When he woke up, Cheri was dead from a bullet through the heart. When Dusty was arrested for the murder, Lily not only paid his bail but also hid his gun. When she admitted what she’d done to Holden, he demanded that she give the police the gun or they were through. Afterwards, despite Holden’s demands that she stay out of it, Lily took it upon herself to help Dusty prove his innocence. Believing that Cheri had to have had enemies, Lily went undercover as a hooker to get information. Finally, Dusty and Lily found that the guilty party could very well be Col. Winston Mayer—Cheri’s ex-husband and the father of the man Luke had feelings for. In the end, Mayer (who had murdered Cheri) tried to kill both Dusty and Lily. Mayer was arrested and Luke ended up paralyzed due to the attack. Angry over Lily’s secrecy, not only about helping Dusty but also that Col. Mayer might be dangerous, Holden suggested they divorce. Dusty freely lent his support to a lonely Lily. Wanting to help his old friend, one night Dusty took her to their old spot—Mabel’s Red Hots. The place was long abandoned but the juke box was still working and the pair shared a dance. Soon things turned passionate and, at that point, the old friends became lovers. Though her family disapproved of her running around with Dusty, Lily defied them since Holden was the one who wanted the divorce in the first place.
Meanwhile, Emily returned to town with none other than her old lover, Chris Hughes. From the moment she returned, Dusty tried to convince Emily that they belonged together but she refused to forgive him for what he’d done. At the same time, Chris was at loggerheads with his father over a research project conducted by Evan Walsh IV. While Chris felt the project was cutting-edge and would help people, Bob felt it was way too risky. Dusty sided with Bob and warned that if the project was approved, he would pull the Jennifer Munson Foundation out of Memorial. Not long after, Bob was left comatose following a stroke and despite his objections, Chris was sworn in as interim Chief of Staff. Defying his father’s wishes, Chris approved Walsh’s project. Suspicious of the timing, Dusty accused Chris of causing his father’s stroke. Unfortunately, he had no proof and no one listened to his claims. Later, by chance, Dusty found the coffee cup that Bob had been using and, on a hunch, had it sent away to be tested. In the meantime, Dusty was enjoying his Friends with Benefits relationship with Lily while at the same time trying to woo Emily away from Chris. Things came to head on New Year’s Eve. Before planning to meet Lily at Metro’s, Dusty stopped at Memorial lo check on Bob’s condition. After being thrown out by Chris, Dusty was confronted in his car by Emily who told him to leave Chris alone. Again, Dusty tried to warn her that her boyfriend was dangerous and a liar. He then pulled her into a kiss that turned passionate.
The next day, Dusty came across Lily who was upset that he stood her up. She got even more upset when he confessed that he and Emily made love. Suddenly, Lily lashed out at his betrayal which seemed over the top to Dusty since he never promised her anything. At that point, Lily went into a downward spiral that would have serious repercussions. Days later, Dusty came across an agitated Lily who was either drunk or high. Lily shocked Dusty by revealing that she knew all about Emily’s secret life as a hooker. Dusty warned Lily to keep quiet and then took her to her room at the Lakeview. Unfortunately, she didn’t stay. Instead, she went to Chris’s suite and left an anonymous note telling Chris what his girlfriend had done for a living. Lily then went to the hospital where Walsh’s project was being unveiled. Dusty was there as well and was confronted by an angry Emily who accused him of telling Chris her secret. Dusty went to Lily and, in the course of their argument, stated that their friendship was over. Not long after, Lily was found unconscious from an overdose of pills and had her stomach pumped. Holden angrily confronted Dusty and blamed him for what happened to Lily. Amidst all of this, Dusty stopped Chris from signing the contract to approve Walsh’s project by claiming to have proof that Bob’s stroke was induced. Though clearly not happy with Dusty, Lucinda called an emergency meeting of the board and they voted to hold off on the signing until they saw Dusty’s proof. Unfortunately, that would never happen. That night, after speaking with his contact on the phone, Dusty went into the darkened lab where he was confronted. Later, Dusty was found dead—his heart stopped. Foul play was suspected and confirmed. Days later, Dusty's murderer was revealed to be Evan Walsh, who also was responsible for poisoning Bob.
Over a year later, Meg was taken hostage by James Stenbeck and was shocked to discover that a very much alive Dusty was a captive as well. Dusty told Meg that he faked his death, by using a drug to slow his heartbeat, so he could flee Oakdale and go after Lucy and Johnny. Ultimately, Paul was able to rescue both Dusty and Meg by killing his father. In a shocking move, James left his entire fortune to Dusty. Back in Oakdale, Meg’s renewed friendship with Dusty brought out irrational jealousy in Paul and he set out to destroy his imagined rival by hiring a woman who looked a lot like Jennifer to get close to Dusty. Finally fed up with Paul’s dishonest actions, Meg divorced him and, with Dusty’s help, sought out sole custody of Eliza. Ultimately, Meg allowed Paul to see his daughter and her and Dusty fizzled out.
At the same time, Craig returned to Oakdale. Not long after, Lucy arrived as well and though she tried to remain hidden, it wasn’t long before both Craig and Dusty discovered that she’d returned with Johnny. Though Lucy believed that Johnny belonged with Dusty, Craig was determined to get custody of the boy. In the end, the judge agreed and awarded Craig custody. Undeterred, Dusty used Lucy to give him access to Johnny, which upset Craig. Though Johnny liked having both Craig and Dusty in his life, after several weeks, he stopped talking because of the confusion over his two dads. .After, Lucy lectured Dusty about the harm he was doing to Johnny's emotional health, Dusty decided to stay out of Johnny’s life.
Months later, Dusty clashed with a woman named Teri Ciccone who was friends with a gangster from Dusty’s past in Chicago. In time, he and Teri became friends and, in order to save Teri’s job at Metro, Dusty bought the place. Dusty also befriended Teri’s older sister, Janet, who was married to Jack Snyder. When Jack disappeared after accidentally shooting his brother, it soon became clear that the Snyder marriage was in trouble. Dusty and Janet’s easy friendship soon turned to something more and the pair made love. Not long after, Janet’s teenage daughter, Liberty, was diagnosed with cancer. When Janet refused to go to her estranged father and ask him to be tested for a bone marrow transplant. Dusty took it upon himself to locate Rocco Ciccone and convinced him to help the daughter he’d disowned decades earlier. Desperate to save her daughter, Janet decided to have a baby with Jack, believing that the baby would be a viable match. Meanwhile, Carly learned about Janet and Dusty’s affair and informed Jack. Jack told Janet that he couldn’t conceive a baby with her. The same day that Dusty proposed to Janet, Janet discovered that she was pregnant. Janet accepted Dusty’s proposal while a sonogram concluded that the baby was Jack’s. With Jack's help, Dusty secured the home of Janet's dreams.
When Janet reunited with her father, but failed to tell him about her divorce. Dusty did it for her. Rocco badmouthed Janet to Dusty, and Dusty threatened to expose Rocco's ties to mobster Ralph Manzo. Rocco sent an armed man after Dusty, and after the man and Dusty tussled, Jack found Dusty bleeding behind the Metro bar. Dusty used himself as bait to catch his shooter. Rocco wrenched a gun from the shooter, who'd targeted Dusty again, but when Rocco entered Metro with the gun, Dusty grabbed it, and pressed it to Rocco's head. Rocco had a heart attack, and Janet was livid that Dusty had suspected her father of hiring a hit man. Rocco left the hospital to track down the shooter, and he suffered another heart attack as Dusty wrestled with the hit man. Devastated at Dusty’s role in her father’s death, Janet broke off the engagement.
However, Janet couldn’t deny that she still loved Dusty and the pair decided to start their relationship over. Unfortunately, things got rocky when Dusty had a fling with Lucy. However, when Dusty’s life was in danger thanks to Ralph Manzo and Lucinda’s scheme to ruin Craig, he and Janet reunited. Several weeks later, Janet gave birth to son that she named Lorenzo Dustin. Knowing that Dusty had doubts about the baby’s paternity, John took it upon himself to order a paternity test and revealed that Dusty was, indeed, the baby’s father.