Joe’s mother, Eva, was killed by a drunk driver when he was just seven years old and he’s left with an abusive, alcoholic father. Eddie’s father, Pete, died from a drugs overdose when he was eight. They meet when they are both eleven and start a new school, and Eddie latches on to Joe in an attempt to make this very troubled boy happy and eventually Joe succumbs to his kindness. Eddie begs his mother, Abbie, to allow Joe to come for tea and when she agrees, Joe is scared to ask his father so Abbie, who is struck by his vulnerability and beauty, offers to accompany him home and ask on his behalf, but when she meets his father and witnesses the cruelty Joe suffers, she decides to remove him from his home and care for him herself and he remains with her for the next seven years.
To repay Abbie for her kindness, Joe is determined to find a job and secures work washing cars and mowing lawns, but when he returns to her house unexpectedly one morning, he finds her half-dressed in the bathroom and an obsession begins. To counter the effects of his fixation, his work changes and the local women employ him for other services, creating an early and prolonged craving for sex. His tastes are expanded by the cousin of a local boy who teaches and encourages more satisfying and extreme experiences and he continues to search for more dissolute encounters whilst his preoccupation with Abbie increases and, finding teenage girls a little unadventurous, he seeks stimulation from a local man whose admiration for Joe is clear. He continues in his quest, accepting an offer from Jody – a friend of Abbie’s – to partake in a salacious afternoon with another friend.
Many years later, the daughter of Abbie’s best friend, Rose marries her long-term boyfriend and Jesse, a well-known artist performs as a favour to Abbie. She discovered him when he was just nineteen and performed at Hayward Manor where she worked for many years as an events coordinator and ever since, whenever he returns their relationship revolves around sex, but at the wedding – also at Hayward manor – Eddie over-indulges in the merriment and Abbie and Joe are forced to take him home early. Abbie and Jesse are rather unhappy, but Joe takes full advantage, and once Eddie is in bed, he makes a move and finally gets to demonstrate his prowess. Eleven years of waiting are finally over and Joe, despite his usual preference for one-night-stands, is determined to make full use of Abbie, but when she checks her son’s condition, she finds him unresponsive.
An ambulance is called and Eddie is whisked to hospital. A painful wait threatens Joe’s resolve, but more importantly, his victory and he calls Rose for support. Abbie, riddled with guilt finds his presence uncomfortable, but when she discovers her beloved son has died, she falls apart.
She returns home alone and aggravates Joe with her sense of culpability, indirectly including him, and the following morning, she leaves, unable to face the loss and guilt. Rose informs Joe and his anger and despair culminate in him trying to seduce her, but she manages to avoid his proposition.
Abbie escapes to the coast and spends two weeks hiding away in a hotel, grieving for her son, venturing out eventually to find some normality and as she watches the world go by, oblivious to her pain, she spots an elderly lady, Joan, struggling to walk but heading her way. When she reaches Abbie, she asks to join her and they strike up a conversation about the reasons for her rehabilitation. As she discusses her life, there are similarities – they’ve both lost a child – and Abbie opens up about her grief. They relocate to a local restaurant and both reveal details of their losses, although Abbie is nervous about divulging her relationship with Joe, but Joan encourages her to let go of her guilt and embrace her life with a much younger man. Their exchange also reveals that Joan had not seen her grandson since her daughter died and when Abbie suggests they use social media to track him, she discovers that Joan is Joe’s grandmother. When she recovers from the shock, she enlightens Joan to her connection and as Joan questions her about Joe’s life, Abbie tries to subtly alert her to her relationship with him. As they part company, Joan informs her she’s aware but is untroubled as she is indebted to Abbie for removing him from his father.
Abbie also meets up with Jesse for an indulgent afternoon but jealousy surfaces as he learns about Joe’s success. He reveals his belief that Abbie would wait for him and her amusement adds to his anger until, blinded by envy, he unconsciously tries to choke her. Consumed by guilt, he apologises, offering resentment as his only defence and Abbie forgives him, making the most of her time with him, vowing to remain in contact as Joe is unreliable and a confirmed bachelor.
Joe, with no idea of Abbie’s whereabouts or plans, is left to deal with his own grief in his usual manner and he seeks solace in whoever he can find, punishing his victims with aggression and contempt, in particular, the new female owner of his parents’ house, when he decides to confront the demons of his younger life. When he visits and is invited in, he is surprised to find some belongings have been kept and as the husband is at work, he makes a move on the wife and she is left disturbed by both his behaviour and her own. Joe’s most notable conquest is his local pub landlord, Mike, and they enjoy a deeply erotic evening that surprises and entertains them both.
Joe’s evening with Mike arises from drinks with his friends to commemorate Eddie and one such friend, Matt, makes a rather crude comment about Abbie which riles Joe and he elects to avenge his remark when the chance arises, and when they next meet, Matt brings new girlfriend, Lucy. Joe makes his mark and when Lucy disappears to the ladies’, Joe follows her and seduces her there, inciting a huge fight which concludes with Lucy calling Joe to explain her relationship with Matt is over. He invites her over despite offering a bed tohis friend, Mark, and when she arrives, Joe wastes no time commiserating her whilst Mark spectates.
With no prior experience of relationships and no knowledge of Abbie’s intentions, Joe decides to make the most of Lucy rather than cast her aside after one night – with a firm stipulation that she is primarily there for sex – but he becomes bored very quickly and pursues other interests, finding one such candidate, Kelly, at a local store, persuading her to join him for lunch the following weekend and enticing her, despite her reluctance, to indulge him in the staffroom.
As he leaves, satisfied and determined to rid himself of Lucy, he spots Abbie across the street, shocked and elated she’s returned.
The story begins with the excitement of the wedding and flits back and forth as back-stories unfold for Abbie, Joe, Jesse and Rose, with the addition of memories from some of the other characters. It is extremely explicit, with sex dominating but complimenting the plot and concludes with Abbie’s return and an open ending that leads to the subsequent tale.