Carly catches Sonny kissing Brenda on the docks and throws herself into opening a new nightclub. Her friendship with newcomer Ric Lansing takes a twisted turn when they wake up together in a motel. Carly finds herself pregnant again and fears the worst. In a successful effort to save his own life, Ric confesses that he never touched Carly and that he and Sonny are half-brothers. Ric’s plans to make Sonny pay for the life he was denied escalate when he locks Carly in a panic room so he can steal her baby. Sonny and Jason search for Carly as Luis Alcazar’s brother Lorenzo takes control of Ric’s plan and turns it into a plot to take over Sonny’s territory. On his yacht, Alcazar begins to soften toward the pregnant Mrs. Corinthos. After she comes home, Carly’s empathy for Alcazar drives a rift between her and Sonny. Paranoid due to Alcazar’s gaslighting of him, Sonny accidentally shoots Carly in the head while Lorenzo helps her through labor. Carly slips into a coma and can’t quite connect with her family after she awakens.
Sonny sees Carly and Lorenzo kiss and turns to salvage diver Sam McCall for some no-strings sex. Carly catches them in bed and begins a romance with Alcazar. A custody battle ensues with Sonny for their boys. While stuck in an elevator in the burning Port Charles Hotel, Alexis Davis reveals to Carly that Sonny is her daughter’s real father. Carly keeps the secret as she and Sonny make their way back to one another for the sake of the children. Sonny stashes a pregnant Sam across the hall with Jason. In order to save his best friend’s marriage, Jason claims to be the father of Sam’s child. The truth comes out and Carly forgives Sonny. Carly’s search for her father, federal prosecutor John Durant, proves to be no threat, but when Kristina Davis is diagnosed with leukemia, Carly’s lie of omission becomes a matter of life and death. She tells Sonny the truth so that his bone marrow can be tested. Weary after years of lies and drama, the two separate.
Carly strikes up a friendship with doctor Steven Webber. Sonny and Alexis put aside their differences as they fight for Kristina’s life, but Ric, now married to Alexis and back in the picture, spurs on their rivalry. Tragedy meets miracle when Sam’s baby is stillborn and the baby’s stem cells save Kristina’s life. Carly offers support to Sonny, even testifying at Kristina’s custody trial, but the civility doesn’t translate into a reunion.
Sonny and Carly remove their wedding rings and declare their marriage over once and for all. Carly now finds herself pursued by Steven and turning back toward her old flame, Lorenzo Alcazar, while Sonny considers learning a little legalese.