Egocentric poet Jacob Garrety would do anything to keep his poetry journal, The Village Quarterly, afloat. When foundation president Don McCallum shows up and announces he is cutting funding to the journal, Jacob appeals to assistant and lover Lauren to use her sexuality to change Don's mind. Though reluctant, she agrees. While Jacob enjoys the advances of arts patron Sandra Dunbar at a poetry reading, Lauren carries out Jacob's wish, and winds up dead on the street. Detectives Nichols and Wheeler discover the deadly passion that exists behind the arts.
At the crime scene, M.E. Rodgers tells the cause of death: blunt force trauma to the head. The evidence suggests Lauren had been out and was returning when attacked. Jacob arrives and breaks into hysterics at the site of dead Lauren. He later tells the cops that she was the love of his life, and recites a verse from Wordsworth to prove it.
Jacob confronts Don about seeing Lauren on the night of her murder. Don doesn't want the foundation dragged into a police investigation and offers to continue funding The Quarterly if Jacob cooperates, which suits Jacobs just fine.
The detectives pay a visit to disgruntled poet, Wetherly, who wrote venomous letters to Jacob and Lauren for rejecting his poetry. When Wetherly accuses Jacob of plagiarizing a poem (the meter not the content), the detectives quickly realize they're dealing with a paranoid artist, not a killer.
Meanwhile, Sandra comforts Jacob, who is inconsolable over his flagging journal. Sandra promises she won't let that happen; she understands how important his art is. She'll get the money from her husband, she says. Her tenderness quickly turns sexual and the two have a passionate night together.
Nichols reads a poem by Jacob about a lover who leaves him for money. They presume Jacob meant Lauren.
The detectives approach Sandra to check out Jacob's alibi on the night of Lauren's murder. She confirms they were together throughout the evening. Sandra's husband, John Dunbar, a wealthy Wall Street suit who prefers sports to poetry, disparages Sandra's support of the arts. She dismisses her husband along with the idea that Lauren was a great love of Jacob's – he has a great love every week.
Nichols and Wheeler check out Jacob's former lover and assistant, Emma, who tells that she left both Jacob and her job willingly. She confides that Jacob used to ask her to sleep with donors in order to guarantee continued support of the journal, and Don MacCallum was at the top of the list.
Meanwhile, Sandra's husband, John, erupts when he finds out Sandra donated a total of $100,000 to the journal. Sandra tells him she wants a divorce.
Nichols and Wheeler confront Don. He admits that Lauren came to see him on the night of her murder, but they didn't have sex. Jacob wanted her to, but she couldn't do it.
The detectives return to the Village Quarterly to talk to Jacob, but he's dead – stabbed with a pair of scissors. M.E. Rodgers tells that he should have known better, because a scar on his arm indicates he'd been stabbed before. An angry message left on the answering machine suggests John Dunbar may be their killer.
The detectives interrogate Dunbar and he has a rock solid alibi – he was with his girlfriend. He is thrilled about the upcoming divorce and tells that Sandra will leave the marriage with nothing, which is what she had when they met at Queens College.
Nichols researches Jacob's past and learns that his earlier stabbing took place while at Queens College. Nichols thinks the poem Jacob wrote about being left by a lover for money was written years ago, though published recently. Further research uncovers that Sandra and Jacob were in the poetry club together while in school. Nichols thinks the poem may have been about Sandra.
An old college acquaintance from that time confirms Jacob and Lauren were lovers, and they had a fiery and tumultuous affair. At one point, Lauren picked up a knife from a pizza platter and stabbed Jacob, followed by a week of make-up sex.
Nichols pays Sandra a visit and she confides that she and Jacob were involved in college, but she married John for money. She got back in touch with Jacob after seeing Jacob's poem recently published in the Quarterly.
In the final scene, Nichols and Wheeler attend a memorial for Jacob. Nichols reads a poem that he says he found in Jacob's office after his death. It must have been the last thing Jacob wrote. The poem tells of a lost love recaptured. Sandra breaks down. She realizes Jacob loved her after all. Sandra describes how she went to see Jacob to tell him she had left her husband for him. Jacob rejected her and told her to go back to her husband and that he only needs her money. She killed him in a rage. She realizes he did love her, and she made a terrible mistake.
As Sandra is led off in handcuffs, Wheeler asks Nichols if he's going to tell Sandra that he wrote the poem, not Jacob.