On the damp December day, the Friday before Christmas, Butte County fire Captain Hunter Rasmussen cut down an evergreen tree. Wielding an axe, the big fireman chopped down a nine-foot-tall fir tree.
The sky was overcast and the air felt moist. Snow had fallen in the higher elevations of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Working both sides of the trunk of the tree, Hunter fell the dewy tree and rested the large axe near his boot.
Mark Antonious Richfield, the Nation’s Top Male Model, held the bridle of a big Percheron-mix heavy horse. Bollward’s Tempest or ‘Bull’. The gentle giant waited patiently in the mist.
Mark’s youngest children, Isaac Milton, who was just turned three, Jacob Bentley, the little blond towhead who was turning two and Lily Hayden, their tiny brown-eyed daughter, who was turning one this Christmas, were watching Hunter with fascination.
All three toddlers were sitting on the massive horse’s back.
Stan Charles Richfield, Mark’s young second husband, stood close to his horse to keep the children steady as they sat on the large equine.
Hunter set the axe down and took rope he had brought and tied the tree, then he attached it to Bull’s saddle.
“Come to daddy,” Stan said and picked little Lily up so she didn’t fall from the height of the horse’s back. The two boys were able to hold on.
The children were bundled up in the crisp frosty morning, wearing knit caps, gloves, and boots.
Hunter checked to make sure the tree could slide easily over the wet meadow, and then shouldered the heavy axe.
“All done?” Mark asked, smiling.
Hunter admired the handsome man. Mark had turned fifty last month, and if you didn’t know you’d never guess he was a day over thirty.
Mark, with his long thick auburn brown hair and green eyes, had a terrific plastic surgeon and hair stylist, keeping him gorgeous for his work on his Dangereux Cologne line. Stan, a strapping man at six-four, was only in his twenties, and also modeled for Dangereux Obsession, and had starred in two award-winning war movies.
“Yes. Ready.” Hunter noticed Billy and Alex’s dog, a Saluki-mix named Lady, sniffing around the meadow. The white floppy mutt had followed them to the forest’s edge.
Mark held the horse’s rein and they began the trek to the manor house.
Hunter admired the estate. Mark’s deceased dad, Milt Richfield, had built a dreamhouse here at the base of the mountains. The massive home had thirteen bedrooms, a spa with an indoor pool, weight room, sauna, and jacuzzi, a home theatre, a library, a computer study, two dining rooms and a working kitchen.
Mark had four fulltime employees, Sierra, their cook, Warren, her husband, and their manservant. He ran the household. A groom, Andrew, and a chauffeur, Louis completed the staff.
The weight of the axe on his shoulder, Hunter gazed at the stable, the paddock beyond it, which had four other horses contained in it. The backyard also had an outdoor pool with a slide, which they had covered for the winter. There were tennis courts, a basketball court, and here, in the meadow, was a helistop.
Mark, his ex-husband, Steve Miller, and Mark’s best friend since college, Jack Larsen, lived here and commuted daily by chopper, weather permitting, to Sacramento.
Milt Richfield had created a garment manufacturing firm which had offices in London, Paris, New York, and Sacramento.
Waiting on the pool patio was Hunter’s fireman husband, Blake Hughes. Blake and he had worked together for the Los Angeles Fire Department. Blake had left on a disability discharge for his bad back. He now worked for Mark as a fulltime nanny, helping with the kids.
Mark’s superstar son, Alexander Mark Richfield, also lived here, with his husband, former police lieutenant Billy Sharpe.
On their walk back to the mansion, which was quite far away, Hunter spotted the macho former lieutenant exit the back of the house. Billy Sharpe was twenty years older than Alexander.
Billy and Mark were close in age. Stan was younger than Alex, who had turned thirty-two last November.
The two young boys were quiet as they held onto the saddle on Bull’s back as the slow, walking gait rocked them gently. Lily, who was now in her handsome daddy’s arms, was also quiet, looking around at the immense view of sky and land.
Lady spotted Billy on the patio and took off like a jackrabbit towards him.
Hunter loved this time of year. He had taken a week off to spend at home, with Blake and the family. He loved Paradise. Loved it.
The meals Sierra prepared were sumptuous, the home was like a resort spa with all the amenities, and for the most part, all of the occupants got along.
What more could he ask for?